Zuma brings on the election charm offence

About 5 000 supporters – many of whom were bussed in from Zuma’s hometown of Nkandla – chanted 'Zuma, our president' at an imbizo in northern KwaZulu-Natal. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

About 5 000 supporters – many of whom were bussed in from Zuma’s hometown of Nkandla – chanted 'Zuma, our president' at an imbizo in northern KwaZulu-Natal. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

President Jacob Zuma received a standing ovation and was greeted by chants of “Zuma, our president” when he arrived at a special imbizo held in Melmoth in northern KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday.

The estimated crowd of 5 000 supporters – many of whom were bussed in from Zuma’s hometown of Nkandla and other surrounding municipalities – appeared to be untroubled by the Constitutional Court’s damning findings against him over the state spending on his private residence at Nkandla.

Minutes after his arrival security officers physically carried a man from the tent after he had rushed forward and knelt before Zuma, pleading to speak to him.

The imbizo hosted by KwaZulu-Natal premier Senzo Mchunu and Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane was part of a drought relief campaign initiated by the department.

It was held within the jurisdiction of uThungulu district municipality, which acts as the water services authority for five local municipalities – Mbonambi, Nkandla, Ntambanana, Umlalazi, and Mthonjaneni.

“uThungulu is one of the areas most stricken with drought,” read a press release issued on Friday. “The visit by political leadership is meant to bring hope to the people in the area, to ensure that water and service delivery is also seen to be top of the agenda of government.”

The press release went on to say: “He visited the community of the district following its appeal to government to intervene as the community was experiencing difficulties with regard to delivery of water services as result of the drought which has affected the area and other communities across the country. In response to these challenges, President Zuma has tasked all spheres of government to intervene and ensure that all communities have water.”

Zuma said it was a constitutional obligation for government to take care of its citizens to ensure a better life for all, and assured the community that government would prioritise addressing the drought problems not only in the district but also in other affected areas across the country, the presidency said.

Not a care in the world
Zuma’s speech was punctuated with many jokes and laughter from the crowd as he stood mostly with his hands in his pockets looking very relaxed.

A massive tent, spanning almost the full length of the Melmoth Rugby Club field, was packed to capacity and several big screens had been put in place to ensure the entire crowd had a view of Zuma.
Within seconds of him completing his speech, hundreds of attendees left, creating a small amount of chaos at one exit.

Several food parcels were also handed out, while the general atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. In stark contrast, many public toilets inside the town of Melmoth were closed with signs pinned up reading “Closed due to lack of water”.

Melmoth is one of many towns in northern KwaZulu-Natal that has had sporadic water supply over the past few months due to the drought that has emptied dams and left rivers running dry.

DA: ANC luring traditional leaders 
Meanwhile, the the Democratic Alliance on Sunday said that it was concerned about the African National Congeress’s “continued abuse of state resources to lure traditional leaders into campaigning for them in the upcoming local government elections.”

“According to media reports, Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza has now promised to build houses for the local chiefs and the province’s two kings, along with a share of R2-billion to drill 582 boreholes,” DA leader in the provincial legislature James Masango said.

While any effort to ensure that all citizens had access to clean water was welcomed, the timing of this promise was very suspicious. Many of the areas earmarked for borehole drilling did not have access to water long before the current drought set in.

“If premier Mabuza was truly genuine about providing relief to these areas, efforts to provide them with clean water would have been made years ago.”

It was becoming increasingly clear that the ANC would use whatever means at its disposal to hold on to the power that was “quickly slipping from their grip”. In a province that claimed to put citizens first, how could the ANC-led government even consider building houses for chiefs when the provincial housing backlog was 147 000? Masango asked.

“Just last year, the province handed over cars valued at R34-million, along with cattle, to the local chiefs and kings in what can only be described as a desperate bid to secure support for the ANC in the upcoming elections.

“It is no secret that Kgoshi Mathupa Mokoena, current chairman of Mpumalanga’s house of traditional leaders, is a former ANC MP and he has continued to be vocal about his support of the ruling party. Kgoshi Mokoena must be careful not to find himself in a position where he is perceived to be using his position as chairman and his political affiliation to strong-arm other traditional leaders into voting for the ANC.”

It was a “known fact” that the ANC was losing power across the country as people were fed up with a government that delivered nothing but promises. Resorting to bribery and cheap political tactics to gain votes would not save the ANC from itself.

The DA urged traditional leaders not to let themselves be used as the ANC’s campaign tools and instead continue to allow free and fair democratic processes to take place in their communities, Masango said. – ANA

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