PERHAPS the most vexing aspect of President Jacob Zuma’s bond saga is why the former master of ANC intelligence thought by saying he was paying off a bond on Nkandla when in fact he was not doing so, would remain secret forever.
Late last week, responding to allegations that he used more than R200m of taxpayers’ money to expand and refurbish his home, an angry Zuma said his accusers were seeking to tarnish his name and undermine his family.
He told parliament: “I took the decision to extend my home. And I engaged the bank and I am still paying the bond on my first phase of my home.”
Earlier this week, the office of the president confirmed that Zuma had a “mortgage bond”.
This was however denied by Belinda Benson, the property manager of Ingonyama Trust, the body that administers Zulu tribal land.
Benson told City Press that as far as she was concerned, no bond had been registered against the property. The deed document obtained from the deeds office showed the Ingonyama Trust as the owner of Zuma’s property.
In May 2005, Judge Hillary Squires found that businessman Schabir Shaik was involved in making corrupt payments to Zuma. But concealed towards the close of the lengthy text were a couple of expressions that only grew in prominence recently.
According to the Mail & Guardian the high court finding, which has never been overturned, does not name First National Bank (FNB), but the indictment it is based on does.
So, Zuma was granted a "bank loan obtained from First National Bank", the National Prosecuting Authority said, later referring to it as "a home loan bond" and "the FNB bond".
But Jan Kleynhans, CEO at FNB Homeloans, this week rejected this, saying FNB did not grant home loans to individual applicants for housing developments that are carried out on tribal land, as the properties are not held under separate title.
He said FNB could not register a bond over the individual homes, adding that legally people who currently live on land owned by a tribal authority have no claim to ownership of the land.
Zuma's residence in Nkandla stands on land owned by the Ingonyama Trust.
When he was in Lusaka, Zambia, Zuma was head of underground structures and chief of the ANC’s intelligence department. Intelligence people know exactly how the media works.
He should have known that journalists with their highly-developed news sense would pounce on his comment about the bond, whether it was the truth or a lie.
Let us state for the record a fairly basic fact which intelligence people know: as a public figure, if you state an untruth, you help journalists keep the issue in the public glare.
And if you do not comment on anything, you keep the rumour mill grinding.
Zuma’s advisers should have told him not to mention anything about the bond or something of the sort if he was not sure of it.
He could have obtained a loan from the bank but not a bond. It is important to make this distinction.
Telling an untruth leaves a virtually permanent and an indelible mark in the record of a politician. Like a ghost, the fact will always be waiting in the shadows to come back and haunt the politician.
This is exactly the case with Zuma, and the list of his critics is growing by the day.
Zuma's critics say the renovation of his home shows he is out of step with the difficulties facing many poor South Africans. This comment has been doing the rounds for a while. But Zuma has hardly responded in detail on this matter.
Zuma’s critics ask: “How can a leader ask the country to make sacrifices, and tighten belts in hard times, when he leads such publicly funded extravagance?"
Zuma, as an experienced intelligence operative, should have known better that “the truth has a way of coming out” no matter how you try to conceal it.
* Fin24 columnist Mzwandile Jacks is a freelance journalist. Views expressed are his own.
Follow Fin24 on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest.