A KwaZulu-Natal snake handler is hissing mad after not being paid for removing snakes and reptiles in and around President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead.
Jaco Dercksen has accused First Lady Tobeka Madiba Zuma’s foundation of ignoring his pleas for payment after he and other snake catchers were called to find and remove snakes from the property.
He says letters of demand are being ignored, and has had no success in contacting the president’s office directly.
Dercksen has been handling snakes for almost 20 years.
But when he got a call to monitor snake activity at the home of the president, he was hesitant.
“I tried to get myself out of it because you’re working for the state president. (If) something goes wrong, a snake might bite one of his family (and) you’re going to be in big trouble,” said Dercksen.
He was eventually persuaded to take the job.
“Inside Nkandla we found no snakes, but we also did the outside. And on the outside we found seven snakes. Six were harmless and we found one puff adder… I really complained about the condition (of the property). You can see there’s no maintenance on the premises. The paving around Nkandla… the weeds are growing like that (sic),” he said.
Dercksen said he has quotations and invoices proving that the Tobeka Madiba Zuma Foundation contracted him to do the work.
But then promises of payment didn’t materialise.
“I came highly recommended for the work I do. All the snake catchers in South Africa know me very well. All the other snake catchers will see what is happened to me now and I can guarantee you, if the president is not going to pay me, no other snake catcher will work for him again.”
The Presidency has referred questions to the Tobeka Madiba Zuma Foundation for comment.
The foundation claimed Dercksen did not remove all snakes from the property and did not provide services he invoiced for.
The foundation said days later, three snakes were found close to one of the president’s homes.
The KZN snake catcher says he doesn’t want the matter to go to court, but if it does, he believes a ruling will be made in his favour.