With Jacob Zuma’s largest asset, Nkandla, effectively belonging to the Ingonyama Trust under King Goodwill Zwelithini, just how the ex-president will be able to repay a massive pending debt following a high court judgment remains a mystery.
The taxpayer will likely not recover much of the millions already spent on his legal fees and, if he is pursued for the debt, he could be declared insolvent.
“It’s government land [Nkandla] so the way I see it going forward is that he will not be able to fund it,” said advocate James Grant.
“If the property is owned by the king, then the Zulu nation might be entitled to evict him and sell it on. He’s got nothing. Even his property is arguably not his. Theoretically, your home becomes part of the land, which he doesn’t own.”
The king was supposed to begin handing out title deeds in 2016. However, it is not known if Zuma ever received one for Nkandla.
It’s unlikely Zuma would be able to appeal the high court ruling he should pay more than R16 million of his legal costs, as he no longer had the resources to cover him, political analyst Somandoda Fikeni said yesterday.
“You often appeal when you have resources and know they will cover you. If the risk of appealing is to increase your bill, you are less likely to pursue it,” he told The Citizen.
He said the ruling narrowed Zuma’s hope of avoiding a trial.
“It also sends a signal to other leaders never to rely on public resources to resist facing their day in court. After all, judiciary does get fatigued by this strategy.”
DA leader Mmusi Maimane did a victory dance in court, and said the country had reason to celebrate the judgment.
“It shows the deal between Zuma and [President Cyril] Ramaphosa is irrational and illegal. It stops the cycle of corruption and people who want to steal money must think twice. I hope Zuma pays back, as he owes the people of South Africa a lot of money.”
Judge Aubrey Ledwaba said the decision by the presidency to cover Zuma’s legal costs incurred in the former president’s personal capacity was invalid.
Ramaphosa confirmed in March that Zuma’s personal legal costs of R15.3 million would be covered by the presidency. The amount has since increased to about R16.7 million.
Ledwaba ordered the state attorney, a defendant in the matter, to compile the legal costs, including all the applications which were paid for by the state.
“The state attorney is directed within three months of the date of this order to file a report, under oath and supported by the full and complete accounting, detailing the steps that will be taken to recover the amounts paid by the state for Zuma’s legal costs.”
Zuma was also ordered to pay for both the DA and EFF’s legal costs, including their counsels.
– Additional reporting by Amanda Watson