Johannesburg - Expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema may have hidden some of his assets after his household contents fetched a paltry R54 000, about a fifth of the value his Breitling watch.
His assets were sold at an auction in Polokwane as part of a process to recoup R16 million in tax debt following investigations into his business dealings which were apparently incongruent to his tax declarations.
The Sunday Independent reported last month that a report by audit firm PwC revealed that the former ANC Youth League leader spent R291 000 on clothes at an Italian boutique store and more than R31 000 on Louis Vuitton designer clothes.
He caused a stir five years ago when he flaunted the expensive timepiece while claiming that his only income was the monthly R20 000 basic salary from the youth league.
But on Friday, the Swiss chronometer and the designer clothes were nowhere to be seen at the auction. The auctioned items included some humble and cheap possessions, not reflecting the fading wealth of someone who used to live large and had an expensive taste.
A piano, fridges, a wall unit, TV sets and flower tables were among items that came under the hammer at the offices of the sheriff.
Sars spokesman Adrian Lackay said he was aware that some bidders had been less than impressed by the goods.
“According to the sheriff, some of the people were not happy with the state that the items were in,” said Lackay.
Asked if Sars would investigate the apparent hidden assets, Lackay said the revenue service would be guided by the sheriff.
“The sheriff will have written up an inventory of everything. So we are confident that all attempts to get around the administration of justice will be futile,” said Lackay.
“Some of those items look old and dilapidated. I doubt someone of Malema’s calibre would use such old furniture,” said Masejeng Nchabeleng, who attended the auction.
An onlooker, who requested not to be named because she comes from Malema’s hometown of Seshego, commented: “The only thing that looks decent there is the wall unit. As for the dining room suite, it’s as if he bought it from the pawn shop.”
Malema’s former friend-turned-foe, Boy Mamabolo, pulled no punches. He alleged that some of Malema’s fine items, such as “a set of huge black and expensive sofas”, were not there. Mamabolo said he had been to Malema’s Polokwane house many times while they were still friends.
“Some of the sofas at the auction, I know they previously belonged to his grandmother’s house. That man swopped them,” said Mamabolo.
A source close to Malema’s case, who could not be named for legal reasons, was disappointed at the R54 000 items sold on Friday.
“Do you want to tell me that Malema’s assets are worth R50 000? Where are all the watches and other expensive jewellery, the suits, the designer shoes?” said the source.
Sars apparently believes that Malema could have hidden some of his assets, and this is why the taxman wants Malema to be sequestrated.
Some of the items were bought by his two cousins and a bodyguard.
Malema’s cousins bought two Kelvinator bar fridges and a Pioneer CD player.
His former bodyguard and friend Jimmy Olifant outbid other hopefuls for a sound mixer, paying R8 800.
Malema’s cousins refused to be interviewed. But Olifant denied Malema had sent him to buy the sound mixer. “I bought it for myself. I am going to play it at my own place,” he said.
It was the piano that stole the limelight. The piano sold for R9 300 – the highest price of all the goods. The new owner is Norman Motau, a businessman from Tzaneen. Motau said he would donate the piano to his Roman Catholic church. He also bought Malema’s wall unit for R4 100.
Motau emphasised that he did not know Malema personally, but expressed sympathy for the ANC outcast. “I feel pity for him. I think I may even consider giving back some of the items if it comes to me,” said Motau.
The sheriff’s offices were abuzz, not only with bidders. Ordinary people also came to get a glimpse of what previously belonged to Malema.
Outside the venue, police parked three marked vehicles and a nyala, while they watched proceedings.
Asked to comment, Malema sent The Sunday Independent a text message: “Mxm, wa borega (you are bored).”
When confronted about the possibility that he may have hidden some of the assets, Malema – who apparently attended the Metro FM music awards in Durban yesterday, said: “Don’t get me involved. I don’t talk about such things”.
Lackay said Malema’s Sandton house and Mercedes-Benz Viano were the only two major assets that had also been attached, but would not say when they would be auctioned off. “The Polokwane house and the (Sckuilkraal) farm have not been attached,” he said. He would not “go into details” about the possibility they would be attached at a later stage.
The Pretoria High Court granted Sars a judgment to attach Malema’s assets last September to recoup the R16m that he owes the Receiver.
Meanwhile, Malema’s lawyers, Brian Kahn Attorneys, have cut their ties with him, and he has reappointed Tumi Mokwena to represent him.
A source who is familiar with the case told The Sunday Independent yesterday that it appeared Malema could not afford Brian Kahn Attorneys any more, as his “financiers have backed off”.
The Sunday Independent reported last month that some of his financiers could be questioned during Sars’s sequestration application next month.
On Saturday, Mokwena said he had filed notice to oppose Sars’s application to the Pretoria High Court to declare Malema insolvent.
“On the 18th of February we filed our notice to oppose. We are working on affidavits and we will file them within 15 days,” said Mokwena.
Malema is also facing criminal charges relating to alleged corrupt activities involving Limpopo government contracts. He and his co-accused - mainly Limpopo business people and politicians - are expected to re-appear in court in April while his sequestration hearing is scheduled for next month.
Malema - the once powerful and influential young man on the continent - was expelled from the ANC after his factional battles with President Jacob Zuma.
His dreams of returning to the ruling party were dashed when Zuma was re-elected as party president in Mangaung last year. – Additional reporting by Sibusiso Nkomo and Candice Bailey