Time for a wake-up call

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

NEL­SON Man­dela was no sooner put to rest than our body politic re­turned to ac­ri­mo­nious form with the R208 mil­lion up­grades at Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s pri- vate homestead in Nkandla back in the lime­light.

On Thurs­day, the pub­lic works and se­cu­rity min­is­ters un­sur­pris­ingly ab­solved Zuma of any knowl- edge of the con­tro­ver­sial up­grades.

Their ex­pla­na­tions for the most part met with scorn on so­cial me­dia.

Some com­men­ta­tors have sought to liken the ex- pan­sion of Nkandla to no­to­ri­ous other fol­lies such as the palace built out­side Ban­gui by the Cen­tral African Repub­lic’s self-styled em­peror, Jean Bokas- sa, or the palace of Mobutu Sese Seko, pres­i­dent of what was then Zaire, in the rain for­est at Gbado­lite.

But the Nkandla scan­dal is noth­ing of the sort. It is far more homely, if tawdry. There’s the swim­ming pool our min­is­ters would have us call a fire pool. There’s the se­cu­rity threat our min­is­ters say was posed by pass­ing trade at the homestead’s tuck­shop. Then there are the the bul­let­proof win­dows that were hard to open, mean­ing air con­di­tion­ing was re­quired. And our min­is­ters have pointed out the se­cu­rity headache that live­stock pose. The cat­tle needed to be kept away from the alarm sys­tem, ne­ces­si­tat­ing a R1 mil­lion cul­vert. Peo­ple with evil in­tent could have hid­den in the chicken coop so it was re­lo­cated.

Our min­is­ters pre­sented th­ese ab­sur­di­ties to the na­tion and the ANC and its al­lies earnestly is­sued state­ments en­dors­ing them. They need to wake up and smell not the cof­fee but the im­pov­er­ished cir­cum­stances in which most South Africans live.

They need to re­mem­ber our cit­i­zens are highly politi­cised and so­cial me­dia makes it im­pos­si­ble to keep a lid on scan­dal. Our pres­i­dent should of­fer to pay for some of the em­bel­lish­ments to his pri­vate home. If he does not, it is high time that some­one in the up­per ech­e­lons of power de­vel­ops the back­bone to say “the em­peror has no clothes”.

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