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Jacob Zuma: Ex South Africa president in row over music album

South Africa’s ex-President Jacob Zuma is embroiled in a new political row – after signing an unexpected record deal.

Former South African President Jacob Zuma
Former South African President Jacob Zuma

The eThekwini district agreed to fund an album of protest songs sung by him, which officials said would preserve an aspect of cultural heritage.

But South Africa’s opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), has branded the move a waste of resources.

Mr Zuma often sings his trademark tune, Bring Me My Machine Gun, at rallies.

eThekwini is a district in KwaZulu-Natal, Mr Zuma’s home province and the heartland of his support base.

Local DA leader Zwakele Mncwango argued that the area’s government resources should be used to help young people launch careers in music.

“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,” local outlet eNCA quoted him as saying.

DA councillor Nicole Graham said the party would “fight this matter tooth and nail,” saying: “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.”

Mr Zuma, 76, was forced out of power in February 2018 by his own party, the African National Congress (ANC). He is facing several corruption charges linked to a 1990s arms deal. He denies wrongdoing.

‘He has the talent and understands the history’

During the struggle against white-minority rule in South Africa, songs played a vital role in galvanising popular support, and boosting protesters’ morale.

eThekwini’s Parks, Recreation and Culture chief Thembinkosi Ngcobo said the department had suggested signing up Mr Zuma after it failed to find any recordings of the old struggle songs.

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

At that point, they realised Mr Zuma was often heard singing the songs.

“He has the talent and understands the history and emotion behind the music,” Mr Ngcobo said. “He was singing the songs in the 80s and 90s and even before. Most of the young people in the ANC do not even know them.”

In December, a South African court ruled that Mr Zuma must pay back money provided for his legal fees, after battling multiple allegations of corruption for more than a decade.

It is estimated that the state has paid between $1m (£792,000) and $2.2m in legal costs for him.

The former president also joined the social network Twitter last month, saying: “I’ve decided to move with the times and join this important area of conversation because I hear that many are talking about me as well as others calling themselves Zuma. I have felt it necessary to join in and be part of the conversation.” BBC