afrol News, 10 March - South African President Jacob Zuma today finally provided a list of his financial interests to parliament after the opposition increased its pressure on the ANC leadership.
President Zuma's lawyer Michael Hulley today told the press that the list had now been handed over to the Secretary of Cabinet. Mr Hurley said the list contains any gifts, benefits or financial interests held or received either by the President or members of his family as required in terms of South Africa's Executive Ethics Code.
The Ethics Code however also required that any government official is required to make declaration of his or her financial interests within 60 days of taking office. This deadline is long passed.
The failure to comply with this deadline was brought to attention by Helen Zille, the leader of South Africa's leading opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA).
But the scandal was primarily caused by the poor handling of this information by the presidency, which told the press that the delay had not been a simple case of forgetting or busy schedules. A spokesman said that President Zuma had been waiting for a clarification from his legal team "about the need for him to declare. In the course of that discussion there was a lack of clarity on whether he really needs to declare."
The explanation caused outrage as it indicated the President would have something to hide. DA leader Zille referred the case to the Public Protector, "to request that her office investigates President Jacob Zuma's apparent breach of section 5 of the Executive Ethics Code."
The ruling ANC party yesterday added to the confusion as its spokesman Brian Sokutu said said the ANC "regretted" President Zuma had missed the deadline, but added the circumstances needed to be understood. "We have a special case, in that we are dealing with a President who has a large family and therefore it is not easy," Mr Sokutu was quoted by SAPA. Later, the ANC issued a statement saying Mr Sokuto's statements "were made in total breach to ANC protocol and also without any consultation with the ANC leadership."
Today, pressure on President Zuma even increased as the second opposition party COPE drew lines from earlier corruption accusations against Mr Zuma and his unwillingness to declare his financial interests. "We should not look at it in isolation but rather in the context of other cases where questions have been raised about the president's declaration," a COPE spokesman told media today.
COPE recalled that in 2003, as Mr Zuma was Vice President and MP for the ANC, he was found to be in breech of the South African Parliament's Code of Ethics by not disclosing gifts and benefits. These included benefits from his financial advisor Schabir Shaik, which later was described as a corrupt relationship by Judge Hilary Squires.
Today, Mr Zuma's lawyer says the delay in declaring his interests had been due to a large work load in clearing all facts and numbers. Mr Hulley said the declarations were to be contained in both the public and private parts of the register held by the Secretary, in order to uphold the spirit espoused in the Ethics Code.
"This process, initiated by the President, was completed in consultation with the Secretary of Cabinet as is contemplated in terms of the Executive Ethics Code. Such engagement, which was supplemented by legal advice, had ensued over a period of time in order to ascertain the nature of the disclosure to be made, as well as the extent to which declarations of family members were required," Mr Zuma's lawyer said.
Mr Hulley said in deciding whether to accept or retain any gift, Zuma has applied the same high ethical standard he otherwise would have in respect of other members of the Executive. "In any event, whilst these gestures are highly appreciated and of immense sentimental significance, none of the gifts are of extraordinary monetary value," he said.
Mr Hulley added that President Zuma does not hold any directorship, membership or shareholding in any company, either public or private, nor is he associated in any way therewith.
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