Zuma ‘concerned’ by accusations of impropriety
South African President Jacob Zuma expressed concern Wednesday over damaging allegations that he benefited from unlawful renovations at his private home worth $23 million, a bill picked up by taxpayers.
Facing a deadline to respond to a scathing report by the public protector that comes just weeks before South Africans go to the polls, Zuma’s office said he “remains concerned about the allegations of maladministration and impropriety.”
Public protector Thuli Madonsela said the upgrades — which include a helipad, swimming pool, amphitheatre, private clinic and visitors’ centre — were unlawful and said Zuma should refund taxpayers.
Zuma, 71, whose popularity is flagging, pointedly refused to comment in detail about the substance of the report.
Instead he put the public protector’s report on an equal basis as two other reports into the scandal which are expected to be more favourable, including one by his own ministers.
Zuma indicated he would not comment in full until the third report, by the Special Investigating Unit — a body established by presidential proclamation — was completed.
A statement said Zuma would then give “full and proper consideration” to the reports and inform parliament about “decisive executive interventions.”
Zuma will seek a second five-year term on May 7, in elections that are expected to be South Africa’s most fiercely fought since 1994, when apartheid ended.
The main opposition Democratic Alliance has launched a criminal corruption case against Zuma over the upgrades and plans impeachment proceedings.
The newly-founded Economic Freedom Fighters, led by the erstwhile leader of the ANC youth league, Julius Malema, also laid charges of corruption, theft, fraud and racketeering against Zuma in Pretoria.
Malema was in 2012 expelled from the ANC for fomenting divisions within the party.
Earlier this week Zuma shifted blame for the overspending to government officials.
“They did this without telling me,” he told local television channel ANN7. “So why should I pay for something I did not ask for.”
Despite being Africa’s largest economy, South Africa still has widespread poverty and 10 million people live on government aid.