Zuma ends his bad year on a good note

2014-12-28 15:00

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President Jacob Zuma has ended a year of faltering health and growing money scandals on a positive note, with even DA leader Helen Zille admitting that his “amazing” popularity was on the increase.

President Zuma’s bad publicity this year revolved around the R246?million upgrades to his Nkandla home, details of which were laid bare by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

The stir in Parliament about the issue also meant he was shouted down by ­members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and departed hastily after he refused to answer directly when he was going to pay back the money.

Despite this, President Zuma had reason to celebrate in the past week:

»?A DA poll showed his popularity had increased marginally towards the end of the year, despite an initial drop.

»?AbaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo travelled to Nkandla on Christmas Eve to apologise after calling Zuma a “liar” and a “Zulu boy” earlier in the year.

»?The Jacob Zuma Foundation announced the president had been awarded an honorary professorship by Tsinghua University in China for his international work, especially in the African Union, Brics and the UN.

»?Zuma was greeted with ululations and laughter by mostly senior citizens in Durban on Tuesday when he used a metaphor the crowds understood to hint he would marry a seventh time. The presidency denied this was what he meant.

Zuma’s popularity was described by Zille in response to a Twitter question by journalist Stuart Theobald on December 16 as “amazing, but true”.

Theobald asked if Zuma had any constituency left. Zille responded: “Amazingly, in our most recent polls, his popularity on the ground has increased.”

DA chief executive officer Jonathan Moakes said the party could not give details of its polls, but the increase Zille referred to was by one or two points after it had been relatively stable over the past few months.

Moakes said Zuma’s positive ratings had decreased by 10 points in the past year, something he attributed to the Nkandla scandal.

“What is critical to note is that he remains a significant negative for the ANC. Zuma’s positive favourability ratings are 20 points lower than the ANC’s. Ideally, you want a party leader’s positive favourability rating to be equal or more than that of the party’s. In stark contrast to Jacob Zuma, Helen Zille’s favourability rating is two points higher than that of the DA’s,” said Moakes.

He said the EFF had ended its year lower than it started, with a one-point decrease in favourability, while the DA and ANC remained stable.

Zuma’s decline in popularity in the past year is in line with a trend picked up by polling agency Ipsos SA since 2009.

His ratings had started ona high. In 2009, when he assumed the country’s ­presidency for the first time, 77% of respondents told Ipsos he was performing well or very well.

In 2010, that figure was 62%. In 2011, it was 61%. In 2012, it was 54% and by the end of last year, it was 46%. Ipsos has not yet released any updates for the end of this year.

Zuma’s health also took a knock. For the first time since taking office, the 72-year-old took 10 days after his inauguration at the end of May to nurse his health.

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