News / Africa

Presidential Scandal Overshadows Major South African Election

FILE - This photoshows the private compound homestead of South African President Jacob Zuma in Nkandla, South Africa.
FILE - This photoshows the private compound homestead of South African President Jacob Zuma in Nkandla, South Africa.
Anita Powell
South African President Jacob Zuma did not expect the refrain of his re-election campaign to become "If you're number one, you get to drive the gravy train." But those are the words of a popular parody song that tears down the president as he tries to get himself re-elected in May. Zuma is immersed in a scandal over large-scale improvements he made to his private home with public funds.

As South Africa faces a critical election next month, there is one unlikely word on many South Africans’ lips: Nkandla. That’s the name of Zuma’s private home in rural KwaZulu-Natal province.  

The president is running for his second term as head of the ruling African National Congress, the party that has held power since the first post-apartheid elections in 1994.

Corruption charges

Last month, South Africa’s anti-corruption czar said the president committed an ethical lapse, however, when he used about $23 million in government money for what the president described as security upgrades to his Nkandla homestead.

The report said the upgrades -- which include a swimming pool, a cattle enclosure, a chicken run a visitors’ center and an amphitheater -- went beyond what was reasonably required for a president’s security. The anti-corruption office has demanded that Zuma repay some of the costs.

Opposition politician Mamphela Ramphele said the Nkandla affair has exposed a serious flaw in the ruling party. “The ANC is in the death grip of corrupt, greedy and arrogant people who don’t actually see that they are destroying this beautiful country and its resources.”

Nkandla is not the president’s first brush with scandal. He has already weathered a previous corruption case in which the charges were dropped.  He was also acquitted of rape in another case.

Social satire

But somehow, the house affair has become a national joke, with endless pop-culture references and parodies. Perhaps no one has exploited it to greater comic effect than political analyst Chester Missing.

Missing is actually a latex puppet -- operated by a man named Conrad Koch -- and one of the stars of the nation’s top parody news show, Late Night News. VOA News asked Koch to explain Nkandla to us.  

“Nkandla. It’s like the White House, but more Zulu. And for one guy, and no one else gets to stay there," said Koch. "No, our president spent a lot of money on his own house that came from taxpayer money. Allegedly he didn’t spend the money, other people did. And they say it’s for security. But it’s very hard to explain how a chicken run, a place where you keep chickens, is a security feature. Because I don’t think the chickens know kung-fu.”

It sometimes seems the only person NOT talking about Nkandla is Zuma himself. He has said he wants to wait until the outcome of another investigation into the affair, and there have been several.  

ANC focus

A prominent ANC member, Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba, said the party around Zuma is not so focused on the scandal.

“To generalize as if all of us are preoccupied with the Nkandla debate and other things, is really unfortunate," said Gigaba. "The fact of the matter is that the DA is preoccupied with Nkandla; the rest of us, or some of us are talking about our policies and our plans and what we seek to do over the next five to 20 years.”

But those policies are being drowned out by pop culture.

A man who calls himself only “Nkandla Style” has done a spoof song based on the affair. It’s based on a Korean-pop hit, and this version has hit the big-time by South African standards -- more than 200,000 people have listened to it since it was released at the beginning of the month.

The lyrics neatly sum up how many South Africans view this scandal.: “Yes, I’m swimming in your money but I don’t know / I don’t know / Skinny dipping with all my honeys / Cool in the pool / My fire pool / We’re gonna party party Marco Polo Yo Yo Yo Yo Yo / … Nkandla style.”

South Africa will find out who’s laughing after May 7, when the nation votes.

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: siphiwe from: kwa zulunatal
April 20, 2014 2:20 AM
Our president must enjoy his life peasefuly

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid