Zuma Can't Curb Excesses, Court Hears
The Durban High Court this week heard shocking evidence of how Deputy President Jacob Zuma's extravagant lifestyle turned him into a beggar and a burden on his financial advisor Schabir Shaik.
Zuma had a knack for the good life, expensive designer suits and luxury cars, and built a house worth over R1 million - but was short of the means to sustain such expensive tastes, the court heard.
In what must rank as the most embarrassing week of his life, with particular details of his bankruptcy and indebtedness laid bare in a public court, the state left no doubt as to the inability of the man who could be president to live within his means.
A broke Zuma ran into trouble, and once received a judgment for debts owed to one of the country's main commercial banks. His debts include: Standard Bank (to which he still owes R386 637 after it cancelled his credit card and took out a judgment against him for a house), Absa (R105 786 over-draft), FNB's car division, Wesbank (R71 777 outstanding balance with a note that conduct of the account was bad); Permanent Bank (Zuma missed 20 bond repayments but was saved by three deposits from unknown third parties) and Nedbank (R109 000 overdrafts by June 2001).
But this was not all, as Zuma owed other people, including AQ holdings, which threatened to sequestrate him, according to evidence in court.
The state's star witness, Johan van der Walt, a forensic auditor with international accounting firm KPMG, appeared thorough as he revealed details of his 259-page document on what the state has referred to as a "general corrupt relationship" between Zuma and Shaik.
Van der Walt told the court that from July 1996 to December 2003, Zuma had received R3,8 million from different sources, including his monthly salary, but that in the same period, he spent R4,2 million.
The state claims that Zuma financed his lavish life from a bribe he received from Thompson-cfs - now Thint - through Shaik, using his companies as a conduit. Zuma and Shaik have both denied this.
This week, Van der Walt sought to show that Zuma's accounts were so seriously over-drawn that any deposit would be swallowed up by the bank charges.
"Shaik and his Nkobi group paid another R1,2 million in expenses for him. I also discovered 140 unpaid debt orders and cheques sent back by Zuma's bankers, worth about R44 700," said Van der Walt.
Van der Walt was concluding seven days of evidence during the trial of Shaik, who is facing charges of corruption and fraud related to the R60 billion arms deal.
Shaik has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Van der Walt told the court that even Shaik's intervention to become Zuma's financial advisor did not improve the deputy president's financial position, instead, it deteriorated further.
"Zuma had financial difficulty from as early as January 1995, when he was issued a letter of demand from his banker with regards to repayments on a mortgage bond that was in arrears.
" Zuma's financial position deteriorated over time to such an extent that legal proceedings were instituted for the recovery of such debts," said Van der Walt.
He said that Zuma did not earn sufficient funds from his capacity as a senior government official to fund his lifestyle. "Consequently he (Zuma) had to rely on funds from external sources - such as borrowing money from financial institutions, Shaik, third parties and Nkobi group."
Van der Walt also revealed that payment made by Shaik and Nkobi on behalf of Zuma had impacted negatively on the Nkobi group and placed it and Shaik under financial pressure.
"It is evident from the analysis of the financial position of Zuma that his personal overdraft balance increased significantly during the calendar year of 1996," he said.
Early in the week, Van der Walt also revealed that Shaik allegedly squandered half of a R2 million education donation from Nelson Mandela to settle his and Zuma's debts.
With acknowledgements to Mandla Zulu and the City Press.