President Jacob Zuma addresses a special media briefing on the economy, especially on developments in the mining sector at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. 30 May 2013.

Johannesburg - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s damning Nkandla report has exposed President Jacob Zuma as a hypocrite hiding behind the mask of his modest background to enrich himself at the expense of the poor, political analysts say.

But an unholy alliance and “extreme backlash” by opposition political parties against him and the ANC could evoke renewed empathy for the president and the ruling party.

This comes as the ANC intensifies its damage-control strategy ahead of the May election over the scandal of the R215 million upgrades at Zuma’s private home.

Some of the party’s bigwigs including Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe and Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, were today expected to brief the media on the ANC’s commitments to fighting corruption and crime.

Professor Susan Booysen of Wits University’s School of Governance said Madonsela’s report had shown that Zuma was a scheming politician who could not be trusted.

“It (the Nkandla scandal) has exposed him as a shrewd strategist. He plays behind the modest background and lack of skill to get away from knowing about the (executive ethics) rules and to get away with massive accumulation of property,” Booysen said.

In her report, titled “Secure in Comfort”, Madonsela found that some of the security costs were “obscenely excessive” and that the project “started from humble beginnings but soon escalated by more than 200 percent more within a year”.

“How do you answer the questions raised by the first complainant (civilian) regarding extreme opulence in the face of a state that is struggling to meet the basic needs of people, including those in the backyard of the homestead in question,” Madonsela’s report reads in part.

She found that Zuma had improperly benefited from the security upgrades and that his “failure to act in the protection of state resources constitutes a violation of the executive ethics code”.

Booysen said it bordered on offence for Zuma to plead innocence.

Another political analyst, Ralph Mathekga, said the upgrade costs at Zuma’s home showed his lack of commitment to uplifting the poor.

Mathekga warned, however, that overstretching the Nkandla scandal could backfire for opposition political parties and Zuma’s detractors.

Professor Tinyiko Maluleke agreed: “Over-the-top responses from opposition parties may inadvertently create new sympathy for the ANC.”

The Star