News of President Jacob Zuma’s commitment to, finally, pay back a portion of the money spent on upgrades to his private residence in Nkandla, as per the public protector Thuli Madonsela’s recommendations, has spread like wildfire since the announcement on Tuesday night. South Africans of all walks of life have been weighing in on the latest news, which prompted different reactions from the public. We spoke to some South Africans in the aftermath of the news and this is what they told BHEKI C. SIMELANE
Lindani Sibiya, 49, unemployed from KZN (asked not to be photographed)
I don’t believe the President will pay. It’s just a delaying tactic, his typical and mostly successful tool every time he finds himself in a political corner. Besides it’s a lot of money he has to pay, judging by the total cost so far, and to afford that much he will have to commit another scandal involving millions. He must just sell the property and give back what’s due to the taxpayer. I think he also realizes that turning his back on the South African public might leave him out in the cold one day but you never know because he doesn’t come across as a caring and strong leader. The EFF will be the biggest victors in all this because they have risked a lot more than the DA in ensuring that the Nkandla debacle does not die. As for the taxpayer, I’m sure even if he finally does pay, there will be no celebrations from concerned taxpayers because the President further shrunk the public purse in his efforts to frustrate the implementation of the recommendations of the public protector.
Thabo Mudau, 28, student from Soweto
He is evading justice as usual, especially with his date with the Constitutional Court fast approaching. The opposition parties, the DA and EFF, should proceed with the action, particularly because the President has previously shown not to be completely honest. The EFF will claim the victory, should the President stand by his word and pay back the money but, they, too, need to remember that should Zuma eventually pay, it will be a victory for South Africa, to accountability. He has often achieved in taking every South African for a ride, but his luck is running out as more and more people seem to have lost confidence in his leadership. He seems to be on a blissful journey to nowhere, and with every intent to take all South Africans along with him.
Rodney Masina, 28, truck driver from Carolina in Mpumalanga
If he wants to pay back the money, it’s his call, but that can’t stop one from asking why now. I mean he has resisted all this time, using every trick in the book to evade accountability, probably wasting more money in the process. I hope he’s not getting a third term, or is he? Good riddance if he isn’t. Perhaps the move is just another of the President’s means of garnering support for the ANC ahead of the upcoming local government elections. Perhaps he’s shaken at the prospect of former Presidents being invited on a belated date with the law, some long after they have vacated those seats. Perhaps he’s doing the right thing. Nkandla is the ‘white elephant in the room’. An extravagant measure, toilets bigger than jail cells. Our President suffers from claustrophobia and has gotten scared. Payment is long overdue.
Bridget Mlambo, 36, Retail Assistant, from KZN
It’s election time, perhaps he realises the damage caused to the ANC, partly by his own acts or inaction. He knows many people are angry with him, but are just too humble to stage a challenge. Well I’ve seen that slowly change. Truth be told, our President has, for the most part of his reign, been very inconsiderate. His reign has been characterised by corruption, unaccountability and all things bad. In this case he had ample time to make it right by detractors and the whole nation, but he chose to stage a losing battle. Despite the public protector having found wrong on his part, he still prolonged the issue by launching his own committees. Wonder how he hoped this would end. While the media was accused by some as clinging on a stale story in Nkandla, I personally thought they did a great job of making sure that the scandal is not forgotten. He’s welcome to pay. I guess if he does finally pay, it will be a victory for South Africa, for all of us, including the frontrunners in the EFF and DA.
Omphemetse Monnana, 18, student from Orange Farm
I don’t think the President was completely honest when he said he will pay, eventually. I’m saying this because it has really taken him a very long time to his share of liability for the mess that was created at his home. He should have admitted then for the sake of progress in the country and in the running of his administration. The EFF and the whole country should claim victory if he does pay. The DA has also done a commendable job. If he pays, it will be a good thing because more and more people are losing confidence in the current leadership.
Khosi Nkosi, 22, unemployed from Johannesburg
I actually think he’s in no mission to clean up his act. All he’s eying is the upcoming elections. He is laying a solid foundation for the ANC’s campaign trail, probably struck by conscience that perhaps he owes the ANC and the country that much. However, this does not explain his timing. This is why I say he might just be doing work for the African National Congress. I think he will pay, also, because perhaps he feels so much has been said on the issue. If the President pays then South Africa will have won what could potentially be the greatest battle to recover misused funds by a sitting President, ever.
Eric Langa, 39, Businessman from Johannesburg
This is long overdue and the President knows it. It’s a victory to the South African taxpayer. No one is above the law. DM
Photo from top left clockwise: Khosi Nkosi from Johannesburg, Truck Driver Rodney Masina from Carolina in Mpumalanga, Student Thabo Mudau from Soweto, Student Omphemetse Monnana from Orange Farm, Abubakr Thapelo Amad, President Jacob Zuma.