Business booms for Zuma’s kin

2010-03-20 00:00

IF President Jacob Zuma’s family members have extensive business interests, it is not the task of the president’s office to comment on them, his spokesman said yesterday

The family members themselves have to answer questions about their interests, Zizi Kodwa said, following Mail & Guardian reports about extensive involvement of Zuma’s family members in various companies.

The weekly reported that after Zuma’s election first as ANC president at the end of 2007 and then as president of the country in May 2009, 16 family members, including his wives and children, became involved as company directors, among other things.

A Beeld investigation confirmed that all three of Zuma’s wives are either directors of companies or involved in them in some other way.

The presidency said on Tuesday that Zuma’s three wives are costing taxpayers R15,5 million and that while presidential wives do not have any specific duties, they are entitled to allowances to enable them to pursue their own careers and interests.

Zuma’s wives are also involved in community projects related to health, agriculture and orphans, the presidency said.

Among other things, taxpayers are paying for support personnel for them, like secretaries and researchers, and cellphones, laptops and printers.

Political analyst Harald Pakendorf’s response to the Mail & Guardian investigation is that the president’s wives in particular should be above suspicion. He said eyebrows should be raised when family members of the president who were not previously important business figures suddenly become involved with various companies.

The Mail & Guardian investigation “confirms the trend that the ANC is busy creating a new elite”, Pakendorf said.

Beeld established that Zuma’s 27-year-old daughter, Duduzile Zuma, became a director of at least five companies after her father became ANC president. Zuma’s 33-year-old son, Edward Muziwoxolo Zuma, has become a director of 16 companies since the end of 2007. Nompumelelo Zuma, one of the president’s wives, became involved in at least eight companies during the same period.

The Mail & Guardian reported that 62% (83) of the companies in which Zuma’s family members are involved were registered after Zuma’s election as ANC president.

But yesterday Johannesburg political analyst Professor Sipho Seepe warned that one cannot assume people are corrupt or are abusing family connections simply because those connections exist.

“Politicians’ family members have the same rights as other people to have business interests. However, if it can be proved that they are abusing their connections with the president, and/or are corrupt, then that has to be reported.”

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