Jacob Zuma - 99 problems but Nkandla ain't one

President Jacob Zuma thought Jay Z's hit song '99 Problems', would be the perfect departure point for his own narrative, writes Haji Mohamed Dawjee. (Kenny Leung, M&G)

President Jacob Zuma thought Jay Z's hit song '99 Problems', would be the perfect departure point for his own narrative, writes Haji Mohamed Dawjee. (Kenny Leung, M&G)

To add a cherry to the top of the Nkandla cake debacle, South Africa’s very own Jay Z has topped off a weeklong spate of reaction to his Nkandla report response with a song.

Instead of going the route of thorough explanation or even accountability, Jacob Zuma has opted for parody. Surprisingly.

Sources close to the presidency say that Jay Z spent several hours “gathering his thoughts” last week after offering the public a watered down response to the Public Protector’s Nkandla report.

“Delivering a non-response of that degree and passing the buck to the new police minister is hard and wearing for the president. Especially when he is trying to tap into his creative side and delve into song writing so that he can further add fuel to the fire of speculation. People think this is an easy task, but it certainly isn’t,” said the source who prefers to stay unnamed. 

The source also added that Zuma had eventually emerged from his trance like state of thinking with a proclamation that he was now ready to “focus on being focused”.

Careful consideration was given to the overall theme of the song. Zuma wanted the lyrics to reflect a factual account of his pattern of denialism and his skill for “passing the buck” at breakneck speed.

The president, a long-time admirer of hip-hop artist and industry mogul Jay Z, thought the artist’s hit song 99 Problems, would be the perfect departure point for his own narrative. 99 Problems is famed for having a second verse that is dedicated to an actual experience in Jay Z’s life, where he is stopped by a police officer who wants to search the rapper’s car for drugs without a warrant. When Jay Z refuses, the officer calls for sniffer-dogs.

It is speculated that Zuma, perhaps unwittingly, is using the song as a metaphor for the bigger Nkandla picture.

The compound being the car, the sniffer dog is … well, you do the math, and the search is for responsibility … But before he actually gets there, in skilful fashion, Zuma proudly blurts out, “I got 99 problems but Nkandla ain’t one”.

As quoted from Zuma’s new release:
“If you havin’ public protector problems
I feel bad for you son
I got 99 problems but Nkandla ain’t one
Hit me

The year is 2014 and Nkandla is still raw
Thuli’s on my case, mentioning the law
I got two choices y’all, I can just ignore
Or make the police minister responsible
And then ignore some more

Now I ain’t trying to see myself burned at the stake
Plus I got a few rand-ellas I can fight the case
So I … pull out a statement that’s premature
The media says my ‘intentions aren’t pure’

Coz I’m a tainted president
And my credibility’s real low
Do I look like I care? The answer is no

Thuli says I benefitted from the upgrade
But I ain’t saying nothing, coz I got it made
‘Take steps with the assistance of the national treasury’
What’s the point, that doesn’t benefit me?

The police minister will ‘expedite the review’
Until then I’ll act like I don’t have a clue
If you havin’ public protector problems
I feel bad for you son
I got 99 problems but Nkandla ain’t one
Hit me”

It is said that Zuma is known among insiders for comparing himself to the hip-hop artist – helped by the fact that they share the same initials. Zuma is also on a constant search for his very own Beyoncé.

“The president came up with this genius idea to marry his love for rambling and music and Jay Z by sampling 99 Problems. And instead of the original hook, the president thought it would be really fresh to sing: I got 99 problems but Nkandla ain’t one”, explained the source.

Since music is such a universal language, what better way to get the president’s “it wasn’t me” attitude across to the nation than through song?

 
Haji Mohamed Dawjee

Haji Mohamed Dawjee

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is the social media accounts director at Ogilvy PR. She was previously the deputy digital news editor and social media editor at the Mail & Guardian. Haji has an honours degree in journalism from the University of Stellenbosch and continues to write columns for the M&G. Read more from Haji Mohamed Dawjee

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