President Jacob Zuma has paid back the R7.8-million of taxpayers’ money used to improperly upgrade non-security parts of his private home at Nkandla, but this is not the end of the story.

Some remain sceptical about the transaction and say they want proof that it was above board. The EFF is particularly suspicious about the origin of the funds. According to the Presidency, Zuma obtained a standard home loan for the amount from VBS Mutual Bank, known originally as the Venda Building Society. The financial institution states on its website that it was established in 1982 and operates mainly in Limpopo, with its head office in Sandton. Its CEO is Andile Ramavhunga.

A quarter of the VBS Mutual Bank belongs to the state-owned Public Investment Corporation, which invests funds on behalf of public sector entities.

Pay back the money

In June the National Treasury, which had been directed by the Constitutional Court to determine how much Zuma has to repay, submitted its report to the court.

This followed a ConCourt decision clarifying the powers of the Public Protector, which had found found in 2014 that Zuma had improperly benefited from the use of taxpayers’ money to upgrade his private residence and should repay a seasonable proportion of the money.

Zuma had defied this recommendation for a long time, stating openly that he was not obliged to repay a cent because the Public Protector’s findings were not binding. The Constitutional Court found otherwise.

A month after the treasury’s submission the court indicated that it had approved the amount of R7 814 155. Zuma had 45 days, or until just before the end of September, within which to repay the money.

Not the end of the story

In a statement, the DA said it welcomed the announcement from the presidency but added that it is “not the final chapter in the saga.” The party said: “It is important that the President provides proof to the National Assembly, which he is accountable to, that he personally paid the R7.8-million, and that the VBS Mutual Bank is not a front. The President has a history of tapping into his circle of cronies for funds.”

Political analyst Shadrack Gutto agreed, saying that the president is duty-bound to be accountable to the public and must be completely transparent about the loan. The loan must be clean, he said, and not merely a ploy by Zuma’s benefactors to dodge taxes. “The president must be truthful.”

The EFF, meanwhile, also welcomed the Presidency’s statement but emphasised that it would investigate the circumstances of the loan. The party said in a statement it would “seek further clarity on the main source and principle that led to a mutual bank (VBS Mutual Bank), which is supposed to benefit ordinary people in Vhembe, granting a loan to Mr Zuma.”

The Congress of the People (Cope) noted the Presidency report with interest, but questioned its validity and asked for proof. “We will only believe this when we see the proof of payment. Mr Zuma has said on many occasions that he will not pay back the money. Even if Mr Zuma paid this amount of money it will never take away the fact that he has broken his oath of office and that he is no more an honourable president,” Cope said in a statement.