Less than two months after he was found guilty of misappropriating public funds to renovate his private residential home, South African President Jacob Zuma finds himself in yet another mega-corruption scandal after he allegedly spent millions in public money to buy luxury vehicles for his four wives.
Earlier this week, South Africans were treated to a painful debacle when the country’s Minister for Police Nathi Nheko revealed to members of parliament that his ministry spent about $230,000 purchasing luxury vehicles for President Zuma’s wives.
The minister said the 11 expensive cars were bought out of the police budget, a revelation that continues to raise serious questions about President Zuma’s commitment to austerity. Keep in mind that his government has been calling on citizens to tighten their belts as the country strives to achieve its development objectives.
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Vehicles bought for Zuma’s wives included four Range Rover SUVs, two Audi Q7s, two Land Rover Discovery SUVs and three Audi A6s.
In a bid to justify the controversial purchase, Mr. Nhleko said the vehicles were necessary for providing security to VIP spouses.
They were there to provide comprehensive protection of VIP spouses, the minister said in a statement to parliament.
Call for Austerity in South Africa
While making his annual budget address in February of this year, South Africa’s Minister for Finance Pravin Gordhan announced plans to carry out unprecedented cuts and freezes in an effort to regulate government’s spending.
“We must live with the money we have, not the money we think we might have,” Gordhan told parliament.
Admitting that the country is in a crisis, Mr. Gordhan announced the government’s plan to cut spending by at least R25 billion in the coming three years, adding that a time has come for the government to review key areas of spending and identify things that the country can do without in the next five years.
The minister also hinted that the South African government was considering scrapping unnecessary jobs in the public service as well as limiting the number of managerial and administrative posts.
While South Africa remains the second largest economy in Africa after Nigeria in terms of nominal GDP, it is currently grappling with a series of serious corruption scandals, most of which involve top government officials including the president.
In April this year, the South African Supreme Court found President Zuma guilty of using public money unconstitutionally to refurbish his private Nkandla residence. Zuma apologized for the offense and promised to pay back the money as requested by the court.
He however disregarded calls to step down by the opposition, saying that he never intended to use public resources for his own gains. Although President Zuma survived that scandal and a related impeachment motion, this latest corruption allegations continue to dent his credibility and that of his party, the African National Congress (ANC), with rumors that the ruling party is on a mission to dislodge President Zuma.