Nkandla: The racist compound

Timing and context aside, choosing “compound” as the exemplar of racist motivation was also ill-advised, as Maharaj would soon discover. Had it remained just a passing comment, made off the cuff in a medium that is more transient than most, the “compound’ debacle would not have been all that embarrassing to Maharaj and Zuma. Then the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) came to the party.

“You are hereby notified that, with immediate effect, President Zuma’s Nkandla home should be referred to as the President’s, or Mr Zuma’s, ‘Nkandla residence’, and not a ‘compound’ or ‘homestead’ or any other such term,” read a memo issued to staff by SABC head of news Jimi Matthews, shortly after Maharaj decried the term, and leaked almost immediately. “Please also refrain from using imported terminology in reporting on the controversy surrounding the infrastructural developments around the residence, such as ‘Nkandlagate’, ‘Zumaville’ and such like.”