South African President Jacob Zuma has paid back $542,000 of public money spent refurbishing his private home, his office said Monday, in a controversy that has dominated his second term in office.
The country’s highest court found earlier this year that Zuma had violated the constitution by defying an order to repay some of the funds used to renovate Nkandla, his traditional homestead.
It ordered him to pay back funds spent on non-security upgrades — including a chicken coop, swimming pool and amphitheatre — valued by the treasury at 7,814,155 million rand ($542,000).
"President Zuma has paid over the amount... to the South African Reserve Bank as ordered by the Constitutional Court of South Africa," the presidency said in a statement.
It added that the president raised the money through a home loan.
The treasury confirmed separately that the payment had been received.
The Nkandla scandal has dogged Zuma’s presidency, becoming a symbol of alleged corruption and greed within the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party and triggering several unsuccessful impeachment bids by the opposition.
A 2014 report by the public ombudswoman, Thuli Madonsela, found that Zuma and his family had "unduly benefited" from the upgrade work — valued in 2014 at 216 million rand (then $24 million) — and ordered him to pay back some of the money.
The president reacted by ordering two government investigations that cleared his name, including a report by the police minister which concluded that the swimming pool was a fire-fighting precaution.
In March, the Constitutional Court ruled Zuma had "failed to uphold, defend and respect the constitution as the supreme law of the land".
The ANC suffered historic losses in South Africa’s local elections last month, garnering less than 54 percent of ballots cast — an eight-point drop from the last local poll in 2011 and its worst showing since the fall of white-minority rule in 1994.
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