By Nikho Mageza
Having wed wife number four this past weekend at a traditional ceremony in Nkandla, the South African president denies allegations that his wives are supported by the state and taxpayers’ money.
According to Media 24, Jacob Zuma funded all expenditures for the wedding himself and did not use any state funds. Presidential Spokesperson Mac Maharaj explained that allegations made by the media that the state supports Zuma’s various households are incorrect. He further said that each wife had their own household and thus they support each house individually.
The presidency does, however, provide logistical and administrative support for the wives, including 60 domestic flights for each of the president’s children and child-minders if they are under the age of 18. They also provide private transportation for the children to and from school. Zuma has a number of other expenses paid by the state for him and his family: he has a 10% allowance of his salary for housing and 25% of his annual salary goes to a private car allowance, despite his access to official presidential cars. The state will also provide 17% of his salary to a pension fund which will cover medical aid for himself and his family. If an accident were to occur, Zuma is insured by the state. When travelling on business the president is permitted to take his spouse – or spouses, in his case – and their children are to have accommodation and minders provided by the state while they are away. Zuma and his wives are still required to pay tax.
The Presidency’s Annual Report with Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) was held on 18 April. It was found that the president had overspent by R24.8 million in the 2011/12 financial year. The total unauthorised expenditure is R45.5 million – this amount includes the debt of the financial year 2010/11.
The unauthorised expenditures of 2010/11 are made up of legal fees of R5.3 million, travelling and sustenance for R7.3 million and transfers to households of R279 000. The main consensus in the room was for reducing the president’s budget in order to refund the state.
Democratic Alliance SCOPA Spokesperson, Dion George, suggested that constraints be placed on the president’s expenses in order to avoid unauthorised costs. George explains that the budget does not specify the amount given to Zuma’s households in total, thus making it unclear how they can save in terms of the wives and the children. The National Treasury is yet to appear before SCOPA for final recommendations.