Nkandla, more than just Zuma's hometown

Lady walking
Lady walking
Nokuthula Manyathi

For several years, the northern KwaZulu-Natal town of Nkandla has been synonymous with former president Jacob Zuma.

Stories about the alleged misappropriation of state funds for residential upgrades, "fire pools" and Muammar Gaddafi's millions come up when you Google the small rural town.

But this is not all that the scenic area encompasses.

Situated among the world heritage route of the Isandlwana Battlefields in Nquthu, Melmoth, Ulundi, Eshowe, and Blood River in Dundee, the area is rich in history.

Nkandla itself is a massive area spanning 1 828 km² and it is located in a remote area of breathtaking mountainous beauty, which consists mainly of tribal and state-owned land. It is currently governed by the IFP - won in the 2016 local elections.

Wipe the veneer of the Zuma name away and one is left with a community that is tired of being overlooked.


The community of Nkonisa, located within the Nkandla Municipality want housing, more jobs and better service delivery. Picture: Nokuthula Manyathi/News24

The people of Nkonisa

Building up to the 2019 elections, News24 canvassed the community of Nkonisa, located within the Nkandla Local Municipality - just outside of the central business district.

"No political party members have come to talk to our community. I've only seen them on TV [in other towns]," Mbongeni Mazibuko told News24.

Mazibuko has been living in the village of Nkonisa since the early '70s.

He is an "Induna" (tribal councillor) in the village and has first-hand understanding of his community's needs.

The people want better housing, easier access to clean water and more jobs.

On May 8, Mazibuko will be dragging his feet to the polls.

Broken promises are the reason for the 67-year-old's lack of enthusiasm.

He said he's noticed a pattern ahead of every election.

Months prior to an election, politicians make grand gestures and promises but as soon as the polls close, the statesmen retreat to their offices.

New party, new possibilities?

Elsie Mnculaane is also at her wits' end.

Like Mazibuko, she is concerned about the lack of jobs and adequate housing in her community.

This year, the 62-year-old is going to try something new - in the hope of getting a different outcome.

She will be voting for the EFF after years as a loyal IFP supporter.

She is a pensioner, so when Julius Malema promised to double older persons grants, she was sold.

Currently people aged 60 to 74 years receive R1 780 per month.

Individuals who are older than 75 years earn R1 800.

Although she thinks politicians are deceitful, she prefers "the lies that Malema is telling" compared to his political counterparts.


Elsie Mnculaane said she was giving her vote to the EFF, after years as a loyal IFP voter. Picture: Nokuthula Manyathi

Housing issues

TP Mbhele, Inkosi YeSizewe SaMaphutu (leader of the Amaphuthu Traditional Authority), said officials only cared about the well-being of people in urban areas.

For several years he has been complaining about a lack of housing and his cries have fallen on deaf ears.

He said people in his community registered for RDP houses shortly after the 1994 elections but few people reaped the benefits.

When it rains, families living in homes made of mud and thatch easily collapse.

Mbhele said they also needed a sports ground and a community hall.

"We've experienced broken promises since 1994. Which is slowly discouraging people from voting."

Work is being done

Speaking to News24 about citizens' concerns, IFP-deployed Mayor Thami Ntuli stood firm, saying that while challenges existed, work was being done.

"I don't think there has been as much progress in this wonderful land of ours before we took over. Yes, some matters are still being attended to, but we are putting the people first."

Addressing the talked about RDP housing matter, Ntuli said he was well aware of the challenges.

He said that while housing did not fully fall under municipal services, he was "not sitting back".

Ntuli said that since 2013, his offices launched applications for homes on behalf of Nkosi in the area.

"We have discussed this with them. I personally had a meeting with MEC Ravi Pillay."

He said there were 17 tribes in Nkandla but there were just two housing schemes.

"We are in constant engagements and we can assure people that while there are budgeting issues higher up, we will do what we can at municipal level."

Ntuli said jobs was a hot button issue, but one that he took very seriously.

"We have managed to attract some investors. We previously had no Shoprite, no Cambridge, but now we have those. People were able to be absorbed. The reality is that as a municipality, we are not sitting back."


Nkandla Mayor Thami Ntuli said his municipality was in talks with the Indian Embassy and had managed to secure a scholarship. Picture: Nokuthula Manyathi/News24

Getting matriculants work

He added that their greatest challenge was matriculants who could not get jobs after school.

"We started to fund students with bursaries and have given more than 800."

He said the municipality was talking to the Indian Embassy and had managed to secure a scholarship while in talks with the US embassy in Durban.

"They have a programme to train people on how to get jobs. Right now, we are engaging our people with this so that when opportunities come, they are ready."

Skills training had also been initiated, with the municipality allocating R2.2m for 2019/2020 for that purpose, he said.

Joblessness breeding ground for crime

"Both food and fuel prices have increased but there are no jobs," said Mbongiseni Daniel Madala.

The 45-year-old said living in Nkonisa was challenging because change didn't come quickly.

He said joblessness was putting the community in danger because people were resorting to crime to stay afloat.

"People living in the more urban areas seem to receive services and upgrades at a faster pace," he said.

Another one  of his concerns was the conditions of the road.

In Nkonisa, it's only the main roads that are tarred.

When it rains, roads become muddy and hard to navigate.

'No reason to doubt IFP'

Ntuli who has been the mayor of Nkandla for six years, said there was "no reason voters must doubt when the IFP governs".

He said he is always on the ground, listening to people's concerns.

"I visit all villages, even when I don't have something to hand over. I have to hear what our people are saying. This is the type of leadership the IFP is providing."

He said that despite a small budget of just R150m for the municipality, there was a lot of development taking place.

"If the IFP is given billions, imagine the things we will do?"

Twenty-five years of sorrow

But not everyone in the community believes Ntuli.

"I have aged and have received nothing. Today, I am on the side of the street trying to make a living," said Zazele Mbatha.

The 56-year-old said she voted in every democratic election but this year she wasn't planning to cast her vote.

"Why should I vote? I have voted for years and there have been no improvements. What am I voting for?"

She said none of her adult children had full-time employment, which made it difficult to make ends meet.

To generate income, the mother of five runs a small shop built from corrugated iron where she sells snacks.

The Nkonisa native has voted for both the ANC and the IFP in previous elections and she's seen little improvement.

"All we've known in the past 25 years is sorrow," she said.


Zazele Mbatha said she has voted in every democratic election but this year she wasn't planning on casting her vote. Picture: Nokuthula Manyathi/News24

,election 2019

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Voting Booth
Children between 12 and 17 can now be vaccinated against Covid-19. As a parent I am:
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Relieved, it's been a long wait to this point
50% - 2577 votes
A bit hesitant, and will wait to see how it goes
21% - 1096 votes
Completely against my child getting the shot
28% - 1434 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.