Jacob Zuma pays back money spent on home

South Africa president repays €481,000 owed to taxpayers as ordered by court

South African president Jacob Zuma  “raised the amount through a home loan obtained from VBS Mutual Bank on its standard terms”. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

South African president Jacob Zuma “raised the amount through a home loan obtained from VBS Mutual Bank on its standard terms”. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

 

South Africa president Jacob Zuma has finally paid back the money he owed taxpayers for the non-security upgrades made to his rural home in KwaZulu-Natal Province. Opposition parties want proof of payment before they will believe him.

In a statement issued by the presidency yesterday afternoon, spokesperson Dr Bongani Ngqulunga said the president had paid over 7.8 million rand (€481,000) to the South African Reserve Bank as ordered by the constitutional court earlier this year in respect of his private homestead at Nkandla.

“The president raised the amount through a home loan obtained from VBS Mutual Bank on its standard terms, one of the few financial institutions which offer home loans in respect of land owned by traditional authorities,” Mr Ngqulunga said.

No doubt Mr Zuma hopes the announcement will bring an end to the long-running scandal that at times appeared to have the potential to derail his presidency, as opposition parties and civil society groups claimed the issue showed he was unworthy to hold the highest office in the land.

Innocence

Mr Zuma had continuously protested his innocence concerning why more than 200 million rand was used to pay for security upgrades that included a swimming pool, amphitheatre and cattle enclosure, saying he left the development to government officials.

In addition, he refused to pay back a portion of what was spent on his compound even though an independent investigation undertaken by the Public Protector (ombudsman) recommended that he do so.

Instead he relied on the findings of state-run investigations, which exonerated him, as the basis for his decision to not pay up.

Opposition parties took him to the constitutional court, which ruled last March that he had broken his oath of office by not adhering to the Public Protector’s findings, and should pay “a reasonable amount,” which the National Treasury put at 7.8 million rand.

Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said it was important for Mr Zuma to provide proof to the National Assembly that he personally paid the outstanding amount, and that claims he had received a loan from the VBS Mutual Bank were not a front.

Mr Maimane added that this was not the end of the issue but rather it was the “tip of the iceberg in a corruption-plagued saga”.

“We have previously articulated that president Zuma is liable for 63.9 million rand (€3.9 million) in fringe benefits tax, and that he must release his tax records in order to ascertain whether this tax has been paid or not,” said Mr Maimane.