KHULUBUSE Zuma, the nephew of President Jacob Zuma, says he’s far from down and out. With the sheriff knocking on the door, he claims he’s worth R100 billion.
This week the sheriff of the court sold three of Zuma’s 15 luxury cars to recover part of an almost R700 million bundle of debt Zuma and his associates are said to owe in respect of their Aurora mining debacle.
Zuma told The Sunday Independent that he was sorry thousands of workers employed on his failed mines in Gauteng had gone hungry. And he said he was worried that his failed business dealings would reflect badly on his uncle. But he is adamant he’s not broke.
It emerged this week that one of Zuma’s houses is owned by Durban businessman Roy Moodley, a staunch supporter of the president.
Zuma, speaking through spokesman Vuyo Mkhize, is “very determined not to undermine the familial responsibility towards the president”.
Mkhize added: “He is sorry. He has apologised (at the Aurora liquidation inquiry) for his lifestyle and he is prepared to downscale his lifestyle and to free up whatever cash to immediately start servicing his debt. This includes the possibility of disposing of some of his cars.”
Known for dance moves and a penchant for hosting lavish parties, Zuma owns a sizable taxi fleet and at least 15 cars, including SUVs and exotic sports cars.
Among them is a R2.5m gull-wing Mercedes-Benz SLS 63 AMG. In December, he bought a Maserati, which can cost up to R1.6m, for his fiancée, Fikisiwe Dlamini.
It is believed that some of the luxury cars are being stored at a house in Durban North’s Kentucky Drive, which is registered to Moodley’s family trust.
This week three of Zuma’s luxury BMWs and various household appliances were auctioned off for R160 000 – an amount described by observers as a drop in the ocean of his massive debt.
Aurora is alleged to have diverted tens of millions of rand from gold sales into the private accounts of its directors and associates, while workers went unpaid and the mines’ assets were stripped.
The allegations form part of a liquidation inquiry into the business dealings of Zuma, Zondwa Mandela, the grandson of Nelson Mandela and fellow directors Thulani Ngubane and Faizel and Suleman Bhana, among others.
Zuma and Mandela owe more than R500m to creditors after the collapse of Aurora’s mines in Grootvlei and Orkney in Gauteng.
Trade union Solidarity says it will serve directors with court papers to recover millions owed to 5 300 miners.
Johan Engelbrecht, one of the liquidators of Aurora Empowerment Systems, said last week that he was claiming R690m from the company.
“This is the amount that we would have had as the sales price for the assets. At this stage we have no assets; they were stolen by Aurora and we are looking to recover that money from the directors and management of Aurora,” Engelbrecht said on Carte Blanche.
In the TV programme, Zuma appeared to shift the blame for his company’s woes to his business partners, particularly the Bhanas. Referring to them, Zuma said: “They were taking decisions on their own and ran with the company.”
In 2010, both Zuma and Mandela signed surety, declaring themselves liable for the company’s debts. The auctioning of Zuma’s belongings stems from a court application by Protea Coin Security, which used to guard the Aurora mines. An execution order in the Pretoria High Court ordered the mine bosses to pay R10m owed to Protea Coin.
But despite creditors breathing down his neck, Zuma said it was only a matter of time before he bounced back.
Yesterday, he said: “There is an inquiry under way. I do not want to be seen to be influencing its outcomes. I will speak once it has completed its work.”
He referred all communication to Mkhize, who said: “Khula is a survivor… He is far from broke and can settle whatever bill the liquidation inquiry will slap him with for his failings as a director.”
Mkhize said Zuma would square up within a year.
“This is not about a dream of winning the lotto. It’s a sure thing that will happen. He’s still sitting on assets that will reach production level in the foreseeable future… The proven oil fields are an asset. Any of the oil majors can sign you a cheque today. Whatever challenges he faces doesn’t mean he’s stupid. Him studying engineering at the University of Natal (he later dropped out and ventured into the taxi industry) speaks to someone of an above-average intellect.”
Asked about the worth of Zuma’s oil assets, Mkhize said: “I’d say in the region of R100bn.”
Gideon du Plessis, Solidarity’s deputy general secretary, described the situation as a “human tragedy”. He said he was tired of fielding calls from Aurora directors wanting to meet instead of taking urgent action. He had had numerous conversations with Zuma.
“This week, he called me (wanting) to meet to explore avenues to pay, but it has yet to happen. I don’t understand why it has been delayed for so long. Two things need to happen here: go out and pay your debt.
“Second… he said he was shocked when he saw Carte Blanche. (He) needs to come out in public and say: ‘I can’t be associated with corruption.’ Why is it always talks about talks? Why can’t they do the right thing?… They reneged on all promises made. They just need to pay and apologise.”
Du Plessis said all 5 300 Aurora employees were owed for unpaid wages. He said the plan was for Aurora liquidators and Solidarity to serve all the directors with an application holding them personally liable for debts from the mines.
National Union of Mineworkers spokesman Lesiba Seshoka scoffed at Mkhize’s claims that Zuma had paid over R5m to the workers and that it was “misappropriated”.
Seshoka dismissed the claims of Zuma’s worth. “If he’s worth R100bn, then why can’t he just pay a couple of million to the poor people? It tells us that he’s greedy. What has happened here is a huge disappointment to all of us. It reflects on the new black elite and how they largely disregard the plight of the poor.”