South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, in a early campaign speech for this year’s national elections, promised villagers in the country’s rural north that if they gave his party a landslide victory, he would return to their province and kill cows.
Zuma pledged that if the remote Mpumalanga province voted for the African National Congress by at least 90 percent, he would make a trip back to the region and slaughter cattle.
“If you get below 90%, I won’t come back,” the 71-year-old Zuma said, quoted in South Africa’s Daily Maverick online newspaper.
According to Britain’s Daily Mail, Zuma also told the villagers in KaNyamazane that during the apartheid era, he practiced witchcraft against the ruling white majority. But Zuma’s chief spokesperson, Mac Maharaj, later clarified that statement, as reported by City Press reporter Sabelo Ndlangisa on his own Twitter account.
Mac Maharaj eventually explains what Zuma meant by “ukuthakatha”. He meant underground struggle work, not witchcraft as literalists thought
— sabelo ndlangisa (@Bhintsintsi) January 10, 2014
Zuma addressed the villagers in their native Zulu language.
The South African president made a series of strange statements in the speech that alarmed political observers in South Africa and gave his opponents plenty of material to use against him.
Zuma declared that the African National Congress would rule South Africa “forever and ever,” and that if re-elected into power by a two-thirds majority, the ANC would change the country’s constitution and replace it with a new one that people that no one outside the ANC has yet seen.
“Whether they like it or not, we’ll continue to govern,” Zuma said. They always say the ANC won’t win. When they say that they are daydreaming. Because when a person is dreaming while walking it means he’s unstable.”
A date for the elections has not been set. Under South African electoral laws, it is up to the president to declare and election date.
The national spokesperson for ANC, Jackson Mthembu, didn’t even try to spin Zuma’s remarks.
“I’m not the one who was making the speech,” Mthembu said. “Ask him. It is unfair to us for you to ask us to decode someone else’s speech.”
It’s no surprise that Zuma’s speech was greeted with frustration by the ANC, the party that has ruled South Africa since sweeping into power behind its leader, Nelson Mandela, in 1994 when South Africa held its first post-apartheid elections.
The party has been struggling to contain the political fallout from a graft scandal in which Zuma is alleged to have diverted the equivalent of $18 million in public funds for improvements to his own palatial estate, The New Age online newspaper reports.
Zuma was booed at a memorial service for Mandela last month, after the former president passed away at age 95.
But the “Nkandla” scandal is not the first time Zuma has battled charges of unlawful conduct. In 2005 he was accused of rape by a 31-year-old woman who was HIV positive. Zuma admitted to having unprotected sex with the woman, but contended that the relations were consensual. A judge agreed.
The case was thought to damage Zuma’s political future in a country where about 6 million of the 53 million population was believed to have AIDS or be HIV-positive.
But Zuma at the time denied the connection between unprotected sex and HIV transmission, saying that taking a shower after sex was enough to prevent the virus from being spread.
Zuma was elected president of South Africa in 2009 anyway.