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Hey Mr President, I’m your neighbour!

I can see your new pozzie from my stoep. That big compound that has been upgraded by almost R300 000 000. Wow, that’s a lot of zeros! I wonder if you were asked to read that number out in a speech, if you actually could. Maybe you could. But you definitely couldn’t if the number read R295 600 900. That would confuse you. But don’t worry; I don’t know what to do with all those numbers either. Here's the Nkandla report from Times Live 

You see. I am poor. I am dirt, mud, gravel poor. I'm the churchmouse’s charity case.

I live in a mud and tin shack across the way from yours. Also in Nkandla, so these days my address is tantamount to Hollywood Boulevard; you’ve really made us a hot topic. Press everywhere, even when you banned them all. I remember your house when it was also just a shack like mine. Those were the days. You were a simple man with the same simple needs as me. Your father a policeman, your mother a cleaner.

We walk a lot around here.

I don’t have a car and I work in town, (Ulundi). So it’s about three hours a day that I am waiting for buses or minibus taxis. Sometimes longer. But don’t worry; my friends all do the same. We chat and sleep on the bus. We chat and sleep on the minibus taxis. Sometimes we chat about you and your party. A lot of my friends, like me, can remember you as a youngster – full of big ideas and opinions. You made a lot noise back then. A lot of us thought you were an idiot. You were in Umkhonto and with the communists and really seemed to be fighting from all angles, wherever your travels took you.   

But there were a great many fighters in those days; some were exemplary men and others were simply noisy followers, but our struggle was nation wide and I guess your late father would have been proud that you had ideas of greatness despite your lack of education. Still, some of us thought you were an idiot. But don’t worry, in Nkandla we see a lot of idiots.

Your house grew a little and a little more as you rose up the ranks. The New South Africa was very good to you. You stuck to your roots and traditional ways despite the pressure to conform how the whites do things – so many wives; always jobs for a friend. My house stayed the same but my mielies grew and I got a job closer to home when my wife was fired. So I could help at with our six children. At least I don’t have twenty one children. That must be why you have so many wives!

When they started upgrading your home a few years ago, the town thought we were all getting an upgrade! You should have seen the excitement when the tarring trucks arrived for your fancy roads! It was nice to finally say that Nkandla had some tarred roads, even though we don’t get to walk them. They kept building and building – it was a sight to behold! Here's a picture of (some of) the homestead A lot of the local boys tried to get jobs there, but the jobs were all taken by other friends of the ANC from the big cities.

Now you are president. You are allowed a fancy house. In fact, we, the people insist that you have a fancy house. But in this part of our country – your country – a fancy house would easily only cost on tenth, no one hundredth of what you spent. It’s not a lush area, no one owns fancy cars or lives in mansions. We live simple lives of rural design and really fend for ourselves. There are no gyms, no malls, no airports. Not in our village, anyway. Don’t worry; we all get by growing our own animals and vegetables, occasionally shop for mieliemeal and dry beans.

But you, Mr Zuma, have all of these things now, for yourself. I've never seen you play tennis, but I am certain one of your children will use the new court for something. I also imagine fantastic presidential-style pool parties at your new ‘fire pit/swimming pool.’ Here, we don’t really swim in pools – we use rivers and water-filled potholes to cool off.

I’m a typical South African, Mr President. I put you in power by voting for you. First I voted for the great men who came before you, Mandela and Mbeki. When Mandela built his mansion, I really felt proud of that man. He had a fancy home and built some infrastructure in his home village to better them all. (Here's a graph showing the levels of spending on the five last president's homes) I wish you had learnt from him; Qunu benefitied from her legendary son. After all she gave him as a child, he returned the favour as an adult. That is the true spirit of uBuntu. Mandela's Qunu house pictured here

Your pockets have been well lined for your retirement. Even if you live as long as our beloved Tata, I am certain your wealth will last. Unlike rape charges, corruption charges, illicit friendships and improper protocol, you have managed to stick with the gravy train of your own making. The puppets who dance for you also seem to be aboard your ridiculously blatant fraudulent express. The fact that you have three times the government officers your predecessors had speaks volumes of your volumous over-spending. But don’t worry, we can't actually stop you.

In my village – your village – I have no running water or electricity. Your government employed street cleaners don’t work around here, so we have the streets strewn with trash and children who don’t get to school anymore. Tsotsis and unemployed walk aimlessly searching for opportunities that never prove fruitful. Your opulence, which was once an amazing sight of encouragement and hope for all the Nkandla dwellers, is now like a delicious banquet behind a glass wall laid out in front of starving masses. No wonder we are protesting and reporting to the press that our village is still without basic amenities; amenities that are well within our grasp as they lie simply beyond your lavish electric fence. I crap in a hole in the ground, Jacob. I send my children to a river to fetch water so that we can all wash. We eat our food from a wood fire by paraffin lamp. You’ve pissed us off, to be honest. When I saw in the papers that instead of building your house, the money could have been used to build over fifteen schools or two thousand five hundred houses, I was appalled. I thought of my mud and tin and wondered how many toilets your Nkandla has. A shocking infographic of how Nkandla millions could have been better spent or Another version with slightly different statistics

Once upon a time we saw you as one of us who’d risen above: the ‘nobody’ who became a president and a role model to all our sons. Now we see you as one of them – those people who abuse their privilege and neglect their supporters. We have shouted and demanded and you have returned our uprising with clever rhetoric and promises. And like the sheep we raise on the fields surrounding your mini-village, we blindly follow.

There’s a tie that binds us to your words of hope that makes us forgetful of the facts and burns into our minds only images of a past to which we pray we will never return.

There’s an underlying threat to the words you use that places a fear in our hearts of those that stand against your party and makes us unable to leave your demon-like grip. We don’t want to look elsewhere as it petrifies us. We don’t want to go back to what we had because it was cruel and unjust.

When you speak of your reign and contrast it to what the others offer, you speak of things we can only dream of. And you tell us that they are lying. You ban their adverts and silence their speeches. You paint them with the racism brush and you render them mute in the press. There does not seem to be an alternative: either we go with you, or we go back to the dark days of Apartheid. We don’t know any better than the life we live now and the one you promise to us for ‘the-great-someday’. And so we will wait. And we will cast our ballots come election day.

Don’t worry Jacob, no matter what happens, we can't help but vote ANC and for as long as you’re the man on the poster, we can't help but vote for you. 



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