How history will remember Zuma

One day, history will remember Jacob Zuma as a synonym for the worst kind of venal greed. Yet, before it does, we are going to end up pitying him. This week, he received a devastating judgment from the Supreme Court of Appeal saddling him with a bill of R16-million (and punitive damages as well) for legal costs that he had no right saddling the taxpayer with.

He’s already had his dirty washing laundered: One of his angry wives took him to the cleaners, literally, by having his bank records subpoena-ed to back her claim for effectively 65% of his life pension every month, which allowed the judge to discover that there’s more traffic through his bank account than the N1 – all ‘donations’ and ‘gifts’ from friends and fans.

Then there’s Nkandla; the monument to his cultural vanity that cost an arm and a leg to the taxpayers, but was organised by the Department of Public works, which meant it was already collapsing before the media could check out the Fire Pool. He then had to take out a bond from VBS, which the B-team state capturers got stuck into and plundered like toddlers at a birthday party.

Zuma is now so in debt; it makes the money Schabir Shaik paid him all those years ago look like chump change. Shaik was sentenced to 15 years in jail. Zuma’s finally about to be tried for that. And then there’s all the state capture stuff that he’s been placed front and centre at, which should end up in criminal prosecutions. He could be in court for the foreseeable future.

The amount of money that he owes though is herculean, he’s a one-man testimony not just to excess but for having nothing to show for it – unlike his architects, or indeed his lawyers, especially attorney Michael Hulley, who won’t have to pay back a cent.

In the old days, Zuma would have instructed his lawyers to appeal the SCA ruling to the Constitutional Court, notwithstanding the small matter of his having to report back to it as to how much time it should sentence him to jail for being in contempt of the Zondo Commission. The problem is, lawsuits cost money – and he can’t flip the invoice to the State Attorney anymore.

The man who was once president has done everything in his power to avoid his day in the dock – despite publicly claiming the opposite. Now he’s run out of everything; money, friends, options and courts. The ones he gave the country to – and one of his sons too – took the money and ran. His other ‘friends’ drank him out of tea and cake, while the EFF helped bring the case that the SCA ruled on this week. His honour guard arranged by Carl Niehaus and Kebby Maphatsoe made serious inroads into his cattle herds with their daily braais.

Maybe prison won’t be such a bad option after all. He’ll get three square meals a day, a roof over his head and he won’t have to pay rent or water and lights. Legal Aid might even score him some conjugal privileges.

Originally published by the Saturday Star on 17 April 2021.