Former president pleads poverty, says judge got his bank statements wrong and he can’t afford R95,000 a month

23 March 2021 - 11:53 By Tania Broughton
Bank statements for a former president show he allegedly earns more than just his pension. He is arguing that he can't afford to pay his estranged wife more than R20,000 maintenance per month.
Bank statements for a former president show he allegedly earns more than just his pension. He is arguing that he can't afford to pay his estranged wife more than R20,000 maintenance per month.
Image: 123RF/LEON SWART

Lawyers acting for a former president — who has been ordered to pay his estranged wife R95,000 a month as interim maintenance ahead of their divorce — were back in court on Tuesday, saying the judge had got it wrong and he simply cannot afford to pay her that much.

He wants it reduced to R20,000 a month, which is what he proposed initially.

In his affidavit which came before the court on Tuesday, he said Pietermaritzburg high court acting judge Barry Skinner, who presided over the Rule 43 (interim maintenance) application in early March, had misinterpreted his bank statements — subpoenaed by his estranged wife — which showed large deposits and withdrawals, often in cash.

Payments into his account were “contributions and donations from sympathetic members of the public or donor organisations who support me politically” and should not have been deemed “income”, he said.

He said the absence of any monthly payment of R66,000 towards a bond at VBS Bank on the statements was because he had stopped paying it through a monthly debit order and had been paying it through direct deposits and transfers.

VBS was suing him for more than R7m and he stood to lose his home if he did not pay.

The former president said he owed R13m in legal costs and expenses “and this amount grows almost daily and is poised to grow even more rapidly”.

“In as much as the learned judge drew a number of negative inferences from several cash withdrawals and deposits from my account, they are proof about making direct cash deposits to pay large debts such as VBS,” he said.

He said he gave money monthly to other relatives for living expenses and these were done in cash “because I am not a person who uses the latest banking technology or internet facilities. I still do most of my personal banking through the old system of cash and deposits.”

I am not a person who uses the latest banking technology or internet facilities. I still do most of my personal banking through the old system of cash and deposits.
A former president 

“As a politician and leader in the community, I allow donors and contributors to make direct deposits into my personal accounts as I have nothing to hide.”

Rule 43 rulings are not appealable. They can only be challenged, and varied, if there has been a “material change in financial circumstances”.

The former president said he simply cannot afford to pay maintenance of R95,000 and R50,000 towards his estranged wife’s legal costs.

He said he is presently at a “very high risk” of being in contempt of the order granted by Skinner earlier this month and a consequence is that he could be sent to jail.

He said VBS Bank was attempting to foreclose on his home and the Rule 43 order, as it stands, “will put me in a position where I can no longer even attempt to honour the payments and my entire family will be left destitute thereafter”.

His estranged wife is opposing the application. She has pointed to the fact that Rule 43 orders are not appealable. She said he was not frank about the money he owed in legal fees and this had “merely been submitted by his counsel and was not placed under oath”.

“There are no entries reflecting payment of legal fees in his bank statements going back almost three years,” she said.

It was also not up to him to argue, five days after Skinner’s order, that there had been a material change in his financial circumstances.

When the matter came before judge Jerome Mnguni, he said it was not urgent and questioned whether this was not an attempt to appeal Rule 43.

The matter has been adjourned until June.

The parties cannot be named because of a blanket ruling by the Constitutional Court barring the disclosure of parties in divorce proceedings.


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