Ex-South African President Zuma Breaks Silence on Gaddafi Billions ‘Ghost Story’
A recent report in South Africa traced money that had belonged to Muammar Gaddafi from Libya to former South African president Jacob Zuma – but the loot is said to have been taken out of the country.
Former South African President Jacob Zuma dismissed claims that he had secretly handed Muammar Gaddafi’s multi-million stash over to Eswatini.
“Sigh! I owe millions in legal fees… I’ve asked you to assist with that one title deed in order for me to sell that house. I now hear that I have been keeping money belonging to my late brother Gaddafi. Where’s this money because His Majesty knows nothing about it?” Zuma tweeted on Tuesday.
South Africa’s Foreign Minister Lindiwe Sisulu did not believe these claims to be true but agreed to probe them if Libya requested it.
“This is very much like a ghost story. If you believe in a ghost, you will see a ghost, but you will never be able to touch it. This is a story that has been circulating for many, many years,” Sisulu said at a press conference of the governing African National Congress on Sunday, reports South African news website news24.com.
“There is no money that we’re aware of. And I speak honestly as a Minister of International Relations,” she was quoted as saying. “If the Libyans make a request for us to investigate this matter, we will be open to doing so”.
Libyan authorities had asked South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to recover Gaddafi’s millions, local newspaper Sunday Times reported over the weekend.
The stash, which is estimated as being worth $23 million in cash, was allegedly handed before Gaddafi’s death to then-President Jacob Zuma for safekeeping and hidden in a bunker under his homestead in the east of the country.
Zuma had opposed the NATO-led military intervention in Libya in 2011 during the civil war, which eventually led to the overthrow and killing of Gaddafi. He referred to the late Libyan leader as “brother” and reportedly offered him asylum in South Africa but the latter had turned him down.
The Libyan government is said to believe that Zuma, who is facing multiple charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering, earlier this year transferred the loot to Eswatini, a tiny kingdom surrounded on all three sides by South Africa, formerly known as Swaziland.
King Mswati III initially denied the existence of the money, but South African journalists claim he had admitted to Ramaphosa last week that the money is still in the country.
The Eswatini government said it was waiting to see more evidence to support the claims, while South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance demanded that Cyril Ramaphosa “come clean” about his role in this story.
“It is completely unacceptable that Zuma remains free after aiding the late North African dictator and the NPA must act swiftly on these reports to ascertain their accuracy,” the party said in a statement.
This is not the first time Libya’s authorities have claimed that Gaddafi had squirreled away money and moved it to South Africa. In 2013, then-finance minister Pravin Gordhan agreed to repatriate funds amounting to nearly R10 billion (nearly $1 billion at that time).