Furore over budget for Zuma's family

A bitter row has erupted after it emerged that taxpayers are spending more than R15,5-million a year to support President Jacob Zuma’s three wives and some of his 20 children.

The figure, almost double the presidential spousal budget a year ago, was condemned as “exorbitant” by opposition leader Helen Zille, who claimed the size of Zuma’s family “makes corruption almost inevitable”.

Mail & Guardian editor Nic Dawes, along with deputy editor Rapule Tabane, recently interviewed President Jacob Zuma. From muzzling Julius Malema to Zuma’s own political future, we got Nic’s expert opinion on the state of the president in the wake of recent controversies.

This prompted a sharp riposte from the African National Congress (ANC), which accused Zille of “cultural intolerance”.

In a written answer to a parliamentary question on Tuesday, Collins Chabane, a minister charged with monitoring government performance, said the state had a R15,5-million budget for Zuma’s family this year. This compares with the spousal support office budget of R4,5-million in 2005/06 and R8-million in 2008/09.

The spousal office paid for personal support staff, such as secretaries and researchers, as well as domestic and international air travel and accommodation, Chabane said.

Cellphones for spouses and their secretaries, laptops and printers and a special daily allowance for “incidental” expenses were also covered.

“The state provides all reasonable administrative, logistical and other support to the spouses to enable them to meet these responsibilities in a manner that permits them actively to pursue their own careers and interests if they so desire,” he said.

Mrs Tobeka Zuma was engaged in community work related to health, Mrs Sizakele Zuma was dealing with agriculture and food security, while Mrs Nompumelelo Zuma was working with orphans and vulnerable children, he added.

Chabane said that, collectively, Zuma’s children are entitled to 60 domestic economy-class flights a year to visit their parents. Tickets beyond this are paid for by Zuma.

Swift criticism
The revelations prompted swift criticism from Zille, leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance. “It is impossible for anyone, even on a president’s salary, to look after a family of the size of Zuma’s without relying extensively on private benefactors and the taxpayers’ money,” she said. “This makes corruption almost inevitable.”

The office of the ANC’s chief whip issued a response saying that Zille’s attack is distasteful and demonstrates cultural intolerance of the worst type.

It continued: “A large family, according to Zille, ‘makes corruption almost inevitable’. This kind of condescending attitude has no place in a democratic South Africa.

“Those who have been making a lot of noise about the cost to the state of the president’s family are guilty of cultural chauvinism. They find themselves at odds with the South African Constitution, which guarantees the right of all South Africans to express their beliefs, practise their culture and speak their language. The state has no business discriminating against anyone, including the president, for doing so.”

Zuma’s lifestyle has been under scrutiny after it emerged that he had fathered his 20th child out of wedlock and was several months late in declaring his financial interests.—guardian.co.uk

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