Nkandla: What’s in the name of a country estate?

Visiting the homes of the Zuma family, the metaphorical aspects of the isiZululanguage that the president holds so dear are evident in their names.

A few hundred metres from KwaDakwadunuse – better known as Nkandla, the collection of squat, cream-coloured rondavels clucking around the much larger patriarchal edifice of Zuma's main house that has been in the news for apparent security upgrades totalling R248-million – is another collection of more modern buildings called Mpindamshaye, according to locals.

Mpindamshaye means "I will beat you up again" in isiZulu and appears to be the second "family" homestead, referred to by the president in Parliament last week.

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This is where upgrades by the "extended family" were done first and when that "had reached the finishing-touches stage, we started with the one where I stay [KwaDakwadunuse]", said Zuma last Thursday in Cape Town.

"The other one does not appear on television because there are no security features on it," the president told Parliament in his oral reply to a question by the Democratic Alliance's Lindiwe Mazibuko. "That is where, in fact, we started upgrading. We started at our residence called Mpindamshaye."

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Zuma said his extended family had "a manner of working together".

A collection of light-grey buildings with a more modern feel, it is, according to locals, used by the president's younger brother, Joseph, and his gargantuan nephew, Khulubuse.

The locals were unable to comment on whether the behaviour of the inhabitants – "Khula", especially, with his unpaid Aurora miners on starvation row – had contributed to the name.

KwaDakwadunuse means "when you are drunk you are misbehaving", a bugbear, perhaps, for a teetotal president with a deeply social conservative streak and a penchant for chastising people for being "culturally" and personally disrespectful.

Another Zuma home, according to a 2009 news report, is called KwaThembitshe, which means "while a stone remains unchanged, a person will surprise you". This is something Zuma has managed for most his life, whether as an underground activist or as head of the "stone that grinds" (Mbokhodo, the ANC's internal intelligence arm), or as president of South Africa.

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Niren Tolsi
Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist whose interests include social justice, citizen mobilisation and state violence, protest, the Constitution and Constitutional Court, football and Test cricket.

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