here’s a curtain of freezing rain bucketing down outside President Jacob Zuma’s homestead in KwaNxamalala village near Nkandla on Wednesday. But the rain and cold have done nothing to thin out the scrum of journalists perched at the cattle grid, the entrance to Number One’s homestead.
There are TV cameras along the edge of the grid, with bored writers and cameramen huddling under umbrellas held aloft to keep the gear dry. Every media outlet imaginable has deployed some poor newshound to stand in the rain while the parliamentary ad hoc committee – set up to investigate who got the bin bags containing the skim from the R246 million security upgrade – gets a guided tour of the facility.
We’ve also been told we can’t tag along, so there’s all the more reason to be there.
By the time the committee arrives in a lovely warm SAPS bus, the media crew are well pissed on and pissed off. It’s been a long, wet morning of being pushed around by a succession of plain-clothes and uniformed muppets, and there’s no end in sight.
Our only entertainment has been the crew of locals in ANC T-shirts toyi-toying in the rain at the entrance of a marquee set up near the main gate. They’re keeping warm by singing songs about Mmusi Maimane’s mother and Julius Malema’s genitals. Discipline, comrades.
Word comes that the total media ban has morphed into a “limited access” visit. This isn’t so surprising.
Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko – who was supposed to work out how much Zuma owed – has made it clear that the taxpayer, not the commander in chief, is going to cough up.
Nhleko has built more walls between Zuma and responsibility by holding the department of public works responsible for the mysterious decision to build the 21 security houses for R6 million each. The buck’s stopping with former minister Geoff Doidge, his former deputy Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu and their bureaucrats.
That’s the script the ANC cats on the committee are going to be reading from, as they continue trying to black out as much as possible of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report. And to add to the argument for a new secret upgrade.
I’m keeping warm by fantasising about being let loose inside with no minder. Butt naked selfies on the commander in chief’s Sealy Posturepedic in the main love chamber. A clap and Al Green is crooning Lets Stay Together as the lights dim and the disco ball starts spinning.
A couple of laps of the fire pool – it must be heated at that cost – to work off the cold from icy water trickling down the small of my back into my arse.
A large Glenfiddich 18 from the stock left over from the inauguration party while I catch up on the cricket on the big screen in Msholozi’s office in the visitor’s centre. And why not take a look for the walk-in safe where all the money he’s not gonna pay back is kept.
I’m mentally ordering a hot coffee from MaKhumalo’s tuck shop while my clothes get dried in the R6 million laundry in the cops barracks – they’ll send them back via the underground tunnel so they don’t get wet again – when we get word to move.
We’re herded along the perimeter past the main gate and up the hill to the SAPS houses, while the security inside the fence eyeball us malignantly.
They’re rubbish. The houses. Poorly finished. Nobody’s living in them. There are mattresses piled in one. There’s goat shit on most of the floors we see. There’s no way they’re worth R600 000 a pop, let alone the R6 million we paid for each one of them.
We’re trying to get answers out of the manager when John Steenhuisen, who’s supposed to be inside with the ad hoc committee, arrives with a crew of DA MPs. Maybe there weren’t enough cameras inside.
Steenhuisen and Phumzile van Damme start winding up the officials. So the officials close us all down. Boot us out. Back to the rain and the waiting game. Thanks guys.
After a couple of false starts, our main minder arrives. We shiver our way past the main gate, up the hill past the helipad and beyond the cops houses to the clinic built by the SA National Defence Force for Number One. It’s an empty shell.
Brigadier General Siphiwe Shezi is in charge. Shezi has this cool Thai navy cap. He goes into a weird rap about snakes, cross-border military exercises and other kinds of what what’s. Shezi’s words, not mine. The main minder closes Shezi down before he digs himself deeper into a hole, and we’re ushered off again to meet the committee.
At the gate, committee chair Cedric Frolick is