South Africa's Zuma to pay back millions used for home upgrades

President Jacob Zuma offered Wednesday to pay back millions of dollars in taxpayer money used to install luxurious features at his sprawling homestead in rural South Africa.

The president, who has been facing mounting pressure to step down after a series of scandals including the 250-million-rand (15.4-million-dollar) upgrade to his home in the village of Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal province, will pay back a sum determined by the auditor general, his office said in a statement.

"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 statement said.

Zuma's proposal is contained in a letter sent by his attorneys to the country's highest judiciary, the Constitutional Court. 

The upgrades to Zuma's home included a football pitch and a pool, which security authorities insisted was a necessary measure for fighting fires at the estate.

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

Calls mounted for Zuma, 73, to step down late last year after his firing of popular finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, sent the country's currency, the rand, into free fall.

Nationwide marches against Zuma - who has four wives and was acquitted in a high-profile trial for rape before being elected to office in 2009 - have been held countrywide with further protests planned for February 11, when he delivers his next state of the nation speech.

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

Before his dismissal, he had butted heads with Zuma over spending priorities while South Africa, which has the most industrialized economy in Africa, is under pressure from a fall in commodity prices, rising inflation, crumbling energy infrastructure, unemployment and the worst drought in more than a century.

Last update: Wed, 03/02/2016 - 13:34
Author: 

More from World

Trump stands by unsubstantiated claim that millions voted illegally

Donald Trump stands by his belief that millions of people voted illegally in the November elections that made him...

Iraqi forces seize control of eastern Mosul, prime minister says

Iraqi forces have taken full control of the eastern side of Mosul, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced Tuesday...

Trump moves to advance construction of controversial US pipelines

US President Donald Trump signed presidential memoranda Tuesday to advance construction of the Keystone XL pipeline...

Mexico draws 'red lines' for negotiations with the US

US President Donald Trump's call for a border wall and any significant watering down of the North America Free Trade...

Jihadist fighters assault rival rebels' bases in northern Syria

A powerful Syrian armed group linked to al-Qaeda launched a series of assaults Tuesday on bases of a rival rebel...