Former president Jacob Zuma’s decision to fly budget on a domestic airline, Kulula, was possibly a decision taken to garner public empathy and sustain the notion that he has no money.
Zuma appears in the Durban High Court today facing charges related to the arms deal amid calls for him to pay his own legal fees.
According to political analyst Ralph Mathekga, the former president was being “practical” and trying to “cement the idea that he does not have money”.
He also wanted to portray that he is an ordinary person, just like the average South African, Mathekga said.
Although Zuma is entitled to free business class tickets on South African Airways (SAA) due to him being a former head of state, he decided to ditch his comfortable seats to “be with the people” on a Kulula flight.
Zuma was travelling to the home of anti-apartheid struggle veteran Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in Orlando, Soweto, where he went to pay his respects to her family after her sudden death at the Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg on Monday.
“I guess it’s the reality that he is no longer the president and that he has all sorts of legal challenges, including legal fees for his corruption case,” Mathekga said.
“Even if he is entitled to business class, he can’t fly business class and also ask the state to pay his legal fees.
“So certainly the president will have to learn to be more frugal.
“He is trying to invoke public empathy and create the impression that he is ‘one of them’ but still, the [reason behind this] is because Zuma doesn’t have money – perhaps.”
While other political leaders, such as President Cyril Ramaphosa, Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille have done this before, Mathekga said that, for Zuma, following in their footsteps has no political significance.
“Zuma is a ‘has-been’. There is no political mileage for him out of this.
“For him it is a different world altogether than that of Gordhan and Ramaphosa. They might still have political mileage to score but Zuma doesn’t,” Mathekga said.