Last year, a report by South Africa's Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that President Jacob Zuma unduly benefited from security upgrades to his Nkandla homestead, which cost tax payers about 250 million rands, or US $25 million. The public protector subsequently asked Zuma to repay part of the money back to the state. She instructed the president and the treasury to work together to arrive at a figure.
However, on May 28 Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko, a Zuma appointee, released his report on Nkandla which found that the firepool/swimming pool, cattle kraal, chicken run, visitor's centre and amphitheatre were valid security features and that he was therefore not liable to pay back any of the money.
The report revealed that the cattle kraal, besides being sacred in Zuma's culture, will prevent animals from triggering motion detectors and causing panic, while the amphitheatre has an important security purpose by serving as an emergency assembly point for Zuma's family. The visitors’ centre in turn provides privacy functions and the firepool/swimming pool is a strategic asset in firefighting.
South Africans expressed shock and anger when they first learned about the upgrades back in 2013.
After the news broke, the government said anyone who published images or footage of the estate would face arrest because they would be breaching the National Key Points Act.
However, South Africa's media defied the ban, with the Times newspaper publishing the photos under the headline “So, Arrest Us.” Many Facebook users used the photos as a cover photo.
It is therefore unsurprising that South Africans consider the police minister's findings far fetched, illogical and even comical.
South African journalist Phillip de Wet noted that during the press briefing, the minister sweated buckets, wiping his face 31 times:
Sometimes it was just his brow, sometimes small wipes to the right of his neck, or to his left cheek. Occasionally he would go for heroic mops of his entire face, pausing ever so slightly in his delivery. It was complemented by the tiny sips of water familiar to anyone who has ever been struck by the peculiar dry mouth syndrome produced by anxiety. Nhleko was not having a good time. Perhaps he was struck by prescience, aware that his Report by the Minister of Police to Parliament on Security Upgrades at the Nkandla Private Residence of the President would make him a laughing stock before that Thursday in late May 2015 was out.
The YouTube video below was played during Nhleko's press briefing:
Technology writer Arthur Goldstuck mocked the quality of the video footage:
When Colin Powell had to lie about #WMD he used animated graphics. For #Nkandla, Nathi Nhleko used home video. Budget cuts are bad for bull.
— Arthur Goldstuck (@art2gee) June 1, 2015
HEADROOM noted jokingly:
Nothing protects a president like “cattle and goat kraal, chicken coop, cattle culvert, amphitheatre and visitors’ centre” #Zuma 👎🏿
— HEADROOM (@Headroomusic) May 28, 2015
Making reference to allegations of of bribes paid by South Africa to FIFA officials in order to win the right to host the 2010 World Cup, Ryk van Niekerk, the editor of Moneyweb, said:
@ferialhaffajee R120 million got us a World Cup. R250 million got us a fire pool, chicken coop and kraal.
— Ryk van Niekerk (@Ryk_van_Niekerk) June 4, 2015
While another user joked that the alleged FIFA bribes looked justifiable compared to Zuma's security updgrade expenditures:
Mbeki bribed #FIFA with $10 mil and we got 2 see the world's greatest footballers. Zuma spends twice that and he hosts a cattle run #Nkandla
— RedDog (@RedDogRSA) June 7, 2015
Justin Mokgatlhane posed a question to President Zuma:
All I'm hearing from #Zuma is>My house,My pool,My Kraal,My Security. Me..Me..Me..Well Mr Pres, what about us? People u Represent @etvSunrise
— Justin Mokgatlhane (@nothatjustin) May 29, 2015
Are President Zuma's cattle a special breed?:
@ZamaDube.Zuma cows are cheese girls/boys, 1 million kraal?? I am sure they dnt eat grass.Am sure they are communicated to in Isizulu…
— Thato DjATM Rachoene (@SaRaesibe) June 5, 2015
(IsiZulu is Zuma's native language).
Let his cows vote for him, declared Hopper Ponza:
“Zuma , before I vote for my party, let me address you. You must tell your cows for which you built a R1millon kraal to vote for you”.kwaaa
— Hopper Ponza (@ponza_hopper) June 4, 2015
Jay Naidoo, the chairman of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition and a former Minister in President Nelson Mandela's cabinet, posted an image that sums up the public reaction to the report:
This sums up the public reaction to our #Nkandla debacle. And it's a demand I fully support. pic.twitter.com/j0SxTsaMFZ
— Jay Naidoo (@Jay_Naidoo) May 31, 2015
The YouTube video below demonstrates why a swimming pool is a security feature:
The opposition Economic Freedom Fighter posted:
Shivambu: We pay for everything that Zuma does. WE feed, we dress him, we pay his legal fees. We even pay for his cattle kraal.
— EFF Official Account (@EconFreedomZA) June 4, 2015
While Vusi Khoza showed how ridiculous the expenditure for a cattle kraal is in the context of poverty in South Africa:
CIC: Zuma's cows sleep in a R1 mil kraal whilst our people live in shacks with open toilets.
— Vusi Khoza (@vusumuzikhoza) March 21, 2015
After learning that Zuma's salary was increased recently, Hlaudi Motsoeneng said:
Why should we not pay Honorable Zuma more? After all we already feed him, dress him & have built him a nice house with kraal & chicken run.
— Hlaudi Motsoeneng (@SABC_COO) June 5, 2015
Blogging on the police minister's report, Kamana Balskisson drew a parallel between Nkandla and veganism:
Veganism and Nkandla are proof of society’s faltering non-objective stance in determining right from wrong. Zuma made a ‘personal choice’ to exploit taxpayers and build his lavish home, just like non-vegans make a personal choice to exploit innocent animals. Individual justification is the strongest form of societal rebellion. Attacking Jacob Zuma, and his counterparts, for engaging in greedy behaviour, which we are all accustomed too, is not really solving the underlying issue. Similar to society re-evaluating the extent of animal murder in our modern civilisation, to what extent is luxury consumerism frowned upon in South Africa? Is it ok for us to buy that luxury sports car, shoes, holiday home in spite of the origins of our wealth whilst, millions of others attempt to compete unfairly. Or is it just Nkandla that bothers us? How passionately are we willing to fight against corruption and poverty without acknowledging our own individual lack of action?
Nkandlagate is certainly not over. It is expected that the battle will now move to the courtroom.