S.Africa court orders partial freeze on Zuma’s accountsWed, 20 Mar 2024 15:07:36 GMT

A South African bank on Wednesday announced a partial freeze on accounts of ex-president Jacob Zuma, two months ahead of a general election in which he is hoping to relaunch his political career.The First National Bank (FNB) said a court ordered the measure over a dispute related to money spent by the 81-year-old to renovate his home and install a swimming pool when he was president. “FNB was instructed by the High Court to place a hold on outgoing payments from former President Zuma’s FNB accounts. The accounts are not closed as incoming payments are unaffected,” the lender told AFP.The partial account freeze is likely to further taint the reputation of graft-accused Zuma, who has joined an opposition group seeking to cut into the vote share of his old home, the African National Congress (ANC).Zuma’s new party, uMkhonto We Sizwe (MK) or Spear of the Nation, reacted angrily, saying the measure was politically motivated.  “It’s clear that the ANC is behind all of this,” MK spokesman Nhlamulo Ndhlela told AFP, adding the ruling party was trying “to humiliate” its former boss.  FNB said the court order, issued at the end of February, was the result of legal action taken by the liquidators of another bank, which is owed money by Zuma. “This instruction from the court results from the process currently being managed by the VBS Bank liquidators, and FNB was legally required to comply. Former President Zuma’s recourse now lies with the courts and VBS liquidators,” it said. – ‘Security upgrades’ -The dispute relates to a decade-old scandal over the improper use of public funds to refurbish Zuma’s massive Nkandla homestead in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal.In 2016, a top court found that the then-president had acted against the constitution by using millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money for “security upgrades”, which included a chicken coop, a swimming pool and an amphitheatre.Ordered to pay back part of the sum, Zuma took out a 7.8-million-rand ($413,000) loan from VBS. The bank was later placed under curatorship and its liquidators have gone to court to force Zuma to pay back the outstanding part of the loan.  The fourth president of democratic South Africa from 2009 to 2018, Zuma has long been bitter about the way he was forced out of office under the cloud of corruption allegations.In December, he declared that he would be campaigning for MK, a party named after the ANC’s former armed wing during the anti-apartheid struggle.It was a blow for the ANC, which is struggling in the polls and risks losing its parliamentary majority for the first time since the advent of democracy in 1994 amid accusations of mismanagement and corruption, and high rates of crime, poverty and unemployment.A survey of over 1,500 registered voters by the Brenthurst Foundation and the SABI Strategy Group published earlier this month, put the ruling party at 39 percent with MK trailing in third place on 13 percent.