President Jacob Zuma has now paid back the money — the R7.8m he was told by treasury to repay in respect of the irregular expenditure at Nkandla. But far from clarifying matters, it has only raised new questions: specifically, how did he do that?
How was it that the VBS Mutual Bank granted a R7.8m loan to a 74-year-old with a patchy financial record, backed by the security of land the bank could never hope to repossess if things went south?
For VBS, this loan amounts to 1.1% of its total loans and advances of R694m, so it would be intriguing to see what risk analysis was conducted on the client’s ability, and indeed his willingness, to repay the loan.
Who, in fact, makes the decisions at the VBS Mutual Bank? And who owns it?
The answers are disturbing: the Public Investment Corp (PIC), which manages assets belonging to government pensioners, owns more than 25% of VBS. It has two representatives, Ernest Nesane and Paul Magula, on VBS’s board. VBS’s risk and compliance committee also includes Avhashoni Ramikosi, an employee of the SA Police Service, and it is chaired by Mbulaheni Manwadu, a veteran of the state-owned Development Bank of Southern Africa.
Given that these people are employees of state-owned companies over which the client, Zuma, exercises direct and indirect influence, could they truly have looked at the client’s application in the same way they’d appraise any other?
A far harder question is this: what sort of bank lends out almost twice its entire annual profit to a single client?
The 2016 annual report of VBS Mutual Bank shows it made a net profit of R4.9m. Yet it is now lending almost double that to one client.
Apparently, the loan was made on standard commercial terms, which suggests that repayments will amount to about R80 000/month. As president, Zuma gets paid about R2.9m/year. So, on the face of it, if there is really any genuine intention that he must repay that loan, the monthly repayment is right on the limit of what’s generally required by banks to grant a home loan: a third of the applicant’s monthly income. In other words, about 30% of Zuma’s monthly income will go to repay the loan, assuming no "blessers" step in.
Drill deeper into VBS’s finances, and more questions arise. VBS is funded partly by a loan of R350m from the PIC, which the bank’s annual report says was lent "for a period of five years".
It’s a situation just rippling with various conflicts of interest: the PIC’s board is chaired by the deputy finance minister (currently Mcebisi Jonas) who serves "at the president’s pleasure". And the president is now a major client of the bank.
The identity of the other key shareholders does not leave much room for optimism either.
A company called Dyambeu Investments owns 25.2% of VBS — and Dyambeu is led by the Venda king, Toni Mphephu Ramabulana. But Ramabulana has been lobbying Zuma to intervene in the stalemate over whether to include Vuwani in the Malamulele municipality in Limpopo, according to SABC news. Ramabulana has also lobbied the president to install him as king of the Venda nation. "The kings in SA have the straight line to the president," said a union representative at the time.
Now, Ramabulana will have slightly more leverage when he calls Zuma.
Another of Dyambeu’s directors is David Mabilu, the property developer who, reports suggest, has no problem forking out large sums of money for politicians.
Mabilu famously paid for Julius Malema to join him on a wedding junket to Mauritius in 2011, while City Press reported how he’d also contributed generously to Malema’s trust. Reports suggested that Mabilu had also made a large portion of his considerable wealth from government tenders, some of which the newspaper said he’d scored "using his political connections".
Sadly, given the history of deceit involving Nkandla, a simple announcement that the money had been repaid was never going to rest there. But given how great the concerns become with just a little deeper analysis, Zuma has a duty to the country to come clean on this loan.