eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede. File Photo: Nqobile Mbonambi/ African News Agency (ANA)
IT WILL never cease to amaze me how long it took eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede to realise that the municipal funding of Jacob Zuma’s recording of popular Struggle songs was a bad idea.

The issue has been a simmering cauldron of controversy for several weeks, ever since her underling - the municipality’s Parks, Recreation and Culture head, Thembinkosi Ngcobo - took it upon himself to announce the project.

But mayor Gumede was either too busy mixing her Christmas pudding or preparing a detailed schedule for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s impending foray to KwaZulu-Natal that it must have just slipped her mind.

Even when Ngcobo, presumably acting on his own initiative, assembled a delegation of senior councillors and officials and hotfooted it to Zuma’s Nkandla homestead to lobby the former president, Gumede appeared blissfully unaware.

Everyone in the city, but apparently not the mayor, then became aware that auditions were being set up for a mass choir of vocalists to back Zuma in the recordings and these were scheduled to start next month.

But it turns out no one bothered to inform the mayor.

The whole idea of a Zuma recording deal gained further currency when Ngcobo announced that Grammy Award-winning group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, had shown an interest in working with Zuma and that they had agreed to avail their state-of-the-art recording studios for the highly publicised gig.

But once again, it appears nobody bothered to tell the mayor about the plans.

And it wasn’t as if our civil servant-turned impresario did not have a rationale for his initiative. Ngcobo told reporters Zuma was chosen for the recording because he “embodied South African history and the struggles faced by black people during apartheid”.

What Ngcobo failed to mention was Zuma’s controversial reign as president over nine years, scarred by allegations of rampant corruption, wasteful expenditure and governance failures.

Also, no mention is made of the fact that the former president faces serious charges of fraud and corruption in court, which he has, of course, strongly denied.

But while the mayor appears to have missed all the hullabaloo over the Zuma recordings, ratepayers certainly didn’t.

Many protested to newspapers and social media, complaining the project was ill-advised as the money could be used more purposefully in improving the lives of the poor.

Yet others called it a slap in the face of hard-pressed ratepayers and called on the auditor-general to investigate such unnecessary and wasteful spending.

In fact, it seems only when the howls of protest reached an almighty crescendo this week that mayor Gumede got the wake-up call.

Addressing an eThekwini executive committee meeting on Tuesday, she suddenly announced that plans for a recording album for Zuma were off because proper municipal protocols weren’t followed when the idea was mooted.

True, true, Madam Mayor, but what took you so long?

And has the plan been merely shelved, only to be resurrected after the May poll?