Former president Jacob Zuma performs struggle songs on a stage outside a court in Pietermaritzburg in January 2018 where he appeared on charges including corruption. The eThekwini municipal parks, recreation and culture head Thembinkosi Ngcobo has been quoted in media this week saying recording Zuma, whom the ANC removed as its leader early in 2018, will benefit South Africans in preserving the cultural heritage of the struggle. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)
Durban - Jacob Zuma will be among the thousands of ANC supporters who will be chanting Struggle songs when the party celebrates its 107th birthday at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday. But it remains to be seen whether the project with a R25 million budget will go ahead.

Zuma was approached to feature as a lead singer in the metro’s heritage project, but it appears that the process got off to a bumpy start after criticism from artists and opposition parties.

Thembinkosi Ngcobo, head of parks, recreation and culture, whose department was responsible for the project, was Zuma’s backer.

Veteran kwaito artist Sandy B said: “As someone who works with young artists, I believe that eThekwini should have included young people and veteran artists to share a piece of the pie. A lot of veterans and upcoming artists are going hungry.”

Durban hip hop artist Arnold “Aewon Wolf” Phillips said he was “disappointed and sad” that young people were not given the opportunity to be part of the project.

“The city should use this opportunity to empower young artists. Get them to collaborate with the president, and that way everyone benefits,” he said.

A publicist who worked with artists said R25m was an exorbitant sum for one project.

Opposition parties have vowed to pull the plug on the deal. DA provincial leader Zwakele Mncwango said he had scheduled a meeting with city manager Sipho Nzuza on the matter.

He accused Ngcobo of running his department like an ANC branch.

“We will not allow Ngcobo to use taxpayers’ money to promote Zuma,” said Mncwango. He said they would challenge the move all the way to the courts if the municipality went ahead.

IFP exco member Mdu Nkosi slammed the decision as “nonsense”.

“This department is failing to cut grass where we live but has money to sponsor the former president. We cannot allow that to happen.”

He said the department should channel money towards resolving the cemetery crisis in Durban.

Jonathan Annipen from the Minority Front said the record deal was just a ploy by Zuma’s supporters within the ANC in eThekwini to help him with his increasing legal financial woes.

Annipen said it was irregular that the decision was made when the council was in recess, thereby bypassing input from the full council and relevant committees.

ANC acting national spokesperson Dakota Legoete said they would not support anything that was against the law.

“If there’s going to be use of funds for public interest, we will support that. But we are not going to commit the ANC if things are not for the benefit of our people.”

Legoete said Zuma was approached by the municipality to be part of a documentary about the heritage of the city, and he was not going to get any money for his contribution. He said it was disingenuous for people to conclude that Zuma was going to be part of that project because there was no agreement or contract in place.

Legoete said the party Struggle songs were the property of the ANC, not individuals.

Sunday Tribune