Nkandla villagers say Zuma’s money can fight poverty

2016-02-04 10:44
A file picture of a local resident walking past President Jacob Zuma's Inkandla home.

A file picture of a local resident walking past President Jacob Zuma's Inkandla home. (Ian Carbutt)

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Pietermaritzburg - The president’s offer to pay back ­a portion of the millions squandered on security upgrades in his private ­residence is long overdue.

This was a sentiment shared by ­people from Nkandla whom The ­Witness spoke to on Wednesday following the announcement made late on ­Tuesday that President Jacob Zuma had proposed in Concourt papers that he would pay back a portion of the money, which he suggested should be determined by the Auditor-General and the Minister of Finance. It has been almost two years since public protector Thuli Madonsela delivered her ‘Secure in Comfort’ report which became a huge talking point among villagers from remote areas in Nkandla.

On Wednesday the interest shown by the villagers in March 2014 was revived.

Sifiso Khumalo, a tradesman who does odd jobs around Nkandla, told The Witness how the villagers had gathered on Wednesday morning to debate the issue. Khumalo said he had been alerted by a neighbour to the news.

“When the news broke, I did not have my radio set on. It is a ridiculously large amount of money. From the word go, the president knew that he had to pay that money,” he said. Khumalo ­criticised ANC members whom he ­accused of protecting Zuma from ­paying for the security upgrades,­ ­labelling this “unjustifiable”.

Thembelani Khumalo, an ­unemployed youth, said he had long awaited this day.

“Hopefully those funds will go a long way in fighting ­poverty. Like the Public Protector said that the president unduly benefitted, these are funds that should have been used to build RDP houses, clinics or schools,” he said. Khumalo said he still could not believe that the costs of building a cattle kraal in Zuma’s ­homestead had ballooned to R1.2 million. Like most of the villagers in the remote rural areas, Khumalo uses a traditional practice called ilima to build a cattle kraal. During the ilima practice, a villager asks for help from neighbours and afterwards shows his appreciation with food and traditional beer.

“He should have shouted. We would have gone to Libembe mountain; there is plenty of wood there. Depending on the turn-out, that job could had been done even in one day at a cost of less than R500,” he said.

Mpilo Khanyile, an unemployed graduate from the University of ­Kwa­Zulu-Natal, said the news had been long overdue. “We know that there is corruption everywhere in SA, but what happened in the kwaNxamalala village [where Zuma’s Nkandla home is built] was gross. Talk about taking it too far.”

Siphumelele Gcaba, an unemployed youth, said she could not understand the sudden change of heart by the ­president. “At the beginning he was ­determined that he would not pay even a cent. Maybe he has his own reasons,” she said.

Meanwhile, President Jacob Zuma’s offer to repay some of the funds used during upgrades to his private home was a ploy to disarm his detractors, political analyst Protas Madlala said.

Madlala said yesterday he had found the timing of the president’s offer “very interesting”.

“We all know that it is Sona (State of the Nation Address) next week. We all know that the EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) first brought up that issue during a ­Sona. “This issue had brought the parliament to a standstill,” he said.

Madlala said the move would also disarm the electioneering of ­opposition parties ahead of local government elections.

The president had previously gone on record saying he would not pay back the money.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  politics  |  nkandla upgrade

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