South African President Jacob Zuma deflected demands by the opposition to pay back some of the money used in a $23 million state-funded security upgrade to his rural home, saying the government had yet to decide whether he should do so.
Public Prosecutor Thuli Madonsela said last March Zuma had benefited unduly from the “excessive” upgrades to his Nkandla home, which included a chicken run, amphitheatre and swimming pool and recommended that he pay back some of the money.
Madonsela said Zuma should refund any money that had not been spent on security features at his home, adding the minister of police would determine exactly how much Zuma was to pay back.
Zuma said on Wednesday the minister was yet to confirm whether the president’s family should pay back any money for the work that included security features, and if any, how much.
“Never ever have I thought on the date when I will pay back the money,” a forthright Zuma told parliament in a special question and answer session.
“Firstly, there is no money that I will be going to be paying back without a determination by those who are authorised to do so as recommended by the public protector.”
Zuma cut a different figure to the one he presented in parliament last August when strident members of the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters party chanted “pay back the money”, led by rebel former ruling party youth leader Julius Malema.
Zuma has in the past defended the upgrades to his home and said accusations against him were unfair given the importance of protecting any head of state.
“Why do you say I should pay back the money and you don’t even know how much, you don’t even know whether the final answer will be that I should pay back the money. The question itself is premature,” a confident-looking Zuma told parliament.
Zuma, a polygamous Zulu traditionalist with no formal education, has been beset by scandal throughout his political career. He managed to avoid being tried for corruption in 2009 when the state withdrew its case on a technicality.