No more tax millions for Zuma's wives, says ANC
THERE will be no holy cows in the ANC leadership race - not even President Jacob Zuma's four wives.
That much is clear in the latest salvo from the Eastern Cape ANC: it wants the cost to the nation of the wives to be discussed at the ruling party's policy conference next week.
On Monday, as a special meeting of the provincial general council wrapped up in East London, members of the ANC's economic transformation commission supported a proposal that taxpayers should have to support only the first wife.
"What was made clear during the discussions was that, as taxpayers, we cannot afford to continue financing so many wives,'' said one of three delegates to the commission who spoke to The Times's sister paper, the Daily Dispatch.
"Only wife number one should get benefits from the state. Our understanding is that when [you] a man decides to have more than one wife, you are able to support the others. Then deal with it."
The delegate said the meeting felt strongly about the issue.
"We supported [the proposal] and if anyone for any reason suppresses some of our recommendations, there are channels to take the proposal forward."
Another delegate said a member of the ANC Veterans' League first raised the issue, arguing that the spousal benefits for a president's wives should be reconsidered.
The proposal to remove the benefits of Zuma's second, third and fourth wives, will be tabled at next week's ANC policy conference in Midrand, provided it receives support at Friday's special Eastern Cape executive council meeting.
If it is adopted by the policy conference, and later endorsed by the elective conference in Mangaung in December, then only Zuma's first wife, Sizakele Khumalo, would be entitled to spousal support.
The commission did not give feedback to delegates on Monday, denying the conference the right to adopt or reject the proposal as a provincial policy recommendation.
ANC provincial spokesman Mlibo Qoboshiyane said: "The nature of deliberations at the [general council meeting] inspired prolonged engagements, which meant we didn't have enough time for the commission to make presentations to the plenary."
Zuma's support in the Eastern Cape is not clear-cut. Opponents in the ANC who are lobbying for him to be replaced as party president by his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, have influence in some regions.
Zuma's wives have been regarded as a contentious issue since he became president in 2009, in particular the increased resources allocated as their "spousal budget".
In October last year - before Zuma took a fourth wife - it was revealed that about R700000 had been budgeted for car hire for his spouses over two years.
When Zuma married Bongiwe Ngema this year, his office dismissed speculation thatan extra burden would be placed on taxpayers.
The Presidency said: "The rules allow for partnerships to be recognised. As such Ngema already has secretarial support provided for by the Presidency, so there will be no change in support arrangements."
According to the Presidency, the budget for the presidential spousal support office was R15.5-million in the 2009/10 financial year.
This was almost double the cost to taxpayers during Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe's terms in office. Spousal support in 2007/08 was R8.4-million and R8-million in 2008/09.
Earlier this year, Presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj said it was "grossly incorrect" that taxpayers paid for the wives' upkeep.
"The spouses pay their own living or household expenses, be it food, mortgages, lights, water and so forth. Nothing is paid for by the state in the spouses' four households. They live in private homes."
The wives did not have constitutionally defined roles or obligations, so they were not remunerated by the state, Maharaj said.
"There are, however, expectations that spouses will provide support to the president in the execution of his duties, and specifically so at state and official functions.
"The Presidency therefore provides reasonable administrative, logistical and other support ."
Zuma has married six times. His other current wives are Nompumelelo Ntuli and Thobeka Mabhija.