It’s #paybackthemoney for Nkandla time: Court rules VBS can seize Jacob Zuma’s assets
VBS Mutual Bank can now seize former president Jacob Zuma’s cattle, furniture and other realisable assets to repay his R6.5-million loan for his homestead at Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal. This on the back of an order in VBS’ favour by the High Court in Pietermaritzburg, delivered on Tuesday.
Five months after VBS Mutual Bank was put under curatorship and about as many months since Jacob Zuma stepped down as president of South Africa – in August 2018 – the former president started defaulting on his monthly instalments owed to the bank for the cost of extensive upgrades at Nkandla.
Zuma’s age of patronage – and the money taps available to him – seemed to have ended when he lost political power.
On Tuesday, the High Court in Pietermaritzburg granted VBS curator Anoosh Rooplal an order forcing Zuma to pay back state money splurged in 2011 on Nkandla upgrades. The land on which Nkandla is built, Nxamalala Farm, cannot be attached because it is owned by the Ingonyama Trust.
Louise Brugman, spokesperson for Rooplal, confirmed the bank had received a summary judgment against Zuma.
At the time, Zuma first claimed the upgrades were paid for by his family. In 2013, the DA asked then Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to investigate the spending and upgrades at Nkandla. ANC ministers consistently shielded Zuma from accountability, including an interministerial task team that found him not liable for any of the upgrades and created a “fire pool” out of a swimming pool and a necessary security measure from a chicken coop and amphitheatre.
Zuma was given a R7,8-million bond by VBS on extremely favourable terms in September 2016 after the Constitutional Court, earlier that year, confirmed that Madonsela’s findings, published in her report “Secure in Comfort”, were binding.
In 2014, Madonsela found the extensive R246-million upgrades at Zuma’s Nkandla residence – a much-publicised scandal at the time – were not all security related. These included the “fire pool”, cattle kraal and chicken coop. She said Zuma was personally liable for the non-security upgrades and had to pay back a portion to the state.
The EFF played an important role at the time to hold Zuma to account, demanding that he answer questions in Parliament, and ensured, sometimes by force, that Madonsela’s report was not swept under the carpet. By 2015, the EFF slogan “Pay Back the Money” became a national anthem.
The EFF, along with the DA and other political parties, started to erode Zuma’s legitimacy.
Daily Maverick and amaBhungane’s publication of the Gupta Leaks in 2017 was the final nail in Zuma’s coffin. On Valentine’s day 2018, he stepped down.
By August 2018 his political power seemed extinguished and his money taps had run dry. Zuma still owed millions for the upgrades to his Nkandla homestead. His contract with VBS stipulated monthly payments of about R70,000 over 240 months. For about two years, these instalments were paid on time. Insiders told Scorpio that the loan was one of the few VBS loans actually serviced.
“Loans” at VBS were just one way the bank managers found to funnel money out of the bank.
“Loans” for cars and houses were almost never repaid, but rather used as free cash in return for favours. The car for ANC-linked businessman Kabelo Matsepe (in several ways a front for funnelling money to Limpopo leader Danny Msiza) and a Johannesburg house for Brian Shivambu (a front for his brother Floyd and EFF leader Julius Malema), are such examples.
When Zuma defaulted on his Nkandla payments in August 2018, Rooplal sent several letters of demand which went unanswered.
Running out of options, Rooplal filed for court action.
According to Sunday World, a handful of politicians tried to raise funds to pay Zuma’s arrears.
The South African Reserve Bank placed VBS under curatorship in March 2018 and mandated advocate Terry Motau and attorney firm Werksmans days later to investigate the wholescale theft at the bank. In a report, “The Great Bank Heist”, Motau and Werksmans found that Venda people’s money was stolen by VBS management, to the point where the bank became insolvent.
ANC and EFF politicians, the bank management and several businesspeople looted the bank. They include Danny Msiza, now heading Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign for the next presidency in Limpopo, Malema and Shivambu, bank chief Tshifhiwa Matodzi and ANC-linked businessman Kabelo Matsepe.
Read in Daily Maverick: “Nkandla payback update: Zuma Foundation to ‘consult legal team’ on order to cough up R6.5m”
At the moment, only VBS CFO Philip Truter is behind bars. He was handed a 10-year jail sentence after pleading guilty. His co-accused all pleaded not guilty. They are: Matodzi, Matsepe, Msiza as well as chief executive Andile Ramavhunga, treasurer Phophi Mukhodobwane, KPMG auditor Sipho Malaba, non-executive director and police bigwig Lieutenant-General Avhsahoni Ramikosi and PIC officials Ernest Nesane and Paul Magula. DM