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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid