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Zuma’s about-turn suggests South Africa faces another unhinged political year

Why now? Will he really #PayBackTheMoney? How much of it will he pay back? These are some of the questions on the lips of many South Africans.

These questions come after President Jacob Zuma’s surprise announcement that he would pay back part of the R246 million of public money that was improperly spent on his private homestead at Nkandla.

Zuma’s about-turn came three days before the deadline set by the Constitutional Court for an out-of-court settlement with political opposition parties over the Nkandla furore.

His offer, after more than three years of denial, also comes at the dawn of the 2016 parliamentary calendar. There are many permutations explaining why now is the perfect time for Zuma to finally submit to the mounting pressure to #PayBackTheMoney.

Many people suggest he chose this moment to limit the lambasting expected from opposition parties during his upcoming State of the Nation address.

One could even say that his act of “benevolence” would augur well for the governing African National Congress’ (ANC) campaign in the upcoming local government elections.

It might be a stretch, but with a Constitutional Court case looming, he might have even had a change of heart.

The cases against Zuma were lodged by opposition parties, the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters. They want the court to force Zuma to comply with the Public Protector’s report Secure in Comfort.

They argue that the report contains enough ammunition to prove that Zuma should be held liable for the misuse of public money on his Nkandla residence.

As no settlement was reached between Zuma and the opposition parties that took him to court in a bid to force him to pay, the case against him will go ahead on February 9.

Regardless of the reason, moments such as these are sure to have lasting implications for Zuma’s administration and legacy, as well as for the ANC’s future.

The Conversation

truewan Feb 2016

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