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President Jacob Zuma delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA) to a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces in Cape Town, South Africa February 9, 2017. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African President Jacob Zuma said on Saturday that the state's anti-graft agency, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), was owed almost 390 million rand ($30 million) by government departments and called on them to repay the debt.

Analysts often cite corruption and government waste as constraints to economic growth and poverty alleviation in Africa's most advanced economy.

Zuma, 74, has himself faced numerous allegations of corruption, which he has always denied. He has often said rooting it out is one his priorities.

The money owed should be paid "without delay to enable the SIU to continue functioning optimally," the presidency said in a statement. It said SIU head Andy Mothibi, who was appointed last year, had informed Zuma of the debt during their first meeting on Friday.

No explanation was given as to why the debt accumulated or why it was now drawn to the president's attention. The SIU has a mandate to recover and prevent government financial losses caused by corruption, fraud or maladministration.

(Reporting by Ed Stoddard; editing by John Stonestreet)

Reuters