Portrait | A friendly smile, a cunning agenda and a poisonous tongue


Portrait | A friendly smile, a cunning agenda and a poisonous tongue

Her lavish lifestyle and fervent support of her father have caused some people to refer to Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla as the ‘Ivanka Trump of Nkandla', but behind her good looks and friendly smile there is malice and an agenda that makes her far more dangerous than Donald Trump's daughter, writes WILLEM KEMPEN.

IN all the years that Jacob Zuma's most politically active child operated mainly on the digital battlefields of Twitter (and later X), Instagram and TikTok, it was fairly easy to keep an uncomfortable truth from the public eye: her limited fluency in Zulu.

That's why many people were surprised when she needed an interpreter in May when she unexpectedly had to stand in for her father to address MK supporters in Wentworth, KwaZulu-Natal. Yes, Jacob Zuma's daughter is less fluent in Zulu than the DA's white premier candidate in the province, Chris Pappas.

Her reaction on X was also typical Duduzile, as she tried to spin it as an attack on her use of English when in fact people wanted to know why her Zulu is so lacking:

Lees hierdie artikel in Afrikaans:

The part about “apartheid disadvantaged me" won't convince everyone either, but at least it's closer to the truth. She and her twin brother, Duduzane, were born in Mozambique and spent most of their childhood years in countries where they might not have heard much Zulu.

With a father known for his wandering eye (and other organs), and who has at least 23 children from six marriages, Duduzile's childhood could not have been easy. She was 18 when her mother, Kate Mantsho Zuma, took her own life. In a letter that Kate allegedly left behind and which was somehow leaked to certain newspapers, she described her marriage to Jacob Zuma as “24 years in hell".

Two years after her father became president of the country in 2009, Duduzile married businessman Lonwabo Sambudla at an extravagant event at Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve outside East London. (Although they have since become estranged, she still uses her husband's surname.)

The marriage was a spectacular showcase of what Jacob Zuma was doing to the country. The couple met while Duduzile was still a board member of the Guptas' Sahara Computers, and among the more than 600 guests was an abundance of tenderpreneurs, state capturers and other dubious characters, including the groom and the bride's brother. And with Range Rovers, Bentleys, Maseratis and other exotic wheels all over the place.

Around Duduzile's neck was a diamond necklace which at the time was worth about R1.5 million; her wedding dress was decorated with Swarovski crystals; her shoes were by French designer Christian Louboutin.

Among the guests: Kenny Kunene, who was still a friend of Gayton McKenzie's back then and showed up in a black Lamborghini; Khulubuse Zuma of Aurora Empowerment Systems/Pamodzi fame; and Jacob Zuma's cousin Mandla Gcaba, who had managed to be awarded a R300 million contract to operate Durban's bus service without having to tender.

Although Duduzile reportedly still receives a generous monthly allowance from Sambudla, her millionaire lifestyle has not quite survived her father's political downfall. By the time Jacob Zuma's fight with Chief Justice Raymond Zondo was at its fiercest, Duduzile had taken over from her twin brother as the leading social media campaigner for her father and the so-called RET faction in the ANC. For example, in February 2021, she tweeted:

A few days earlier, she posted this when Bheki Cele went to plead with her father to cooperate with the Zondo commission:

And, after buses full of supporters had turned up at Nkandla to support Jacob Zuma:

Another five days later, along with a video of trucks being set on fire at the Mooi River toll plaza on the N3, she posted:

Aside from half-hearted claims that some of the posts on Twitter under her name were done by someone else, Duduzile did nothing but further inflame the violence and looting of July 2021. On this subject, the late Jessie Duarte, then acting secretary-general of the ANC, said the former president's daughter would be “held accountable".

“She will have to answer. She is a member of the ANC and equal to every other member of the ANC. She will have to explain what her tweets mean. We are very concerned about Duduzile,” said Duarte.

Nothing came of this “concern", just like the ANC did not immediately take action against Jacob Zuma when he openly started canvassing for his new party last December when he was still a member of the ANC. Just like the ANC was caught fast asleep while it was being robbed of the historical name “uMkhonto weSizwe".

And just like no one could or wanted to intervene when Duduzile travelled to Russia shortly after Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 then began drawing comparisons between her father's time as president, Russia's support for the liberation movements during apartheid and the fight against “Western imperialism."

The Centre for Information Resilience investigated campaigns such as #IStandWithPutin and #IStandWithRussia in collaboration with South African researchers. Ross Burley, co-founder of the CIR, says of this report:

“It is impossible to definitively establish Duduzile Sambudla-Zuma’s direct connections to Putin, the Kremlin or government figures within Russia. Nor is it possible to unambiguously prove that she is knowingly working on behalf of any disinformation campaigns.

“However, this report has demonstrated that regardless of intent, Sambudla-Zuma's account has been the main amplifier of the #IStandwithPutin trend on South African communities on Twitter. Her apparent actions amplifying Kremlin narratives online come at around the time of a trip to Moscow.

“At a time when open-source organisations, including CIR, and media organisations around the world have documented a vast number of human rights incidents and war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine, Sambudla-Zuma’s actions raise, at the very least, serious questions to answer."

A lighter moment with Dad.
A lighter moment with Dad.

With the advent of the MK Party, Duduzile is no longer just a social media activist. She is 18th on the party's national candidates list and is accused in court by the ousted Jabulani Khumalo of falsifying the resignation letter that cost him his position in the party.

But she clearly hasn't lost her talent for propaganda on social media, and she was never far from the action when the MK Party threatened violence before and after the election and tried to cast suspicion on the Electoral Commission and its commissioners, including Janet Love.

The Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change traces this kind of behaviour back to the RET resistance against Cyril Ramaphosa when he took over as president from Jacob Zuma, in a report entitled From RET to MK Party: The mobilisation of existing Twitter/X communities to drive political messaging."

The report says: “The RET community, which took over the mantle of the Guptabots, and was led by anonymous accounts, had a latent level of support for the EFF up until when the MK Party was launched. At this point, the community switched wholesale over to promoting the MK Party."

We have to keep reminding ourselves that social media is not reality, but we also dare not just look on as people with nefarious agendas manipulate it to their own advantage. State capture 2.0 is not a far-fetched possibility at all.

♦ VWB ♦

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