The president’s brother and son have reportedly said the cheerful Jacob Zuma they’ve always known is being weighed down by the stress of possible bankruptcy and prison.
The Sunday Times reported on Sunday that the Zuma family is claiming they are too poor to pay the R7.8 million that Treasury determined Zuma must repay on nonsecurity upgrades at his Nkandla home.
These items include a swimming pool, amphitheatre, cattle kraal and chicken run. Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that at least R216 million was spent by the state at Nkandla and almost every item was hugely inflated. A government team comprising several experts eventually settled on the R7.8 million the president was personally liable for, which opposition parties have complained is less than 4% of the amount spent by taxpayers and too little.
However, the Zuma family told the paper that they don’t know where even this money will come from. According to the Sunday Times’ “emotional” interview with the president’s brother Michael, the amount is out of reach for the family. Michael reportedly met the paper in Durban, and they wrote that he was driving “an old Volvo sedan”. Zuma’s eldest son Edward also told the Sunday Times that they were a family of “hustlers and hard workers”, but weren’t rich enough to find R7.8 million, which adds up to about three full years of Zuma’s presidential salary (R2.8 million a year).
The death of businessman, BEE champion and staunch Zuma supporter Don Mkhwanazi over the weekend would also have come as an unwelcome shock to Zuma. Mkhwanazi had earlier undertaken that he, through his Friends of Jacob Zuma Trust, would be willing to stump up the money for Zuma to repay his Nkandla debts. It’s unclear what direction the trust will now take on this, or if it will even remain a going concern in the absence of Mkhwanazi.
Other wealthy businessmen who have in the past been very open about their willingness to help the president have said they do not intend to contribute to an Nkandla fund. ANC insiders reportedly told the Sunday Times that the appetite to help Zuma was now on the wane because he had no prospect of a third term as president and was “on his way out”. His ability to dispense future patronage was therefore in doubt.
The ANC for its part, through secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, has said that it will not be raising funds to pay for Nkandla, as this was supposedly forbidden by the Constitutional Court. Mantashe said that “a structure of the ANC cannot do that because if it’s traced … it will be in contempt of court”. The ANC is interpreting Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s directive that Zuma must repay the money “personally” as literally as possible. A lawyer has, however, pointed out that Zuma is entitled to receive donations to repay the amount, but would then be liable for donations tax. At 20%, Zuma would need to be given about R11 million in donations to find himself in the clear.
However, the Mail & Guardian calculated last week that Zuma could make an 85% profit from the sale of Nkandla even after repaying the R7.8 million. He has until the end of August to find the money.
Zuma’s wealthy nephew Khulubuse Zuma has financial problems of his own after being found personally liable with other directors for R1.5 billion lost at the Aurora gold mine. Zuma’s son Duduzane has shares in companies worth billions through his links with the Zuma-allied Gupta family, but the family has been under fire for several months due to alleged state capture, and no South African banks are willing to service the family’s companies.
According to the Sunday Times, Zuma’s wives are apparently also very concerned that their husband may be heading back to jail after 783 charges are due to be automatically reinstated against him following a judgment by the high court that the excuse of the “spy tapes” to drop the charges before he became president was not prosecutorially valid. Zuma is expected to try to drag out this matter by petitioning the Supreme Court of Appeal, but his chances of success are limited.