Cover your eyes, here comes Zuma

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

IT WON’T be long now and we’ll have amend­ments to the se­cu­rity laws declar­ing the per­son of Ja­cob Zuma a na­tional key point. All photographs of the pres­i­dent, save those of­fi­cially is­sued, will be banned.

Fur­ther­more, the cit­i­zenry will be com­pelled to cast their eyes down­wards in the pres­ence of this in­stal­la­tion of strate­gic pur­pose and his en­tourage. Any­one who dares to look him in the eye shall be guilty of an of­fence and pun­ished some­thing aw­ful.

Here at the Ma­hogany Ridge we won’t be sur­prised. We’ve al­ways held there was no place for apartheid-era se­cu­rity leg­is­la­tion on our statute books and they should have been dis­posed of per­ma­nently rather than stuffed in a cup­board some­where. Dust­ing them off and putting them back into use has been all too easy for the Zu­macrats.

What has alarmed us, though, is that th­ese min­is­ters in the jus­tice, crime preven­tion and se­cu­rity clus­ters ap­pear to have, along with their detestable leg­is­la­tion, adopted the para­noid, per­se­cuted mind­set of the P W Botha era as well.

One can­not imag­ine the sort of fear that com­pelled the Min­is­ter of State Se­cu­rity, Siyabonga Cwele, to de­clare that the pub­li­ca­tion of photographs and footage of Zuma’s Nkandla home was a “breach of the law”, es­pe­cially now that photographs of the com­pound are ev­ery­where in the pub­lic do­main.

Even if the R208 mil­lion spent on the up­grades came from Zuma’s own and not the tax­payer’s pocket, pub­lic in­ter­est in the place would be jus­ti­fied – if only to gauge, from an ar­chi­tec­tural per­spec­tive, the mon­strous philis­tin­ism and sub­ver­sion of the sim­ple ver­nac­u­lar com­mon with ru­ral set­tle­ments in KwaZulu-Natal.

The jeer­ing has, how­ever, been deaf­en­ing. And it wasn’t just us, it came from around the world. You could hear them from Bei­jing to Buenos Aires, laugh­ing like mad­men. Some dam­age con­trol was clearly needed and a gov­ern­ment flunkey, Phumla Wil­liams, was duly despatched to in­form us that we had “mis­con­strued” Cwele’s com­ments by us­ing them “out of con­text” to pro­vide a “disin­gen­u­ous view to the pub­lic”.

So it goes with a shabby gov­ern­ment: blame the me­dia for telling the peo­ple what the min­is­ter said. We’re used to it.

But this is the part of Wil­liams’s state­ment that the Ridge regulars found in­ter­est­ing: “Gov­ern­ment has no prob­lem with the me­dia pub­lish­ing pic­tures of na­tional key points, in­clud­ing Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s Nkandla res­i­dence, as it is part of their daily line of duty. How­ever, zoom­ing into safety and se­cu­rity fea­tures of na­tional key points is a chal­lenge as it com­pro­mises na­tional se­cu­rity.”

Eye­wit­ness News reporter Reinart To­e­rien was prob­a­bly com­pro­mis­ing na­tional se­cu­rity when he filmed Zuma’s mo­tor­cade leav­ing Nel­son Man­dela’s Houghton home on Mon­day which re­sulted in his be­ing as­saulted by one of the pres­i­dent’s body­guards. Per­haps To­e­rien, who was oth­er­wise en­gaged in his daily line of duty, had in­ad­ver­tently zoomed into the safety fea­tures of a BMW driven by mem­bers of the VIP Pro­tec­tion Ser­vices Unit. Maybe it was due to the goon suf­fer­ing a sud­den para­noid at­tack. Who can say? But what­ever it was, To­e­rien got a stiff klap for his trou­bles.

But – speak­ing of para­noia – what if Zuma was attacked as he left the Man­dela home? It could eas­ily hap­pen. The place doesn’t have R208m worth of se­cu­rity up­grades, like a posh spaza shop where Wife Num­ber One may or may not be sell­ing sin­gle cig­a­rettes in con­tra­ven­tion of the To­bacco Prod­ucts Con­trol Act.

So, had a gang, let’s say, of nin­jas dis­guised as Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela swooped down on the mo­tor­cade armed with lethal ra­zor stars and nun­chakus, would not Zuma’s safety and se­cu­rity have been com­pro­mised be­cause one of his goons was else­where bash­ing a reporter? Just a thought.

And here’s another. Has not Robin Carlisle, the Western Cape Trans­port MEC, also ex­posed the pres­i­dent to some risk by ban­ning na­tional cab­i­net min­is­ters and other nobs from us­ing blue lights or sirens when trav­el­ling in the prov­ince un­less there was “an im­mi­nent threat to safety or life”?

It’s true the pres­i­dent is ex­empt from this wel­come new pro­vin­cial law, as is the deputy pres­i­dent, vis­it­ing heads of state and bona fide emer­gency ve­hi­cles (hint: not a lux­ury Ger­man ve­hi­cle with tinted win­dows).

But, think about it. If you’re now one of the few guys out there in a mo­tor­cade that’s bruis­ing its way through rush hour traf­fic like a fat nephew at the buf­fet, well… we’re go­ing to have a good idea who you are. Re­mem­ber, your thugs can’t ar­rest ev­ery­one for giv­ing you the fin­ger. Feel the an­i­mus.

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