Zuma’s hood gets facelift

2010-03-27 11:23

THE bad gravel roads leading to President Jacob Zuma’s rural

homestead and his dusty village are already undergoing reconstruction and no

fewer than two other projects worth almost R40 million are on the cards there.

For residents this is a boom that can only mean improvements to their

lives.


Nkandla municipality is one of South Africa’s 57 most vulnerable

local authorities, according to assessments by the co-operative governance and

traditional affairs department.


But some residents complain that development appears to be

concentrated in the area closest to the president’s home.


“Some blame me and others the president,” IFP ward councillor

Mandla Nkwanyana said.


Ward 14 is where Zuma’s compound stands and Nkwanyana jokes that he

is the only ward councillor responsible for a sitting president. He beat the

president’s younger brother and ANC candidate Mike Zuma to the post in the 2006

local government elections.


Hard at work are the companies Namandla Roads and Civils and

Zwelonke Construction, tarring the gravel roads from the KwaZulu-Natal ­midlands

towns of Nkandla and Eshowe to Zuma’s village, KwaNxamalala, in projects worth

R32 million and R4.9 million respectively.


Both roads have stretches of freshly laid tarmac and workers,

construction vehicles and power tools are on site.

Another company, Phambili

Contractors, is completing the road leading to Zuma’s compound. City Press could

not establish the value of Phambili’s contract.


All three projects are being funded by the KwaZulu-Natal transport

department.


A Phambili construction worker on site said the road would end next

to Zuma’s house. “Construction has been going on for the past two years,” he

explained. Locals say the projects have been stop-start for a while, but Zuma’s

rise to power appears to have injected some urgency into the process.


The R32-million construction by Namandla Roads began in May 2008

and is due for completion in May this year.


Other projects include the construction of a bridge across the

Intsuze River which connects KwaNxamalala with another village, KwaMagwaza. The

current bridge is too narrow and only one vehicle can use it at a time.


Another local who has made it big, National African Federated

Chamber of Commerce (Nafcoc) president Lawrence Mavundla, has promised to build

a shopping mall in KwaNxamalala.


Mavundla’s mother is from nearby eMamba, a village neighbouring

Zuma’s, and the Nafcoc boss grew up in the area.


KwaNxamalala is one of the villages and townships which are set to

benefit from Nafcoc’s ambitious plan to build 54 shopping malls in disadvantaged

areas.


“We have already been given land for the shopping mall by the local

chief,” Mavundla says, adding that the “one-stop shop” he is planning for

KwaNxamalala will include banks, retail entities and an industrial area to house

another Nafcoc initiative, a R7-million condom factory on which construction

will start later this year.


In some of the road construction work, locals – mostly women –

complain about having to work only two days a week (a total of eight days a

month) for monthly pay of between R400 and R450.


One of the workers, a 53-year-old mother of six who spoke to City

Press on condition of anonymity, says the casual labourers are working on road

construction sites around KwaNxamalala and neighbouring KwaNtuli.


Supporters of the eight-day-a-month working arrangement defend the

practice as the only way to ensure that jobs are provided to as many people as

possible in an area where there are very few such opportunities.


Other developments in KwaNxamalala since Zuma’s rise to power

include the Mamba One-Stop Development Centre which houses social development

offices, and a Thusong centre offering services such as the Department of Home

Affairs and a fully fledged post office, among other things.


According to rural development director-general Thozi Gwanya, the

programme, previously run by the deputy president’s office will be transferred

to his department from April 1.


Asked why the department chose the Nkandla local municipality’s

Ward 14, Gwanya would only say it was because Nkandla is part of a “belt of

poverty” in KwaZulu-Natal.


Local ANC Youth League chairperson Doctor Bhengu was cautious about

the boom while warning that “unscrupulous individuals and companies” were using

the president’s home town for their own gain.

 

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