Cape Town   -  The often-divisive former South African premiere plans to record an album of apartheid-era protest songs later this year.

Former South African president Jacob Zuma, a frequently controversial figure during his political career, has triggered a new row – after signing a record deal to release a music album.

It started when the eThekwini district – an area which incorporates the coastal city of Durban and surrounding towns in KwaZulu-Natal, Mr Zuma's home province and bastion of support – agreed to fund an album of Zuma singing protest songs dating from the apartheid era, which authorities claim will serve to protect cultural heritage.

The album will apparently be recorded in front of a live audience in April, and will be released later in 2019. “These songs remind us of where we came from and how our country was forged,” said Thembinkosi Ngcobo, the head of recreation and culture at the eThekwini municipality. But South Africa's opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), has called the endeavour a waste of resources.

“We're for promoting of culture and heritage. Our problem is when the municipality is wasting money on a former president who is trying his luck on the music industry, while we have upcoming artists who need assistance,” local publication eNCA quotes local DA leader Zwakele Mncwango as saying.

DA councillor Nicole Graham added that the party would “fight this matter tooth and nail… it is impossible that any rational person would believe that a corrupt and disgraced former president singing ANC struggle songs holds any benefit to the people of eThekwini.”

Zuma, 76, is known to have a powerful baritone voice and often sings his trademark song, ‘Bring Me My Machine Gun’, at his political rallies and at public events.

He was forced out of power in February 2018 by his own party, the African National Congress (ANC), and is facing several corruption charges linked to an arms deal allegedly made in the Nineties. He denies any wrongdoing.