Zuma 'significantly weakened' - analyst

2016-02-03 16:00
President Jacob Zuma. (Mujahid Safodien, AFP)

President Jacob Zuma. (Mujahid Safodien, AFP)

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Johannesburg - Political analysts on Wednesday were divided over whether President Jacob Zuma's offer to pay for non-security upgrades at Nkandla showed he was losing his political clout.

Political analyst Ebrahim Fakir said it was clear that Zuma was "significantly weakened".

"He's not as emboldened as he used to be, so he can't go around doing things [as he pleases] any longer.

"That doesn't mean that this weakness is a capitulation, it's not. In fact we are being taken a bit for a ride here."

But Steven Friedman disagreed.

"Yes, he is weakened by the [finance minister] thing, but why does that necessarily mean he is going to issue that particular statement?," Friedman said.

Zuma announced in a statement late on Tuesday, that his lawyers had written to the Constitutional Court proposing a settlement in the Nkandla matter.

He asked the court to consider making an order that the auditor general and the finance minister determine how much he should pay back for non-security upgrades, such as the visitors' centre, the amphitheatre, the cattle kraal, chicken run and the swimming pool.

'He is playing a game'

Friedman said he believed that there was a straight forward explanation for Zuma's announcement.

"It seems to me to be a straight forward and simple explanation, which is that he is responding to the court case and his lawyers are worried he is going to lose the case and he is therefore offering a settlement in order to prevent that from happening."

But Fakir said, in his opinion, Zuma was obfuscating, complicating all the things he has been doing so far.

There were so many reports on the Nkandla saga, but now the president was now asking for another determination to be made.

"I think what he is doing is, he is playing a game of institutions and processes... The reason I would say he is weakened is because a weakened president would not want to do those things.

"He's doing this to regain or to reassert himself and ultimately and what it is to me is a mockery, a game,"  said Fakir.

This announcement by Zuma was not a victory for the public or the Economic Freedom Fighters.

The EFF approached the Constitutional Court to compel Zuma to implement Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's recommendations regarding the upgrades.

In her report, entitled Secure in Comfort, Madonsela recommended that Zuma pay back a reasonable portion of the R246m spent on upgrades to his Nkandla homestead not related to security - such as the swimming pool, cattle kraal and amphitheatre.

Making it look like a 'magnanimous gesture'

The matter is expected to be heard in the Constitutional Court on Tuesday, February 9.

Fakir said ultimately, Zuma was making a fool out of everyone.

His announcement that he would pay back the money did not mean that he was accepting responsibility or that he had done anything wrong.

The Presidency said: "The report specifically found no wrongdoing of any kind by the President. It also found no benefit for which the President could to any degree be required to compensate the state in relation to nearly all aspects of the project."

Fakir said the Presidency was trying to make this look like a "magnanimous gesture".

"What they have positioned this as is a magnanimous gesture,... that he's prepared to pay for something he's not supposed to pay for just so that we can settle everything.

"So he's saying we showing leadership, we are being magnanimous, we are solving a problem which people have made a problem, but is not. We will do something to say to everyone, see how great we are..."

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  nkandla upgrade

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