President Jacob Zuma. Picture: THE TIMES
President Jacob Zuma. Picture: THE TIMES

THE South African Communist Party (SACP) in KwaZulu-Natal is proposing that legislation be drafted to protect the dignity of the president, to prevent people from "insulting" him.

Several countries have such legislation, which is often used to imprison the opponents of governments.

There has been an uproar over the R248m in state funds spent on President Jacob Zuma’s private home at Nkandla. Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille tried to inspect the compound two weeks ago, but was thwarted by protesting African National Congress supporters. Insults hurled at Ms Zille afterwards included that she was a "white supremacist".

The SACP in KwaZulu-Natal will march to Nkandla on Saturday in support of rural development, secretary Themba Mthembu said on Monday. He said many countries had realised after a president was appointed that "some respect needs be given to that person".

Mr Zuma had been the subject of a "barrage of attacks which were unfair and lacking in fact and truth", Mr Mthembu said. "Things such as The Spear painting tend to insult the president. We want to prevent criticism which is an insult to the office of the president. They can criticise, as long as they don’t insult and undermine the head of state."

Mr Mthembu said the auditor-general’s investigation into the funding of Mr Zuma’s house was welcomed, as the amount spent seemed too high.

However, Nkandla was one of three pilot areas identified by the government for rural development and its people should not be discriminated against simply because Mr Zuma was one of their neighbours, he said.

Political analyst Protas Madlala said the idea of a law to protect the president’s dignity "sounds ridiculous to me ... they want to protect him from what, don’t they have better things to do?"

DA KwaZulu-Natal leader Sizwe Mchunu said that while his party supported initiatives to improve people’s lives, the spending on Mr Zuma’s house was "shocking" taking into account the surroundings at Nkandla, where there was no "water sanitation or basic services".

With Sapa