South Africa’s Zuma to repay some funds used to upgrade home

South African President Jacob Zuma said he will repay some of the public funds used to upgrade his home to comply with recommendations by the graft ombudsman.

Zuma proposed the country’s auditor-general and finance minister determine how much he should pay back for upgrades to his private home in Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal province, according to a statement e-mailed by Zuma’s office on Tuesday. The Constitutional Court will consider whether the idea is appropriate at a hearing Feb. 9, it said.

While Zuma continues to object to “factual aspects and legal conclusions” in a 2014 report by the public protector, which recommended he repay the state out of his own pocket for some of the renovations at his traditional homestead, he wants to find a “simple” resolution, the presidency said.

South African opposition parties have gone to court in a bid to force Zuma to refund some of the 215.9 million rand ($13 million) of taxpayer money spent on a swimming pool, cattle enclosure and an amphitheater at the private residence. While the graft ombudsman recommended partial repayment, a police report, adopted by the National Assembly controlled by Zuma’s African National Congress, has cleared Zuma of liability.

The scandal has added to public criticism of Zuma’s leadership, including his move in December to fire Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene and replace him with a little-known lawmaker. He reversed the decision days later, after the currency plunged to a then-record low, reappointing Pravin Gordhan to the role.

“The president’s sense of political invincibility seems to have been dented by cumulative events more recently,” Somadoda Fikeni, a political analyst at the Pretoria-based University of South Africa, said by phone on Wednesday. “Going forward the handling of the Nkandla matter, I’m sure, will be more technical now.”

Zuma’s lawyers formally made the proposal that the auditor- general weigh in on Tuesday morning in a letter to the registrar of the Constitutional Court, according to the statement. It was initially suggested in an answering affidavit in November, to which the Public Protector and opposition parties, the Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters, haven’t responded, the Presidency said.

 – Bloomberg