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Reviews : Zuma's wife left in the dark

Just months after she was nearly evicted from her plush Durban home, South Africa's first lady Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma is in the dark, with no lights or water.

That's because neither she, nor the president or their benefactors, have paid the utilities bills. Nor is it the first time that they have defaulted.

According to the latest information available to The Mercury, the eThekwini municipality is owed a total of R9 564.87.

It will have to be paid in full before the municipality will again restore services to the exclusive Innes Road mansion in Morningside.

During a visit to the area on Tuesday night, the only light that could be seen at the home was the glow from spotlights in a neighbouring property.

The Mercury understands that the house - which has eight bedrooms - has been without lights and water since last week.

MaNtuli and her family were apparently given a week's grace because the gate was locked when officials first arrived to disconnect the supply.

In February, MaNtuli was nearly evicted from the house after a dispute over the lease with the owner, Abdul Rahim Malek, a wealthy vehicle and commercial property businessman from Durban.

The Mercury understands that MaNtuli has lived in the house for the past five years, together with the two children she has with the president, and other relatives.

She has also listed the property, which is next to the Indian consulate, as the address of several of her companies, while a business belonging to Edward Zuma, the president's son from a previous relationship, is registered at that address.

The water and electricity account for the property was registered in the name of Erwin Ullbricht, who describes himself as one of Zuma's sons, and he has been responsible for paying the monthly bills until now.

Ullbricht secured the lease of the house in 2005 through a company, Nxamalala Investments CC.

MaNtuli's utlities account has been in arrears several times, and her electricity supply was also disconnected in January 2008.

When contacted for comment, an angry Ullbricht referred The Mercury to MaNtuli.

"Why can't you leave the president and his family alone and focus on the good that the ANC-led government is doing for 2010?" he asked.

On Tuesday night, Malek said he did not want to speak to the media and that "whoever is living there must pay".

He referred The Mercury to Ullbricht, saying that the lease was in his name.

MaNtuli's cellphone was switched off.

As South African president, Zuma takes home an annual salary of R2,245-million a year. In addition, he receives many perks associated with being the country's first citizen, including several official residences maintained by the taxpayer.
Last week, Parliament passed the presidency's R722m budget, which included an allocation for the spousal office, which covers some of the officials' costs of the president's three wives and fiancee, as well as minor children.

In March, Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane disclosed in an answer to a parliamentary question that the spousal budget had been increased to R15.5m for 2010, almost double that of the spousal office under former president Kgalema Motlanthe.

The allocation covers the cost of employing a personal secretary and a researcher to support the president's wives in projects relating to government work. The presidency also pays for laptops and cellphones for the president's wives and their staff, and gives them a special allowance for expenses during official trips.
None of the communication officers in the presidency could be reached for comment on Tuesday night.

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