Magazine article New African

A Home, a Party, and a President's Future

Magazine article New African

A Home, a Party, and a President's Future

Article excerpt

Pusch Commey looks at South Africa's ruling ANC party after its conference at Mangaung in December, and how the "small" matter of renovations to the private home of party and state president Jacob Zuma threatens to spoil it all for the president's and the party's image, and their chances in elections fixed for April 2014.

FRESH FROM HIS RESOUNDING victory at the battle of Mangaung in December 2012, where he was reelected the ANC president, State President Jacob Zuma has come out swinging against an image problem. He successfully annihilated his opposition at Mangaung, with 75% of the votes to win the presidency of the ruling ANC party.

With his former nemesis Julius Malema completely neutralised, and his challenger Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe well defeated, Zuma is, ironically, threatened by an albatross in the shape of his homestead at Nkandla, his hometown in rural Zululand.

In April next year, Zuma will lead the ANC into a presidential and parliamentary election. But from the look of things, the saga of Nkandla is not going to go away too soon as it feeds into a perception of corruption levelled against the president and the ANC. His political adversaries inside and outside the ANC are lying in wait.

Also at stake will be self-preservation, judging from the Nkandla implications when Zuma finally leaves office. The allegation is that, soon after Zuma became state president in 2009, massive amounts of public money (as much as R248m or US$2.7m) was secretly funnelled into upgrading his private homestead at Nkandla. Some of the money is alleged to have filtered into the refurbishment of the homes of Zuma's brothers when building materials were diverted.

Furthermore, large amounts of taxpayers' money in development projects are alleged to have been re-routed to the Nkandla area, including a R58om-tarred road and a police station close to the home.

Much of this money had come from the Ministry of Public Works, which has acquired the unenviable reputation of being a beehive of misappropriation. The ministry, which dispenses large amounts of public money on government projects, has come under public scrutiny for underhand dealings that enriched politicians and civil servants.

To his credit, Zuma has been courageous in dealing with both friend and foe angered in corruption cases. But ironically what has aggravated the Nkandla saga is that it has a long history linked to corruption.

During z000, the then Deputy President Zuma decided to build his homestead and settle his family. He acquired a six-hectare land in his hometown, Nkandla, a poverty ridden area in deep Zululand, under the Ngonyama trust.

This trust was a pact with the apartheid government of yore where so-called large tracts of Zululand were put under a trust to be managed by the Zulu King. Other coastal and resource-rich areas in Zululand were designated white. It was thus no accident that the black areas would be ravaged by poverty and underdevelopment.

Under the trust, Zulus from a particular area were entitled to land to build their homes. The allocation of land was administered by the King's induna or headman. Though it is an entitlement, the land is now freely traded in the rural areas, but still governed by the trust on a long-term lease basis. Zuma's family/retirement project was going to require deep pockets, and an erstwhile comrade and successful businessman, Shabir Shaik, is alleged to have chipped in significant amounts of cash. And so did a few other businessmen in Zuma's home province, Kwazulu-Natal.

The problem was the conflict of interest generated by Zuma's acceptance of the largesse of businessmen. They always come with overt or covert strings.

With Zuma's standing and political influence in the ANC, it was no surprise that all kinds of entrepreneurs would invest in him. After all, government procurement was the biggest business in the economy, and the then deputy president was head of government business. …

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