Nkandla: the unexplored frontier for heritage tourism to Zululand, South Africa


South Africa is currently experiencing its ‘’special period’’ as there is too much doom and gloom. The announcement that President Jacob Zuma had paid back the money for non-security upgrades at his Nkandla brings to finality this national tragedy and just like Marikana, it must never happen again.

South Africa have longed for leadership from the President on the subject of Nkandla until the Constitutional Court as the ultimate arbitrator indicated that the President had to pay an amount that was determined by Treasury.

President Jacob Zuma must be congratulated for complying with the instructions by the Constitutional Court, ensuring that South Africa remains a rules based society by paying within the stipulated time period.

The tragedy of Nkandla is replicated in many of South African towns and cities, poverty and opulence living side by side. As a Free Stater and an aspirant ‘’clever black’’ the shock of passing the two worlds around Diepslot has never given me inner-peace. On this side is a plethora of shacks, a sea of lack of have, whilst on the same road, the emergence of Tuscan shaped houses reflecting the haves, living close to the non-haves. Ours is a divided society where the vast majority of our citizens remains unfree in their own countries as poverty, unemployment and inequality manifest in their daily lives.

The post-apartheid state has failed to deliver double digit economic growth as the world economy ravaged South Africa when it became integrated in the world economy. ‘’Jobless’’ growth became a reality, whilst today we have the greatest threat, a ratings downgrade for a government with around R2 trillion in debt.

The country as it enters this ‘’special period’’ like Cuba must make some hard choices considering the following realities. The lowest period business confidence in 20 years, a currency crisis since 2011, the lowest growth rate since the Great Recession, the companies of the JSE ‘toyi-toying’ against investment in the economy with around R460 billion gathering dust in bank accounts instead of investing in the economy. The political uncertainty that has crippled the ANC and government, is felt at all levels, as business talks about policy uncertainty. The proxy wars that should be under a veil, also do little to stimulate investor confidence, whilst FDI receipts have decreased by more than 70%. The mining jobs bloodbath continues unabated, whilst the drought was severe.

I think by now you get a clear picture that we are in trouble times, but being the eternal optimist, I acknowledge that times of trouble are times of opportunity. The hegemony of the national discourse around Nkandla is that it was something bad, and reflected the failure of our political and administrative systems in government. It led to countless commissions and possibly a greater expenditure than the non-security upgrades cost. An unintended consequence it marketed and made Nkandla a probable tourism destination, primarily for locals and possibly for international tourists.

Yes, we want to see ‘’this Nkandla’’ and it became enshrined in the bucket list of attractions to see. The lemon became lemonade as I asked myself what is the contribution of the intelligentsia to the national discourse around Nkandla. Being a tourism advocator as a vital force for development, I would obviously see the positive impact that this would make in uplifting people out of poverty.

Well I penned an article and The Mercury titled it ‘’Turn Nkandla into a tourist attraction’’. This is motivated by the fact that Nkandla is a beautiful area where rural based tourism that is pro-poor can be developed to ensure that we create places of accommodation for a variety of tastes.

For those passing Nkandla, let us work together to ensure we creatively benefit from the ‘’R10 economy’’ which seeks to ensure that each passing car, truck and bulk stops in Nkandla and they each spend R10 to benefit the local economy. Yes, we must find a new language around Nkandla as we have been so obsessed with the President Zuma’s Nkandla home that we forgot the people of Nkandla.

Tourism remains the only viable option to liberate people out of poverty. Nkandla has many attractions such as the Mome Gorge as home to the Bambata Rebellion, the Shu-Shu hot springs, the beautiful and mystical Nkandla Forest, and the grave of King Cetshwayo. All these attractions were completely oblivious to many in the Fourth Estate that forgot the people and were obsessed only about President Zuma’s homestead, and forgot there is more to Nkandla than President Zuma. They failed their journalistic duty and maybe they should wait for the journal article titled Nkandla: the unexplored frontier for heritage tourism to Zululand, South Africa.

Mr. Unathi Sonwabile Henama teaches tourism at the Tshwane University of Technology and writes in his personal capacity.


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