President Jacob Zuma on Sunday said he was not about to resign from the Union Buildings because of the Nkandla multimillion-rand scandal.
In an interview with television news channel eNCA aired on Sunday night, Zuma said while the row about the more than R200-million spent on upgrades at his private Nkandla homestead has put a strain on his family, he will not give up the presidency job.
"Not at all," Zuma told eNCA's Dan Moyane in an interview. "I should have thought of giving up the struggle when it was very tough. Never."
Zuma, who is the ANC's presidential candidate for the May elections, is preparing to occupy South Africa's highest office for a second term.
"Because I think I have got a commitment that I made, firstly to liberate South Africa, secondly to change the quality of life of this country. As long as the ANC gives me that opportunity I can't say halfway [I'll resign], as if I decided on my own. I didn't apply for this job, I was deployed to do the job.
Attempts by some in the ANC to get the party to debate the possibility of Zuma letting the state presidency go did not get far enough, amid fear of victimisation should the idea fail to enjoy adequate support. Some regional leaders in KwaZulu-Natal – Zuma's strongest base and home province – had planned to approach him and ask him not to stand for a second term in the presidency. They backtracked when it became clear the ANC still prefers Zuma as its face of elections and state president.
Opposition parties have also tried unsuccessfully to get Zuma to let go of the first citizen title. A few days before he delivered his state of the nation address last week, Congress of the People (Cope) president Mosiuoa Lekota called on him to resign.
"The president should confess in Parliament that he has failed the nation and should announce his resignation from active politics with immediate effect. He is a walking disaster and the source of national embarrassment," Lekota said in a statement.
Zuma believes the public protector's report, when it's eventually released, will clear him of any wrongdoing related to Nkandla and its costs. Those who believe that he has done something wrong "don't know me", Zuma said in the eNCA interview.
"Some South Africans pretend to know me. They don't know me. That's why they believe I could have done something wrong," he said.
'Substantial' personal benefit
A leaked provisional report by the public protector found that Zuma derived "substantial" personal benefit from works that exceeded security needs at his homestead and must repay the state. But an inter-ministerial task team report exonerated Zuma, saying that the president did not ask for the security upgrades and no state funds were used for his private residence.
In an effort to demonstrate how his family has been persecuted in public because of their relations to him, Zuma referred to a car accident his son Duduzane was involved in.
"Just recently my son had a car accident. A week thereafter it becomes an issue because it's Zuma's son. But there are so many accidents everyday … there's no story about them. You can see the exaggeration that comes with all of these," he said.
Duduzane Zuma's Porsche is said to have smashed into a minibus taxi, causing it to overturn repeatedly and leaving one passenger dead. The Democratic Alliance was unhappy that a breathalyser test was overlooked and Zuma was allowed to have his car towed away instead of Metro police impounding the car to keep as evidence. Jo'burg Metro police spokesperson Wayne Minnaar said the breathalyser test was not conducted because Zuma "was sober" and that it was not standard procedure to conduct such a test at an accident scene.
The spending of state funds on Nkandla is expected to feature prominently in this year's election campaigns.