@Zapiro, The Times, South Africa, July 8, 2014, Courtesy: www.zapiro.com, All Rights Reserved
For more than six years, South African President Jacob Zuma has been under pressure to reimburse the government for the $23 million in state funds that were used to make "improvements" to his private home near Nkandla, in KwaZulu-natal. Those supposed security upgrades include a swimming pool, an amphitheater and visitors' center.
On Wednesday, Zuma finally relented and agreed to pay some of it back.
But not everyone is impressed by Zuma's change of heart — Jonathan Shapiro among them. Better known as Zapiro, he is one of South Africa's best known political cartoonist.
"It's not really a change of heart. What's happening is that a very big case brought by the main opposition, the Democratic Alliance, is coming to the Constitutional Court of South Africa." Think America's Supreme Court.
"[Zuma] has found every which way to try and obfuscate and pretend that the public protector's report is not the important report," Zapiro adds. One famous example: President Zuma commissioned his own report in 2015 from South Africa's Police Minister on the upgrades made at Nkandla. The conclusion: all the upgrades were necessary for Zuma's security and the South African president didn't need to repay anything. Zapiro pounced.
Zapiro chuckles over that report's descriptions of how luxury upgrades did double duty as security features. "The swimming pool was called a fire pool because it was supposedly there to be able to put out fires on the thatched roofs of the houses, that sort of thing. 'Essential security amenities' were two soccer pitches for the security guards in their leisure time. 'Community clinic' was actually a Zuma family clinic and was fenced off from the community. 'Retaining wall' was in fact the amphitheater."
Zapiro has been an unrelenting critic of President Zuma and considers him an unfortunate successor to the first two presidents of post-apartheid South Africa.
He acknowledges Zuma's important role in the struggle against apartheid and considers him a 'struggle hero' but says "Jacob Zuma is a kind of rural patriarch. He really does not appear to have a proper grasp of what it means to be accountable."
And with sad resignation, Zapiro hurls his biggest insult: "He is flirting with the kind of banana republic stuff that we never ever thought we'd see in the new South Africa."