Global Politics

Jacob Zuma offers to pay back some of the $23 million in state funds used to upgrade his private home

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In a nod from one satirist to another, Zapiro shows President Jacob Zuma pinned down, like Gulliver in Lilliput, and out of options. As South Africa's highest court looks on, President Zuma finally agrees to pay back some of the $23 million in state funds used to upgrade his private home in Nkandla. 

Credit:

@Zapiro, The Times, South Africa, February 4, 2016, Courtesy: www.zapiro.com, All Rights Reserved.

For more than six years, South African President Jacob Zuma has been under pressure to reimburse the government for the $23 million in state funds that were used to make "improvements" to his private home near Nkandla, in KwaZulu-natal. Those supposed security upgrades include a swimming pool, an amphitheater and visitors' center.

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On Wednesday, Zuma finally relented and agreed to pay some of it back.

But not everyone is impressed by Zuma's change of heart — Jonathan Shapiro among them. Better known as Zapiro, he is one of South Africa's best known political cartoonist.

"It's not really a change of heart. What's happening is that a very big case brought by the main opposition, the Democratic Alliance, is coming to the Constitutional Court of South Africa." Think America's Supreme Court.

African National Congress MPs sitting on Parliament's justice portfolio committee accused Public Protector Thuli Madonsela of political posturing and suggested her powers should be reviewed. It was Thuli Madonsela's initial report that concluded that Pres

African National Congress MPs sitting on Parliament's justice portfolio committee accused Public Protector Thuli Madonsela of political posturing and suggested her powers should be reviewed. It was Thuli Madonsela's initial report that concluded that President Zuma "benefitted unduly" from the upgrades and should reimburse the state.

Credit:

@Zapiro, The Times, South Africa, July 8, 2014, Courtesy: www.zapiro.com, All Rights Reserved

Zapiro says the court is likely to rule that President Zuma should reimburse the state for at least part of the cost. That was the conclusion of a 2014 report by the country's Office of Public Protector, which said that President Zuma had "benefitted unduly" from the upgrades. "Now that it's finally getting to the Constitutional Court, his lawyers have advised him to do this. He still says he doesn't agree with everything." 

"[Zuma] has found every which way to try and obfuscate and pretend that the public protector's report is not the important report," Zapiro adds. One famous example: President Zuma commissioned his own report in 2015 from South Africa's Police Minister on the upgrades made at Nkandla. The conclusion: all the upgrades were necessary for Zuma's security and the South African president didn't need to repay anything. Zapiro pounced.

Zapiro drew this cartoon after a report commissioned by President Jacob Zuma about the state funds spent on Nkandla exonerated the President and equated added luxuries with added security. 

Credit:

@Zapiro, Mail & Guardian, South Africa, April 3, 2014, Courtesy: www.zapiro.com, All Rights Reserved

Zapiro chuckles over that report's descriptions of how luxury upgrades did double duty as security features. "The swimming pool was called a fire pool because it was supposedly there to be able to put out fires on the thatched roofs of the houses, that sort of thing. 'Essential security amenities' were two soccer pitches for the security guards in their leisure time. 'Community clinic' was actually a Zuma family clinic and was fenced off from the community. 'Retaining wall' was in fact the amphitheater."

Zapiro has been an unrelenting critic of President Zuma and considers him an unfortunate successor to the first two presidents of post-apartheid South Africa. 

In May 2015, South Africa's Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko and Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi released their own Nkandla report, commissioned by President Jacob Zuma. It justified expenses such as a cattle enclosure, amphitheater, swimming pool and

In May 2015, South Africa's Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko and Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi released their own Nkandla report, commissioned by President Jacob Zuma. It justified expenses such as a cattle enclosure, amphitheater, swimming pool and visitors’ center as crucial security measures at President Jacob Zuma’s rural homestead and determined that President Jacob Zuma was NOT liable to pay a portion of the security upgrades to his Nkandla homestead. Civil society and political commentators voiced their objections. 

Credit:

@Zapiro, The Sunday Times, South Africa, May 31, 2015, Courtesy: www.zapiro.com, All Rights Reserved.

"Zuma is very very different from Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki. Thabo Mbeki may have been a paranoid, aloof president, but he certainly was prepared to abide by constitutional provisions and that sort of thing. Nelson Mandela of course had a huge regard for the constitution and the rule of law."

He acknowledges Zuma's important role in the struggle against apartheid and considers him a 'struggle hero' but says "Jacob Zuma is a kind of rural patriarch. He really does not appear to have a proper grasp of what it means to be accountable."

And with sad resignation, Zapiro hurls his biggest insult: "He is flirting with the kind of banana republic stuff that we never ever thought we'd see in the new South Africa."

In June 2015, a report by South Africa's Minister of Police Nkosinathi Nhleko said President Jacob Zuma was not liable to pay for any of the features built at Zuma's Nkandla home, including the swimming pool and amphitheatre.  Nhleko's report called the s

In June 2015, a report by South Africa's Minister of Police Nkosinathi Nhleko said President Jacob Zuma was not liable to pay for any of the features built at Zuma's Nkandla home, including the swimming pool and amphitheatre.  Nhleko's report called the swimming pool a "firepool" and said it was "a strategic asset useful in firefighting and therefore is a security feature."

Credit:

@ Zapiro, The Times, South Africa, July 23, 2015, www.zapiro.com