South Africa

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It’s #paybackthemoney for Nkandla time: Court rules VBS can seize Jacob Zuma’s assets

It’s #paybackthemoney for Nkandla time: Court rules VBS can seize Jacob Zuma’s assets
Former President Jacob Zuma appears in court on the 23 June 2020 where he is facing changes of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering at Pietermaritzburg High Court, South Africa. (Photo: Sandile Ndlovu / Pool)

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.

Former public protector Thuli Madonsela. (Photo: Gallo Images / Esa Alexander)

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. 

Final nail

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. 

VBS Mutual bank customers in long queues outside the bank , demanding their money in Thohoyandou, Limpopo. (Photo: Antopnio Muchave © Sowetan)

“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

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    What good news. Now lock the criminal up for the rest of his life.

  • Graeme J says:

    We can stop holding our breath when Zuma actually pays back the money. You do realise that he is not going to do it? He is going to get Mpofu to represent him again and they will appeal and appeal and appeal. It’s the same reasons he will never go to prison for the Arms Deal when he stole the nation blind.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      I am waiting with bated breath … for the day the JSC or some such body finds Mpofu guilty of living off the proceeds of crime (and bringing the practice into disrepute) … and suspends his license to practice at least !

    • Anne M. says:

      Mpofu will definitely represent him in this matter. He has to ensure that he gets paid for the Arms Deal trial. And it will entail all the appeals you mentioned.

  • Colleen Dardagan says:

    At last – accountability

  • Hennie du Preez says:

    So what has happened to Matodzi, Matsepe, Msiza et al, are their court cases still pending or has the state given up on them?

  • Ivan Van Heerden says:

    The chickens have come too roost

  • Patrick O'Shea says:

    You made my day Ms. van Wyk and all at DM. I am doubling my subscription amount and I urge all other readers to do as much as they can to support this exceptional publication.

  • Chris 123 says:

    Why not ask his son, he was paid millions as his father’s proxy by the Guptas. Always find it funny how these guys give away billions, but end up themselves with chicken feed.

  • Johan Buys says:

    Hehehehe!

    Quote: former prisoner Jacob Zuma

  • Malcolm McManus says:

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out. No doubt there will be much Pule Mabe style singing of struggle songs and dancing in the streets and at the gates of Zuma’s kraal, in the quiet kingdom of Nkandla. I wouldn’t want to be part of the relevant asset forfeiture unit. A potentially life threatening experience no doubt.

  • Alley Cat says:

    And the pictures tell it all. Just surprised that Zuma’s picture does not show both hands with the middle finger. So far, no justice for all those poor people who lost the bulk of their money at VBS. NO SHAME AS USUAL! DISGUSTING!!!!

  • J dW says:

    The chances that the sheriff just walks into Zuma’s homestead, writes up the value of his livestock, personal effects and TV are slim. The chances that these items are attached and sold, are next to nothing. Zuma will just ignore this process until maybe, possibly, someday he is found in contempt of court. And we all know what happens next.

  • Lesley Young says:

    What genuine bank gives a twenty year mortgage to a man of his age? Did they plan on him never paying them back? Was that the reason for ‘very favourable terms’? Did his Drs give evidence that he was immortal and would never be terminally ill? Would these Drs the same ones who declared him terminally I’ll to get him released from jail? Oh no, that was Fraser.

  • Lesley Young says:

    What are the odds that none of his assets are actually in his name?

  • Sue van der Walt says:

    Why does it take so long to bring the crooks to account and do “we” get the money and or assets that they stole back?
    There should be a limit on the number of “delays” to prosecute these thieves.
    The thought of Zuma et al, grinning with glee at how they are “managing” the legal system while the poor people who they represent suffer with poor schooling, lack of sanitation, a health system that is collapsing……………

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    The problem are those who think taxpayers is open season when you win elections. Stan Mathabatha, the current chairperson of Limpopo was at the forefront of trying to get the ANC to get money to save VBS without consequences for those who have been responsible for its looting. When the matter was seen for what it was, the ANC backed down from supporting his drivel. The reason for this was the Reserve Bank hardline despite pressure for allowing “black bank” to get under. In violation of the PFMA and MFMA, municipalities put money into this bank illegally. Some of these people are now in what is regarded as VBS PEC of the Limpopo ANC led by Mathanatha. The former TG of ANC was fingered in getting municipalities in Northwest to put money into the bank. Its executives were breaking every law thinking that depositors money was their money and some of them are behind bars. The concern are those who put the money in the VBS are still walking the streets and are in the Limpopo VBS Executive including one FLorence Radzilani and the NPA owes the country an explanation why these people are not behind bars or facing the full might of the law. Zuma may be an easy game as he got a loan on the property that cannot be attached because it belongs to Ingonyama Trust. Even then nobody is held accountable for the approval of the loan. If you are a Ramaphosa supporter the NPA will not pursue you and that is what the VBS saga shows as well as the asbestos saga as Paul Mashatile is still free.

  • Neilo Zim says:

    He will never pay this or any other monies owed back. He will keep appealling until he takes his last ill gotten breath. That being said, the people appealing his release from prison should definitely use his loan as some sort of defence…. He got a bank loan of 20 years but can’t serve 15 months….. But why

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