Sunday 21 January 2018

South African leader offers to pay back millions in home swimming pool storm

Under-pressure Jacob Zuma faces fresh protests this week. Photo: Reuters
Under-pressure Jacob Zuma faces fresh protests this week. Photo: Reuters

Stuart Graham

South Africa's president has offered to pay back millions of euro of taxpayer's money which he used to install a swimming pool, chicken run and amphitheatre at his sprawling homestead in a poverty-stricken rural area of his country.

Jacob Zuma, who has been facing mounting pressure to step down after a series of scandals, will now pay back a sum determined by the auditor general, his office said in a statement.

It is unclear how much of the €20.5m funds he used to upgrade his private home will be repaid.

The police ministry has previously defended the costs, saying the swimming pool was used for fighting fires, while the chicken run kept livestock away from the security infrastructure.

"To achieve an end to the drawn-out dispute... the president proposes that the determination of the amount he is to pay should be independently and impartially determined," the presidency said in a statement during the week.

Thuli Madonsela, the public protector, ordered Mr Zuma to "pay a reasonable percentage of the cost of the measures as determined with the assistance of National Treasury".

Mr Zuma said that he had all along been willing to "contribute to any increase in value" to his property.

Last year, a mass brawl erupted in the National Assembly after a member of an opposition party interrupted Mr Zuma's state of the nation speech with chants for him to "pay back the money."

Calls mounted for Mr Zuma to step down after his firing in December of Nhlanhla Nene, the popular finance minister, sent the rand into freefall.

Mr Nene was highly regarded by investors for his fiscal discipline and as a voice of financial reason in a cabinet often accused of frivolous spending.

Before his dismissal, he had clashed with Mr Zuma over spending priorities, with South Africa under pressure from a fall in commodity prices, rising inflation, crumbling energy infrastructure, unemployment and the worst drought in more than a century.

Marches against Mr Zuma - who has four wives and was elected to office in 2009 - have been held countrywide with further protests planned for next Thursday, when he delivers his next state of the nation speech. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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