Wife budget doubled for President Jacob Zuma

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South Africa's opposition leader was yesterday accused of "cultural chauvinism" after she criticised the cost to the state of President Jacob Zuma's three wives.

The presidency had earlier revealed that the 2009-10 budget for Mr Zuma's spousal office amounts to R15.5m (£1.4m), compared with R8m in 2008 when Thabo Mbeki was President.

Newspapers pointed out that the total budgeted for Mr Zuma's three wives is less, per wife, than the amount which was set aside for Mr Mbeki's wife, Zanele. But Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said the amount was "exorbitant".

"It is impossible for anyone, even on a president's salary, to look after a family the size of Zuma's without relying extensively on private benefactors and the taxpayers' money. This makes corruption almost inevitable," she said.

Mr Zuma married for the fifth time in January. On Monday Mr Zuma's office submitted the President's declaration of interests and gifts to parliament, including his wives' stakes in various companies and information about his second wife, who lives in an eight-bedroom Durban home with the rent paid by two businessmen.

South African newspapers revealed in January that Mr Zuma fathered a child last August with the daughter of Irvin Khoza, the chairman of an organising committee for the 2010 World Cup. To clear up confusion over Mr Zuma's offspring, presidency spokesman Vusi Mona said he had 10 children under the age of 18, and another 10 adult children.

African National Congress chief whip Mathole Motshekga yesterday said the opposition leader's criticism was unwarranted. "Zille's criticism of the size of the President's family and that it costs the state 'exorbitantly' is distasteful and demonstrates cultural intolerance of the worst kind," he said.