If the ANC comes first, let them pay for Nkandla

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

THREE times now Ja­cob Zuma has de­nied the oath of his of­fice by declar­ing his loy­al­ties lay first and fore­most with the ANC and not the con­sti­tu­tion he had twice sworn to hon­our and up­hold – and you could be for­given for be­liev­ing the grat­ing sound you heard on Thurs­day was the crow­ing of a cock.

But no, it was just the rul­ing party’s pres­i­dent chortling and gig­gling his way through his last par­lia­men­tary ques­tion-and-an­swer ses­sion for the year.

It was a con­temptible dis­play. There is very lit­tle funny or amus­ing about the present state of the econ­omy. This week’s in­ter­est rate hike is go­ing to im­pact heav­ily on cash-strapped or­di­nary folk, even those who are rank and file ANC mem­bers. Lit­tle cheer for them this Christ­mas.

But the ANC pres­i­dent re­gards it all as a joke. “Where does my laugh­ter hurt you?” Zuma goaded op­po­si­tion MPs. It was such an out­ra­geous mo­ment that many were too stunned to re­spond with the ob­vi­ous: “In the ears, for a start.”

There was the in­evitable sug­ges­tion from a toad­y­ing ANC back­bencher that laugh­ter was a sign of “good health”.

On cue, Zuma ratch­eted up the ill­man­nered be­hav­iour very much like an over-in­dulged child. “Thank you very much if I can laugh, be­cause I will al­ways laugh,” he said. “It’s not hurt­ing, it’s healthy.”

It didn’t sound very healthy – par­tic­u­larly those ex­tra-huge guf­faws. Quite apart from the bovine pitch and pe­cu­liar wheezi­ness, there was some­thing un­seemly about an el­derly per­son burst­ing into hys­ter­ics for no ap­par­ent rea­son – es­pe­cially when he ad­mit­ted that he was in­ca­pable of con­trol­ling him­self. “I don’t know how to stop my laugh­ter,” Zuma said. “Is it hurt­ing? No?”

At the Ma­hogany Ridge, this ad­mis­sion did prompt a dis­cus­sion about hi­lar­ity di­a­pers and the like, but the more con­cerned among us were wor­ried the train smash with chuck­les act could be a symp­tom of a grow­ing en­fee­ble­ment in the grey mat­ter de­part­ment.

There’s noth­ing new in this. To many ob­servers, Zuma has been out of touch with re­al­ity for some time now. Con­sider how, at his ques­tion- an­dan­swer ses­sion in Au­gust, he stub­bornly in­sisted that all was hunky dory out there.

“The coun­try is mov­ing ahead,” he blithely an­nounced. “It’s de­vel­op­ing. It’s fine… the coun­try is be­ing gov­erned very re­spon­si­bly.”

But the now-un­hinged laugh­ter is wor­ry­ing. And the rul­ing party would prob­a­bly be greatly re­lieved if their pres­i­dent would stop it with all this manic gig­gling. But how?

Oddly enough, it was Zuma him­self who may have of­fered a so­lu­tion. By re­peat­edly in­sist­ing, and with such fierce res­o­lu­tion, that his pri­mary con­cern lay in serv­ing the rul­ing party, and not the state, then per­haps it was the rul­ing party, and not the state, who should be pay­ing his salary and bankrolling his prof­li­gate life­style.

Nkandla? Let the ANC pay for it. Let them pay for his wives, his ex­tended fam­ily, their VIP pro­tec­tion, even that $4 bil­lion jet ev­ery­one’s talk­ing about. That should wipe the smile off ev­ery­one’s faces.

What the ANC will dis­cover soon enough is that there’s not much bang for their buck with their pres­i­dent.

In March this year CNN drew up a list of the earn­ings of the world’s wealth­i­est heads of state. First place went to US pres­i­dent Barack Obama, at $ 400 000, then Canada’s Stephen Harper (since voted out of of­fice) with $260 000 and Ger­many’s An­gela Merkel with $234 400. Zuma was listed in fourth place with an of­fi­cial an­nual salary of R2.75 mil­lion, or $223 500. The UK’s David Cameron, who takes home $214 800 a year, was fifth.

Thanks to the rand’s “good story”, the ANC pres­i­dent has now slipped down the rank­ings to sixth place; sand­wiched be­tween Ja­pan’s Shinzo Abe, with $202 700, and France’s Fran­cois Hol­lande, with $194 300.

But, ac­cord­ing to BizNews.com’s Alec Hogg, Zuma is the world’s worst value-for-money head of state when you com­pare his salary with the size of the econ­omy he runs. Hogg cal­cu­lated that he’s paid more than $638 for ev­ery $1bn of GDP.

Obama, by com­par­i­son, gets $23.06 and China’s Xi Jin­ping, who is paid $22 000 a year, a mere $2.12 for each $1bn of their coun­tries’ GDPs.

On a “like-for-like” ba­sis, Hogg said, Zuma costs the tax­payer 27 times what Amer­i­cans pay for Obama and al­most 320 times more than Xi’s cost to the Chi­nese.

And that is no laugh­ing mat­ter.

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