President Zuma seems to court controversy at every turn but the Nkandla scandal is one that will probably remain in the memory of people for years to come and will definitely be a constant spoiler of Zuma’s image.
Zuma’s image took a beating as discussions on the scandal persisted and the opposition took the opportunity to brow-beat the President and ruling party ANC on the grounds of mismanaging the country’s finances which is an unforgivable sin in any country. Especially when said mismanagement is as obvious as Nkandla’s upgrade was; complete with lavish improvements that included a swimming pool and amphitheatre.
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The Constitutional Court had ordered President Zuma in March to return some of the $16 million spent on enhancing his residence at Nkandla in the KwaZulu-Natal province. The Nkandla scandal put side by side with previous scandals, South Africa’s stagnating economy and a record rise in unemployment, seemed enough to topple President Zuma. He barely survived an impeachment vote later in April over the Nkandla costs.
Zuma’s decisions on the Finance Ministry of South Africa which has seen three different people occupy the position since December last year and subsequently caused the country’s currency to suffer on international markets, has also dented his image.
South Africans also took him to task over his dealings with the Gupta family, even now, an anti-graft watchdog is investigating whether Zuma was influenced by the Guptas to make cabinet appointments.
President Zuma’s image is therefore not exactly shiny. On Monday, however, the president’s office said Zuma had taken out a home loan on standard terms from private black-owned VBS Mutual Bank to repay 7.8 million rand ($538,000) which is the sum determined by the Treasury in June as the “reasonable cost” that Zuma should bear.
VBS Mutual says on its website that its loans policy covers upgrades to homes and the presidency’s spokesman Bongani Ngqulunga has been quick to assure the public that; “There was no special dispensation for the president, he received the loan on standard terms, the same terms as anybody else.”
The main opposition party Democratic Alliance (DA), speaking on the loan repayment, said in a statement that it welcomed the repayment but it was still only “the tip of the iceberg in this corruption-plagued saga.”
Seemingly, keeping with the sentiments of the DA, analysts have said that the repayment would not help Zuma’s image. Daniel Silke, a director at Political Futures Consultancy told Reuters; “The South African electorate have already judged Zuma, and they are not about to change their opinion.”