The affordable education loan option
President Jacob Zuma says there is nothing wrong with the government awarding an almost R1 billion tender to an NGO he chairs and which is run by his cousin Sibusiso “Deebo” Mzobe.
Zuma leapt to his own defence on Monday in response to questions on whether his chairmanship of the rural development project conflicted with his role as head of state.
“No, there is no conflict of interest as the Masibambisane Rural Development Initiative is driven by a partnership between rural communities, government and the private sector to facilitate development in rural areas through various agricultural projects,” Zuma said in an e-mail.
Zuma came under heavy criticism from opposition parties in June when it was reported that various government departments had pledged funding for the estimated R900 million expenditure for the food security project, described as “Zuma’s brainchild”.
The DA dubbed it “a handout scheme used by Zuma to curry favour” for his ANC election campaign.
“How can President Zuma, through his private NGO, Masibambisane, justify spending so much money on a single village, when across the province many people still do not have access to the most basic services?” Lindiwe Mazibuko, the DA’s parliamentary leader, asked on Monday.
“Through Masibambisane, President Zuma seems to be building up his Mangaung war machine, channelling money and development to his friends and supporters,” she added.
Mazibuko said at the time that the DA would approach the chairman of the standing committee on public accounts, Themba Godi, and Auditor-General Terence Nombembe to investigate.
Zuma was unfazed as he defended his involvement.
“As the head of state and government, I have a genuine interest to ensure that our rural communities are supported through the mobilisation of resources from both the private sector and government sectors.”
Mzobe is deputy chairman of the Masibambisane Rural Development Trust and is listed as an active director of 24 companies in construction and consulting.