President Jacob Zuma has visited former President Nelson Mandela at a Pretoria hospital. File photo by Sandile Ndlovu.

 The ANC is staying mum on reports alleging that President Jacob Zuma had more benefactors than previously thought to cover his debts and expenses, including Nelson Mandela, saying the matter is private, and “has nothing to do with anybody”.

And spokesman Keith Khoza said yesterday the ANC would also not discuss the report with Zuma, on the grounds that his finances were private. “We cannot dignify irresponsible reporting by the Mail & Guardian.”

The DA has called for Zuma to stand down “until you can clear your name” following the damaging allegations in a secret KPMG report, published by the Mail & Guardian yesterday. However, the Young Communist League and Durban-based businessman Vivian Reddy, who is named as one of Zuma’s financial backers, yesterday dismissed the story as “old hat”.

The Young Communist League labelled the report “recycled, repackaged but yet irrelevant gossip intended to discredit the president”.

“The story has nothing but Mangaung written all over it,” deputy national chairman Mawethu Rune said. The league argued, too, that

the information in the report had not been tested, so denying Zuma the right to reply.

 According to the 500-page KPMG report, a 2006 forensic probe into Zuma’s finances revealed that Mandela gave Zuma R1 million to help settle his debts. According to the report, Mandela came to Zuma’s rescue in June 2005, a few days after he was fired as deputy president, and after the NPA announced it would charge Zuma with corruption relating to alleged bribes from French arms company Thales.

A total of 783 payments were made to Zuma by his corruption-convicted, former financial adviser Schabir Shaik, amounting to more than R4m, the report said. Other than Reddy, it suggests, too, that

Zuma benefited from several businessmen, including his nephew Khulubuse Zuma.

According to the report, large commercial banks “bent over backwards” to accommodate Zuma because of his political position. Standard Bank reportedly wrote off a bond account as bad debt. Absa reportedly opened accounts in spite of his history of poor or late repayments, because of his “strategic positioning”.

Asked to comment, Standard Bank spokesman Erik Larsen said: “Standard Bank is bound by law not to discuss clients’ financial affairs.”

Absa spokesman Patrick Wadula said it was attending to the request for comment.

FNB spokesman Steve Higgins said: “The bank’s lending decisions are based on the customer’s ability to repay the loan. We are unable to discuss customer accounts.”

Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory spokesman Sello Hatang said he was not in a position to comment as he did not have the information contained in the report.

Presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj is out of the country with Zuma, who is on a working visit to Tanzania.

 Mail & Guardian editor Nic Dawes said the paper ran the story without seeking comment first from Zuma or others, contrary to their right of reply practice. This was because the risk of being prevented from publishing it “was real”. The publication invited comment on the story, which it said it would publish immediately.

 The report was prepared ahead of Zuma’s High Court appearance on corruption charges in 2006. It was, however, not used once the charges were dropped.

The DA was trying through the courts to get the tapes which formed the basis for the decision to have the corruption charges dropped, and the record of the decision.

The Christian Democratic Party’s Theunis Botha said Zuma could no longer be considered a suitable candidate for president and called for a caretaker president to be appointed until the controversy around the funding of his home in Nkandla was resolved.

Weekend Argus