Where have all the de­fend­ers of the ‘fire pool’ gone?

CityPress - - News - PADDY HARPER paddy.harper@city­press.co.za

Who can for­get the im­age of Po­lice Min­is­ter Nkosi­nathi Nh­leko sweat­ing bul­lets as he told the na­tion why Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma should not pay back a cent of the al­most R250 mil­lion spent on se­cu­rity up­grades at Nkandla?

The tide of per­spi­ra­tion cours­ing down the face of the man from Nd­abayakhe could have filled a Jacuzzi as he changed the English lan­guage with his dec­la­ra­tion that the swim­ming pool built for the head of state at his home in Nxa­m­alala was, in fact, a fire pool.

It’s been seven months since Nh­leko told the na­tion that “the fire pool and/or swim­ming pool is a strate­gic as­set use­ful in fire­fight­ing and there­fore is a se­cu­rity fea­ture”.

When asked if the fire pool had be­come a swim­ming pool again, Nh­leko’s spokesper­son, Musa Zondi, this week said the min­is­ter “stands by his re­port”, while the spokes­peo­ple for other min­is­ters in the se­cu­rity clus­ter kept mum on the mat­ter.

The chicken run and cat­tle kraal were also, in the mind of the min­is­ter, se­cu­rity fea­tures, as they kept the an­i­mals “away from the se­cu­rity in­fra­struc­ture”.

The am­phithe­atre, said Nh­leko, us­ing a nonex­is­tent Wikipedia def­i­ni­tion to back up his blar­ney, was not an am­phithe­atre at all, but rather had a “clear se­cu­rity pur­pose” as an “emer­gency as­sem­bly point” for peo­ple at the com­plex. The “soil re­ten­tion wall” played the im­por­tant se­cu­rity role of “hold­ing soil and sub­strate”.

“It would be unimag­in­able that peo­ple would be seated in an aloe gar­den with an ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem – this could not be re­garded as an am­phithe­atre un­der the cir­cum­stances,” he said.

Like­wise, the vis­i­tors’ cen­tre pro­vided “dis­tin­guished guests” who were meet­ing with the boss “pri­vacy and con­fi­den­tial­ity” as there were “pro­to­cols that should be ob­served in host­ing such meet­ings”.

Nh­leko, los­ing liq­uid like a crack­head with­out a morn­ing fix, then traced the his­tory of the fire pool, com­plete with a cheesy video backed by clas­si­cal mu­sic and a rather em­bar­rassed team of fire­fight­ers us­ing the swim­ming pool to fight an imag­i­nary fire.

“In the orig­i­nal eval­u­a­tion se­cu­rity re­port by the SA Po­lice Ser­vice, the is­sue of fire­fight­ing ca­pa­bil­ity was raised on page four thereof. The open wa­ter source, in other words, a fire pool, has there­fore been a re­quire­ment at var­i­ous stages from de­sign to de­vel­op­ment and con­struc­tion by

What do you think those who

de­fended the pres­i­dent’s se­cu­rity up­grades should do now that he’s said he’d pay back some of the money?

SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word PAY and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your

name. SMSes cost R1.50 dif­fer­ent role play­ers,” in­toned Nh­leko.

Ar­gu­ing that the pres­i­dent did not un­duly ben­e­fit from the pro­ject, as as­serted by Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela in her re­port, Nh­leko said Madon­sela had as­sumed com­pe­ten­cies she did not pos­sesses.

Nh­leko wasn’t the only one to come up with cre­ative ar­gu­ments for re­defin­ing a swim­ming pool.

In his De­cem­ber 2013 re­port, Pub­lic Works Min­is­ter Thu­las Nx­esi ar­gued that the fire pool was key for fire­fight­ing, cit­ing an as­sess­ment that raised a “pos­si­ble out­break of fire, as most of the struc­tures have thatched roofs and are close to each other”.

The now-sus­pended na­tional po­lice com­mis­sioner Riah Phiyega also waded in – telling Nx­esi’s press con­fer­ence that there were “no ex­tin­guish­ers or fire bri­gades” in ru­ral ar­eas and that the best way to fight fire was to “take a bucket, dip it in wa­ter and throw it on the fire”.

Gen­eral Vi­jay Ram­lakan, then the sur­geon-gen­eral of the SA Na­tional De­fence Force, was a lit­tle more am­bigu­ous about the fire pool, but more nim­ble with his jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for why the state had to pay for the paving around the houses.

“Any­body who has ever been to Nkandla knows you should not wear high heels,” he said, be­cause the paving was needed in ter­rain that could quickly be­come “in­hos­pitable”, es­pe­cially in the rain.

Ram­lakan felt the air con­di­tion­ing was also a se­cu­rity es­sen­tial, as “any­body who has had to be [in a room] with bul­let­proof win­dows will know those win­dows can­not be eas­ily opened”.

Both he and Phiyega felt the cat­tle kraal and chicken run were not just “nice-to-haves”, but were se­ri­ous se­cu­rity as­sets that re­duced the num­ber of “false alarms” caused by rov­ing live­stock.

But the team that so elo­quently ar­gued that the pres­i­dent should not pay back the pub­lic money spent on th­ese up­grades was quiet this week af­ter Zuma threw them un­der the bus with his an­nounce­ment that he had ac­cepted fi­nan­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity, in line with Madon­sela’s re­port.

Nx­esi’s le­gal ad­viser, Phillip Masilo, said he would not com­ment, as the mat­ter was be­fore the Con­sti­tu­tional

Court. The spokes­peo­ple for De­fence Min­is­ter No­siviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, for­mer po­lice min­is­ter Nathi Mthethwa and for­mer state se­cu­rity min­is­ter Siyabonga Cwele failed to re­spond to re­quests for com­ment. Nei­ther Ram­lakan nor Phiyega an­swered their

phones.

Nkosi­nathi Nh­leko

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