Many South Africans are disappointed that there has been little improvement in the bitter poverty many of them endure, while others have grown frustrated with the many scandals and allegations of corruption that have swirled around Zuma. But most of the nation, particularly older South Africans, still pledge their allegiance to the African National Congress, Zuma’s ruling party that has long been the face of Black independence.
Sinolo Msuthu lives in a shack and he still plans to vote for the ruling African National Congress in tomorrow’s election.
“They are the ones who brought us freedom,” 19-year-old Msuthu told Bloomberg News, speaking of the ANC. “It’s the party I like, not the president.”
Msuthu is upset that taxpayers’ money was used to build a swimming pool and amphitheater at Zuma’s home.
As pointed out by The Guardian, Zuma has survived all manner of scandals during his 72 years. The former cattle herder, who was a freedom fighter and Robben Island prisoner along with Nelson Mandela, was tried and acquitted of raping a family friend and over the years has faced more than 700 charges of racketeering, corruption, money laundering and fraud.
In March, South Africa’s public ombudsman said some of the $20 million taxpayer-funded refurbishments to Zuma’s luxurious residence were unlawful and ordered him to repay part of the cost.
“Some of these measures can be legitimately classified as unlawful and the acts involved constitute improper conduct and maladministration,” Thuli Madonsela said in a much-awaited report that was released just weeks ahead of the presidential election.
The scathing report, which also implicated several ministers, found that Zuma violated the executive ethics code by failing to protect state resources. The ombudsman ordered Zuma to “pay a reasonable percentage of the cost of the measures” that are not related to security at his sprawling homestead.
Zuma was memorably booed during a televised memorial service for Mandela last December.
But as the head of the ANC, Zuma will get the benefit of an intense loyalty to the party, which is expected to win its fifth consecutive national vote victory since it negotiated an end to apartheid.
A survey by Ipsos on May 2 showed 63 percent of 3,370 registered voters interviewed in February and March supported the 102-year-old ANC. But that number was down from the party’s 65.9 percent backing five years ago.
Another Ipsos poll in November found that 48 percent said the country was moving in the wrong direction, while half rated Zuma’s performance as poor.
According to Mark Rosenberg, an Africa analyst at Eurasia Group, a New York-based risk advisory company, the voting pattern in South Africa is similar to nations such as India and neighboring Mozambique, where parties that delivered independence retained power long after the electorate became dissatisfied with their performance.
In wide-ranging comments on the eve of the election reported in The Guardian, Zuma was defiant and combative in addressing the charges against him.
“Before 1994 nobody talked about corruption in this country, and there was a lot of corruption,” he said. “The ANC was the first organization to talk about corruption: there is corruption, we’re going to fight it.
“If you talk about corruption in South Africa, only the ANC is doing something about corruption … All others, including you guys, you write about it, you talk about it, you criticize it, but you do nothing about it. The ANC does something about it.”
He added: “Now, I always say, but what’s happening in this country? Instead of people saying: ‘Thanks ANC, you started a war against corruption and you are fighting it,’ you say, ‘this organization is corrupt.’ But that is deliberate misinforming yourselves and the country. The ANC is fighting corruption … If I was a journalist, I would have a special column to talk about this matter, to clarify the matter for the people of this country.”
As for the charges that he used taxpayer money on his home, including adding a chicken coop, amphitheatre and swimming pool, Zuma blamed the media.
“I’m a citizen and I’m sure I also need protection,” he said. “And if the public protector has a duty to protect, she has to protect me as well so that I’m not unfairly described to the public, that this is the house. Because you make a person who does not know believe that indeed, this must be equivalent to so many millions.
“If I was a reporter, I would have said: ‘This allegation that President Zuma is corrupt, he embezzled 250m building his house, is not correct,’ and made the headlines as you are making the headlines about the allegation. You have not done so and I don’t think it is a fair treatment to a citizen because you want that impression to remain.”
Asked about the fact that he has lost the support of retired archbishop Desmond Tutu, Zuma said, “My understanding is that bishops and pastors are there to pray for those who go wrong, not to enter into political lives. Should I now stand here and oppose Tutu and go toe-to-toe with Tutu? I don’t think so.”