President Jacob Zuma is not a wealthy man, and his family lives the same modest life as any other normal traditional rural family, according to his oldest son.
The Sunday Times spoke to Zuma’s son, Edward, in an exclusive interview about the many millions his father has been ordered to pay back for general upgrades done at his Nkandla homestead.
The National Treasury this week placed the amount Zuma should pay back at R7.8-million. In a report issued to the Constitutional Court on 28 June, the Treasury gave the president 45 days to pay the money back.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, Edward admitted that the Zuma family is concerned about where this money will come from because they are not, according to him, nearly as wealthy as people think.
“We are not a rich family,” Edward told the paper.
He also said he would be happy to help his dad, but isn’t in a financial position to do so.
“If I had money myself I would pay for him and relieve him. But the family will meet … and chart the way forward and see if there’s a way to pour in all our resources to help him,” he said.
“We are not a rich family, perhaps if we were rich we would also be fighting these things and taking people to court. We are a family of hustlers and hard workers.”
The Sunday Times also spoke to the president’s younger brother, Michael, who echoed Edward’s sentiment that there’s widespread misconception about the Zuma family’s affluence.
“The Zumas are not wealthy people,” Michael said.
He also said his brother has not discussed the matter with him, but that he knows he doesn’t just have millions lying around.
“If they want him to pay, I do not know where he is going to get the money. He has not spoken to us about this matter and we have only learnt about it in the news,” said Michael.
Reportedly “teary” during the interview, Michael also highlighted the fact that he wasn’t meeting the paper at a luxurious location, but simply outside a “butchery at the modest Durban Station”.
“Contrary to what many people believe, the Zumas are not wealthy people. That is why you are also finding me at this modest place,” he said.
And according to Michael, the Zumas are no different from any other rural family in South Africa.
Also addressing the recent reinstatement of more than 700 criminal charges against his brother, Michael admitted that President Zuma’s loved ones are most concerned by the prospect of him going to jail.
“We are afraid he could go back to jail. This issue has made me lose sleep and I have sleepless nights. His wives are the most concerned and vulnerable. They constantly ask me for direction and as the eldest [at home] I always have to go out of my way to assure them,” he said.
Michael is also concerned about the emotional toll these recent developments are having on his brother, saying he at times feels like he doesn’t even recognise his sibling anymore.
“Sometimes I look at him and suspect that he’s changed, all these things have changed him, changed his reasoning and he is not OK. I know him. I am his brother,” he admitted.
“It’s reached a point where we live in great uncertainty. This is not the brother I know. The brother I have always known is the one that cracks jokes, a brother who loves women, his wives and his children, not a brother they say is corrupt. We do not know a corrupt Mhlanganyelwa [one of Zuma’s names] in the Zuma household.
“Hardly a day goes by without me thinking about him and how he would fight the storms.”
President Jacob Zuma currently earns an annual salary of R2.87-million, this after the National Assembly in March approved his 4.4 percent raise, despite objections from several opposition parties.
When compared to other presidents globally, Zuma’s salary is high, amounting to some R239‚500 per month, and R7‚800 per day.