South Africans try to see funny side of Zuma crisis

Wed Apr 6, 2016 8:40am EDT
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By Ed Cropley

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - With their economy flatlining, currency on the ropes and politics in turmoil, many South Africans are turning to humor for relief, mainly at the expense of President Jacob Zuma and his $16-million home improvements.

Within minutes of Zuma surviving Tuesday's heated impeachment vote in parliament thanks to unanimous support from African National Congress (ANC) loyalists, the 73-year-old traditionalist Zulu was facing another roasting on the nation's irreverent stand-up circuit.

"Jacob Zuma is the dude who just threw up all over the dance floor but still doesn't want to go home," comedian Lazola Gola quipped, to roars of laughter at an open mike event at Kitchener's Bar, a 100-year-old watering hole built in the heyday of Johannesburg's gold rush.

For comedians, Zuma is the gift that keeps on giving, a politician whose career has run the full gamut of scandal, from a love-child and corruption charges to foot-in-mouth insults of African countries and his belief, expressed during a 2006 rape trial, that having a shower can prevent transmission of HIV/AIDS.

However, no episode has surpassed the six-year imbroglio over the "security upgrades" to his sprawling Nkandla private residence that included an amphitheatre, swimming pool, cattle enclosure and chicken run.

Even though South Africa's top court said last week he had broken the constitution by disobeying a watchdog's order to pay back some money, Zuma has plowed on, blaming his lawyers for giving bum advice and apologizing for creating "confusion".

That represented a rare moment of contrition from a leader who has mocked his non-Zulu opponents' pronunciation of Nkandla - rolling his eyes in parliament and dragging out the main syllable, 'Nkaaaaaaaandla' - and has criticized "clever blacks" for getting upset about the issue.

Demonstrating political analysis as sharp as his wit, comedian Mojak Lehoko said Zuma's ability to ride out the constitutional court smack-down was no surprise.   Continued...

South African President Jacob Zuma listens at a news conference in Cape Town, in this  September 10, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/Files