Zuma Watch

From “secure in comfort” to retired in discomfort

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Nearly 18 months after a Public Protector (PP) report described him as “secure in comfort” at his private residence at Nkandla, President Jacob Zuma is clearly on his way to, possibly early, retirement in discomfort.

Since the Constitutional Court (CC) has ruled at the end of March that he must repay the state for the “non-security” upgrades at the Nkandla residence, Mr Zuma’s position in the African National Congress, its ruling alliance, and as president of the country and has become extremely insecure. And so has his financial future.

Ironically, although there is little doubt that Mr Zuma used his position as president to turn the compound where he and his family reside into a very luxurious residence – the second most valuable in the country – it does not even belong to him. As a mere tenant under the Communal Land Rights Act, the land and the improvements on it belong to the Ingonyama Trust.

The land, as developed, is not his property, will never be part of his personal estate and cannot even be used as security for a loan to cover the R7.8 million he was ordered pay back to the state.

Also readNkandla not Zuma’s property, should he pay?

When he was still disputing the PP’s finding that he should pay a reasonable portion of the non-security upgrades at the compound to what she deemed benefited him and his family, there were plenty supporters declaring willingness to pay on his behalf. These ‘friends of Jacob Zuma’ have now disappeared like mist in the morning sun.

Since the CC has ruled that Mr Zuma “personally” had to repay the amount, it can no longer be paid by a third party, which is also the interpretation of the ANC communicated by its Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe.

This also implies that any assistance to Mr Zuma in this regard will have to come to him personally as donations, which he will then have to declare for tax purposes. Some calculations have it that the actual amount needed, should it all come in the form of donations, will be in the order of R11 million.

As it is, the R7.8 million is equal to three times Mr Zuma’s present annual salary of R2.8 million. In a best case scenario of him coming to an arrangement for repayment to either the state or a lender, he would find it difficult to do it off the back of his salary.

And, at best, he will only have that salary until 2019 – if not recalled by the ANC before then. Under dictate by the Constitution, he will be replaced as president after the next general election, scheduled for 2019.

If Mr Zuma does come to some arrangement about terms, with either the state or a lender, there is also the possibility that his family, who have already declared that they are not in a position to repay the R7.8 million in one shot, might help him with installments.

Possible ANC recall

As things stand, his present term as leader, and president, of the ANC, ends in 2017 at the ANC’s next national elective conference.

There are mounting signs that, while the ANC with an eye on the 3 August municipal election, is doing its utmost to show a united front, a succession battle to replace Mr Zuma in 2017 – or even earlier, if things go badly for the party in the elections – will start in the near future.

Even the staunch Zuma supporter and chairman of the ANC in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal, Sihle Zikalala, last week alluded to the fact that Mr Zuma will be replaced as ANC leader. He said in a media interview the party will have a difficult time “choosing a successor to President Jacob Zuma”.

If history and ANC tradition are anything to go by, as also happened when Zuma himself became ANC leader, the serving president of the country (Zuma in this case) will have to step down.

One of Mr. Zuma’s supporters in his rise to leadership of the ANC and its alliance, SACP leader and Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, has lately been openly criticising Zuma and those accused of corporate capture of the state, in what can be seen as a sign of the succession race intensifying and key players more openly adopting their positions.

Wild card

And there is still a wild card from the days when Mr Zuma and the ANC followed a strategy of shifting the blame for what happened with the Nkandla upgrade project onto officials and other.

From those days there is still the pending civil claim against Mr Zuma’s personal architect, Minenhle Makhanya, to the tune of R155 million. Makhanya is opposing the claim and already got access to state documents he said he needs for his case.

If he can prove that he acted as project leader on direct instructions or requests from Mr Zuma, the latter’s financial headache just might increase substantially in the fall-out.

And then there is still the outstanding decision from the National Prosecuting Authority on whether he will face corruption charges, and now, the PP's investigation into allegations of "state capture" by his friends, the Gupta family.

Last week Mr Zuma repeated his controversial claim that the ANC will rule until “Jesus Christ returns”.

In his own life the only certainty that he can count on is that he is heading for an uncomfortable and probably earlier retirement than what he was planning for.

by Piet Coetzer

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