Lawyer: Anomalies delayed Zuma list

2010-03-10 22:21

Johannesburg - Anomalies in the code governing the declaration of the president's assets contributed to why President Jacob Zuma was late in declaring his interests, his attorney said after the information was finally submitted on Wednesday.

"There were certain anomalies in the code," said Michael Hulley, which sets out the declaration of personal financial interests.

One of the clauses in the Executive Ethics Code states that if a gift worth more than R1 000 has been offered, permission to retain it must be sought from the president.

"He in essence sits in judgment of himself," explained Hulley.

Big family

Hot on the heels of a scandal about a child born through an extramarital liaison, Zuma returned from a state visit to the UK, where some of the media mocked his polygamy and corruption trial, to face criticism over not declaring his and his family's personal financial interests.

He was supposed to have declared them within 60 days of taking office last May, but according to a weekend report some in the presidency felt he did not have to submit a declaration.

This was followed by a statement from presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya that it was taking time because Zuma's family is so large. He has three wives and 20 children.

On Wednesday, according to a statement on the presidency's website, Zuma had submitted his list to Vusi Mavimbela, the director general in his office, who is also the Secretary of Cabinet in terms of the Executive Ethics Code.

Hulley said the process had been underway for "quite some time - from the last quarter of last year".

"Obviously we had to look at the nature of the declaration that needed to be made, certain anomalies in the code. It was not drafted specifically for the president.

"How he has done it is he has applied the same standard that he would be asked to apply if it was another member of the executive," said Hulley, of how the list was compiled with Mavimbela.

No directorship, shareholding

He considered the overall spirit in which the gift was given, with the items he kept being of "immense personal and symbolic value, none of them are of extraordinary benefit".

A copy of the list was not immediately available, with the presidency referring requests to Hulley. Later the presidency said a request should be put in writing to its director general.

However, according to Hulley's earlier statement: "The president does not hold any directorship, membership or shareholding in any company, either public or private, nor is he associated in any way therewith. The suggestions to the contrary are devoid of any truth and are regrettable."

He did not want to comment specifically on suggestions from the presidency and the ANC that because Zuma had a large family, it was taking a long time.

But said: "It was one of the factors that had been brought under consideration."

DA still wants probe

ANC spokesperson Brian Sokutu faces a disciplinary procedure for saying while Zuma respected the rule of law, his large family complicated the process.

Hulley said the family was aware of its obligations to declare their financial interests.

Asked whether the DA would withdraw its request to the Public Protector to investigate the matter, MP Athol Trollip said "absolutely not".

"This is one of the things that concerns me most about what happens in this country. The president has made a declaration almost eight months later than he should have.

"If you submit your tax return eight months late there will be penalties."

Trollip believed it was public pressure and the party's complaint that led to the declaration being submitted.