The perks of being president

2008-01-12 00:00

ANC president Jacob Zuma will earn a fat salary and enjoy many perks if elected as president of South Africa in 2009 — but legally speaking, he and his sprawling family could lose out on many of the "private" perks worth many millions that he has allegedly enjoyed over the past 10 years.

If Zuma abides by Parliament’s Handbook for Members of the Executive, he will be subject to a strict ethics code that will forbid him from soliciting or accepting any gift or benefit that might constitute improper influence or be in return for a benefit received from the president.

So gone are the days of being able to rely on the likes of Schabir Shaik — who has earned hundreds of millions from government contracts and who, it has emerged, spent more than R4 million on Zuma between 1995 and 2005. And on controversial businessman Vivian Reddy, whose political connections saw him being granted one of the province’s most valuable casino licences — and who paid most of the cost of Zuma’s country residence at Nkandla.

If elected president, Zuma will earn a salary of about R1,5 million, depending on the rate of inflation.

According to the handbook — which presidential spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga said also dictates the benefits and privileges accorded to the president — Zuma would, in addition to his basic salary, receive a housing allowance of 10% of his salary, to contribute to the maintenance of his existing private home.

On top of his official vehicles, he would also get a motor vehicle allowance, equal to 25% of his annual salary, for the purchase of a private motor car.

The state will contribute an amount equal to 17% of his salary to a pension fund and will pay two thirds of his medical aid contribution covering his family. He will also be insured by the state for accident and life cover.

When he travels on official business, he may be accompanied by his spouses — (the handbook makes allowance for spouses in a polygamous marriage) and those dependent children who cannot remain at home are entitled to accommodation and subsistence at the expense of the state. The same arrangement applies to travel abroad.

In addition to their travel on business, members and their spouses are jointly entitled to 30 domestic business class air tickets each year at the expense of the state. Dependent children are each entitled to six domestic economy class tickets each year.

It is not yet clear which of his four wives (he has been married six times and also has a long-term relationship, as well as a 30-year-old son, Edward, with another woman, Minah Shongwe) will become South Africa’s first lady, should Zuma become president.

His first wife is Sizakele Khumalo and the others are Mantuli Makhoti, Thobeka Mabhija and Nompumelelo Ntuli — whom he married last weekend.

Zuma has a total of 16 children — but the handbook does not make reference to covering the costs of education of members’ offspring.

The payment of education fees was, according to the indictment against Zuma filed in the Pietermaritzburg High Court recently, a perk Zuma enjoyed through his association with Shaik.

As part of a list of 783 payments allegedly made by Shaik and his companies between 1995 and 2005, he allegedly made payments to a number of educational institutions for the Zuma children, including to Holy Family College, Sacred Heart School, University of Zululand, Empangeni High School, St Catherine’s, Cape Technikon and the International School of Cape Town.

But the state will pay to get the Zuma offspring to school — members have one official vehicle for use in Cape Town and another for use in Pretoria and official vehicles may be used for private purposes such as transporting schoolgoing children to school.

The government will also provide transport for his children to school provided they do not exceed 15 km in one direction.

Similarly, when the president is away from home on official business, any spouse or family member who stays at home will be entitled to transport by the state and can be taken wherever they need to go.

On the subject of taxation, the handbook states: "Members are responsible for acquainting themselves with their own tax obligations".

As a private citizen, Zuma failed to render his own income tax return for eight years from 1995 to 2003, when Shaik submitted and signed them on his behalf. He did not disclose any of the payments he had received from Shaik and others in those late tax returns.

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