Think Nkandla is the biggest story of all time? It isn't

2015-07-27 17:34

Newspapers focus on Nkandla media visit

2015-07-27 11:57

Today's newspapers focused on the media tour of President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla which took place yesterday.WATCH


Nkandla till when?? It was a tweet that went out in response to a City Press tweet punting our Special Focus section on Nkandla.

We didn’t reply. Not because we are anti-interaction, but because we have no idea. People don’t seem to be getting Nkandla fatigue, even though the Nkandla story has been dragging on since the end of 2009, when news that millions of taxpayers’ money had been spent on the president’s private residence first hit the mainstream press.

Then inflation (and inflated prices) hit the Nkandla saga, bringing the total to a cool 250 million smackeroos, the Public Protector was called in, cries of “pay back the money” surfaced not long after that, and were picked up by the Economic Freedom Fighters, who took the fight to Parliament and made more headlines, ensuring that Nkandla did not go out of the spotlight.

At the time of writing, Nkandla stories fell in both the “most read” and “most commented” sections of the News24 site.

People are curious. They want to see Nkandla for themselves. And because most South Africans won’t crack an invitation, they do it through the media.

For instance, a video on President Jacob Zuma joking about Nkandla in Parliament was watched more than 160 000 times. The parliamentary ad hoc committee discussing the now-infamous site visit had nearly 130 000 page views. Pictures taken during the inspection were viewed 128 000 times. About 114 000 people watched the live report of the police minister delivering his Nkandla report. In March last year, when News 24 ran live updates of Thuli Madonsela releasing her report on Nkandla, nearly 290 000 people followed it.

But Nkandla doesn’t even feature on the top 10 list of News 24 stories for this year. Which one is on top so far? An article that was published in February, on the brutal "axe attack case", with 532 000 page views. It was a horrific story about the Van Breda family being attacked in their Stellenbosch home. Two children survived the attack, but the parents and their brother were hacked to death. Violence is a thread among the most-read articles. A video of a violent attack on a foreigner in Johannesburg had nearly 370 000 page views.

Zuma himself hardly features on the top 10 list – across both the online and mobile platforms – unless it had to do with the state of the nation address, which featured three times on the mobile platform (the live address had the most page views on this platform, with 308 000).

And in 2014? The year when Thuli Madonsela released her Nkandla report and the Economic Freedom Fighters caused mayhem in Parliament, and people were offering to settle the Nkandla bill left, right and centre ... what made South Africans click? On the website, live coverage of the election results scored nearly 1.3 million page views on May 5. But the story that received the most clicks across both platforms? Live coverage of Oscar Pistorius: judgment day with more than 1.1 million page views.

In fact, on the website platform the only articles that featured in the top 10 were the national election results (with spots 1, 8 and 10) and the rest went to live coverage of the Pistorius trial. This was mirrored on the mobile platform, with four out of the top 10 articles featuring live coverage of the judgment.

The rest of the clicks went to Senzo Meyiwa’s suspects being arrested (217 000), the bizarre story of the phone of a passenger on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 – which vanished – that just rings got 207 000 hits, a video of a nanny abusing a toddler had 192 000 page views – all more than the biggest Nkandla article.

NKandla, Inkaandla, Nkaandla, doesn’t matter how you say it. It’s a hot topic. It’s just not as hot as a top athlete killing his girlfriend, or the national elections. Or a family being wiped out in a gruesome attack.

So when will we stop moaning and writing and debating about it? Probably when the cows come home to the cattle kraal. Or until we find out who in their right mind thought those grotty police houses were worth R6 million each. Or until the firepool is actually used for that purpose. Who knows? Unless, of course, Zuma actually pays back the money. And then it’s a whole other ball game.

Read more on:    zuma  |  nkandla
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