Johannesburg - Jacob Zuma is an ordinary South African – and a crime victim. That’s why the government needed to fortify his rural homestead.
On Monday, 48 hours before the country goes to the polls for the fifth time since the ANC came to power, the president finally broke his silence on the scandal that has dogged his presidency like no other issue, the estimated public expenditure of R215 million on Nkandla.
It stemmed, he said, from the political violence that racked KwaZulu-Natal after the 1994 elections, during which time he was an MEC in the provincial government.
“My homestead was burnt twice during violence. Criminals came, raped my wife during the time I was still the MEC.”
He said the attackers were later convicted.
Nkandla, Zuma told business leaders and senior journalists, would not be an electoral issue on Wednesday. Speaking at a final ANC briefing on the party’s manifesto, Zuma said security at Nkandla was not a “theoretical issue” and that it was normal for the state to provide security for the president.
He gave various explanations for why he hadn’t done anything wrong over Nkandla, including that the investigations by the government task team, then by the Public Protector, had not found him to be corrupt.
Neither had supported the allegation he had abused government funds of about R250m to build his homestead. Instead, the media had not reported this accurately, and he had been treated unfairly.
“No government has built Zuma’s house. But there is nothing that has been said by those who were making the claim at the beginning.”
He said the public protector found he hadn’t asked for the upgrades and that the only real issue that remained was whether he should pay for anything, which he would address in his reply to the public protector.
He added that Nkandla wasn’t an issue among voters.
“I’m not worried about Nkandla because it’s not my problem. Nor is it a problem of the people that I’ve been campaigning,” said Zuma.
He said nobody had asked him about Nkandla during the election campaign.
“I think the people who have been talking about it is you guys, the media, and the opposition. The people are not worried about it.
“As a result, people don’t think the Nkandla issue is a problem to affect ANC voters. Not at all…
“It’s an issue with the bright people, (with) very clever people it’s a big issue, and people who have thought using Nkandla would be an important thing for elections. It has not worked.”
Zuma avoided a clear explanations for the upgrades, saying he would explain this later.
“It’s a matter that is still pending. I have not expressed my total view on this matter because the matter is still pending. I still have to complete my response to the report of the public protector,” he said.
“Perhaps when the time comes I’ll be able to speak about these issues.”
Once more dismissing the perceived damage Nkandla has done to the ANC’s campaign, he said: “It’s not an issue. It’s just a homestead in the Nkandla district of a man called Zuma who became a president one day and the state thought it needed to bring security features.”