Today, the Democratic Alliance (DA) launches its plan to address the growing list of President Zuma’s family members and friends who have reportedly benefitted from business deals with the state since he assumed office.
A 2010 Mail & Guardian report indicated that the combined business interests of President Zuma and 15 adult members of his family accounted for 134 company directorships or memberships of close corporations. Of these, at least 83 were registered in the post-Polokwane period, and are linked to industries in which the state plays a key role, such as mining and telecommunications.
In addition to submitting a series of parliamentary questions to the President and relevant ministers on the nature of these deals, the DA will submit to Parliament a private member’s legislative proposal to reduce the scope for presidential power abuse (see below).
President Zuma’s position affords him significant power, which makes his family and friends influential by proxy. The potential for the individuals closest to the President to be favoured in state deals is considerable.
President Zuma’s family and friends have been linked to a number of controversial deals. The individuals involved include:
Name: Lonwabo Sambudla
Deal: New headquarters for the Department of Public Service and Administration headquarters
Approximate value: R1 billion
Earlier this year, the Billion Group – to which President Zuma’s son-in-law, Lonwabo Sambudla, is linked – was recommended for a R1 billion contract to build new headquarters for the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA). Reports indicate that both Public Service Minister Richard Baloyi and a senior adviser to Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde pushed for the deal to go ahead, despite advice from public service department staff and the national treasury that the DPSA could not afford the new premises. In addition, Mr Sambudla was reportedly personally involved in lobbying for the Billion Group to be awarded the contract.
Name: Khulubuse Zuma
Deal: Aurora Empowerment Systems/Pamodzi
Approximate value: R600 million
In October 2009, the mining industry newcomer Aurora, of which President Jacob Zuma’s nephew Khulubuse Zuma is a director, was controversially named the preferred company to take over the Pamodzi mines, ahead of a number of established bidders. Since Aurora took over, the mine has shed jobs and wages have gone unpaid.
Name: Duduzane Zuma
Deal: Imperial Crown Trading 289/Sishen
Approximate value: Unclear
President Zuma's 28-year old son, Duduzane Zuma, is linked through his business partner, Jagdish Parekh, to the inexperienced Imperial Crown Trading, which was awarded prospecting rights to a residual share of the Sishen iron ore mine in late 2009. Duduzane Zuma has become well-known known for his flashy cars, luxury apartments and lavish lifestyle.
Name: Mandla Gcaba
Deal: Durban metro bus
Approximate value: R300 million
In 2009, President Zuma’s nephew, Mandla Gcaba, was awarded a contract to run Durban’s metro bus fleet. This contract was awarded without a tender, and went to a company linked to Gcaba following the collapse of the previous operator, Remant Alton, of which he was also a director.
Name: Nonkululeko Mhlongo
Relationship: Mother of two of President Zuma’s children
Deal: Bucebo General Trading/KwaZulu-Natal legislature
Approximate value: R3,5 million
Bucebo General Trading, a company belonging to Nonkululeko Mhlongo – the mother of two of Jacob Zuma’s children – was awarded a multi-million rand catering contract by the KwaZulu-Natal legislature in 2008. The tender was awarded without being advertised in the tender bulletin, and before the expiry of the 21-day review period for tenders. Although President Zuma was not yet head of the executive at the time this deal was struck, his position as President of the ANC would have afforded him considerable political clout.
All of these deals were done either without tenders or through dubious tendering processes. In some instances, the inexperience of the company linked to a Zuma family member has had a detrimental impact on service delivery and on workers.
The DA’s private member’s bill proposes a number of amendments to be made to the Executive Members’ Ethics Act. These amendments include:
That decisions regarding the adjudication of conflicts of interest involving the President, his children and spouses should be made by the Public Protector. Currently, the President is supposed to adjudicate his own conflicts of interest. This is a conflict of interest in itself.
That state deals involving the President’s family members should come under specific scrutiny by the Auditor-General to ensure that all tender processes are followed and there are no special favours.
That the Public Protector should adjudicate whether the President has complied with Section 2 of the Executive Ethics Code, which details “general standards” of ethics to which members of the executive must adhere. Currently, the President is supposed to adjudicate whether he has complied with Section 2. Again, this is a conflict of interest in itself.
That the President’s register of interests be made more easily accessible to the public. Currently, members of the public wishing to view the register have to arrange a viewing with the President’s office. The DA proposes that this system be changed, and that the registry be published on the Presidency’s website.
The legislative amendments proposed by the DA will, if implemented, put in place important safeguards to limit the scope for presidential influence-peddling. When it comes to the President and his family, the highest standards of transparency and accountability should apply.
The South African people shouldn’t be left guessing whether Zuma’s family is trading on the President’s name. We should be absolutely sure that they are not.