Municipality wants to fund ex President Zuma’s musical career, but the opposition says it’s a waste

Jacob Zuma is alleged to have made millions from systemic political corruption, but with his legal fees costing him about R10 million ($689.69) thanks to a court ruling in November 2018, the former president has decided to delve into music as he signs a record deal.

The record deal was signed with officials of eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality, Zuma’s home province and the heartland of his support base, however, South Africa’s opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), says funding Zuma’s music career is a waste of resources. The album is to consist of protest songs that would preserve an aspect of South Africa’s cultural heritage, according to eThekwinio officials.

The argument made by the leader of the Democratic Alliance, Zwakele Mncwango, is that the government resources of eThekwini district should be used to help young people launch careers in music rather than funding an ex president who spent nine years in office and is embroiled in a corruption controversy.

“We’re for promoting of culture and heritage. Our problem is when the municipality is wasting money on a former president who is trying his luck on the music industry, while we have upcoming artists who need assistance,” Mncwango argued.

Zuma usually sang Bring Me My Machine Gun, a song now considered his trademark tune, at rallies prior to his exit from office.

Giving his love for music and his understanding of the country’s history, the head of eThekwin Parks, Recreation and Culture, Thembinkosi Ngcobo said Zuma is the best person to tell the story of the South African struggles through songs, especially as the department did not find any recordings of old struggle songs.

“We were looking at artists and trying to revive these types of songs. It was very difficult. We tried to find any archived material that had video clips or any voice clips but we could not find anything in the museums,” Ngcobo said.

Meanwhile, musicians like Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba who sang about the struggles of South Africans during the apartheid, were exiled for years for criticizing the government. The government ban any song that dared criticize the government.

During South Africa’s struggle against white-minority rule in the 1940s, songs played a vital role in galvanising popular support as well as boosting protesters’ morale, giving rise to Stevie Wonder’s It’s Wrong (apartheid) song, Brenda Fassie’s “Black President“, Johnny Clegg and Savuka’s”Asim’bonanga“, Eddy Grant’s “Gimme Hope Jo’Anna” among others. These songs are still played today, with video and audio clips online for easy access.

If Zuma understands the history and emotion behind the songs he sings, that most of the young people are unaware of, like the officials claim, then preserving the history of the South African people through songs is a welcome development. However, there are better ways to go about it; like Zuma narrating and a musician singing.

Nicole Graham, the opposition party councillor said the DA would “fight this matter tooth and nail,”  noting that, “It is impossible that any rational person would believe that a corrupt and disgraced former president singing ANC struggle songs holds any benefit to the people of eThekwini.”