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

Multimedia US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid