Opulence and poverty live side-by-side at Nkandla

2014-03-20 00:00

MID-MORNING on a late summer day in the Thukela Valley. The inevitable blue sky leaches to whiteness on the horizon. Smoke from a grass fire smudges over the green velvet hills. A pied crow tumbles in the hot updrafts above the grey tarmac of the P15.

The P15 from Kranskop to Eshowe was upgraded at a cost of R582 million as a direct result of the siting of President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home next to the highway, where it stands like an upmarket resort in striking contrast to the rural homesteads that surround it.

The road winding down to the Thukela River flowing six kilometres to the south also acts as a divide between two areas, KwaShange and KwaNxamalala, the names reflecting the clans that live there. Zuma belongs to the Nxamalala clan.

Some feel the Nxamalala clan have benefited from Zuma’s patronage at their expense. “He has not done anything for our area,” said Zinzile Makhathini from kwaShange. “I have three children, a daughter who has a nursing diploma, and two boys who both have matric, computer and security certificates, and they are all unemployed. The boys have since left home for Jo’burg to look for jobs.”

Unemployed Scelo Mhlongo from kwaShange challenged an earlier government report that said once Zuma was no longer president, the community would have access to some of the facilities in the homestead, such as the clinic. “It’s a fallacy that when he leaves office, the community will have access to that palace,” he said. “Where have you seen a family man allowing villagers to gain entry into his home at any given time? These people are playing with people’s minds.”

“I have decided not to vote because my previous vote did not get me a job or a better living,” he added.

Mntukabawo Dlamini lives in the kwaNxamalala area a few metres from the security fencing that encloses the Zuma home. His homestead consists of a dilapidated wattle-and-daub rondavel, an unplastered brick house and a tin shack. They fringe a traditional cattle kraal, its centre covered with weeds; there have not been cattle here for a long time. Despite his apparent poverty cheek-by-jowl with such opulence, Dlamini bears no grudges. “(Zuma) tries his best to bring services to the people. He is working hard for the poor.”

However another resident living within sight of the president’s homestead in the same area, and who asked not to be named, is not so content. “There is preferential treatment where service delivery is concerned,” said the man, who is unemployed and lives in a mud hut.

“In the Ntemba area of kwaNxama­lala, there are other Zumas who get everything first. They don’t use the same free-standing tap that I use and when the tap runs out of water and the water tankers are brought in, they park closer to the Zumas, forcing us to walk to them to fetch water.”

“When electricity was installed, they got it first; the same applies when it comes to toilets. We are treated like second-class citizens in our democracy.”

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