South Africa’s leaders, he added, are failing those who sacrificed their lives to end apartheid.
When Zuma was elected in 2009, many thought his populist zeal would translate into more help for South Africa’s poor. But he quickly became entangled in scandal after scandal. Today, he is facing an official investigation and public rage over plans to upgrade his private rural homestead in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal province, at a cost of $27 million to taxpayers. The renovations reportedly include a helipad, underground parking, playgrounds, even a medical clinic.
According to local news reports, the cost dwarfs the amounts spent on the residences of previous presidents Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and F.W. de Klerk. Zuma’s aides insist he is personally responsible for paying for many of the upgrades.
Nevertheless, “Nkandlagate,” as it is has been dubbed here, has further eroded the credibility of Zuma and the ANC, critics say. Now, Zuma, 70, is facing a pitched battle for reelection as ANC president in December.
Other ANC leaders are also viewed as out of touch, and some have been criticized for having ties to mining companies, driving luxury cars and using their political influence to become extremely wealthy.
Still, the party’s problems have provided an opening for Julius Malema, a controversial former ANC youth leader, who was charged in September with fraud and money laundering. Publicly attacking Zuma, he has seized advantage of the outrage over the miners’ killings in an effort to rebuild popularity since his expulsion from the ANC earlier this year for hate speech, including calls to kill whites.
Some anti-apartheid stalwarts say the ANC has yet to make the transition from leading freedom fighters to leading a democratic nation.
“We believe that because we had a liberation movement that we loved and respected so much, we thought that alone would fix the problems,” said Mamphela Ramphele, a prominent anti-apartheid activist and partner of Steve Biko, the black consciousness leader who was brutally killed in police custody in 1977. “The biggest failure of the ANC is it not understanding that you cannot govern a modern democracy with 1950s ideas.”
Biko, she said, “would be disappointed” at today’s South Africa. “I think we need to find a way of rediscovering the dreams that drove all of us to sacrifice so much,” added Ramphele.