Today, I am ashamed. We should all be ashamed. We are a nation of moaners, always ready to criticise and to complain. We occasionally do so without even bothering to find out the facts. And sometimes, just sometimes, when those facts emerge, they act as a mirror, exposing us to ourselves for what we are.
The government report on Nkandla was released yesterday. And it has done just that. It has exposed us for what we are; whiners. Or worse; uninformed whiners. Whiners who don’t let simple matters like the facts stand in the way of a good groan about our government. Corruption? Ha! The expenditure on Nkandla turns out to be perfectly reasonable.
I read a report on News24 this morning listing ten explanations for the upgrades at Nkandla, and now I feel like the worst sort of running-dog capitalist counter-revolutionary. Was too much spent on Zuma’s security? Hell, no! I don’t think we’ve spent enough.
1. The fire pool.
There is no swimming pool at Nkandla. There is a high-tech conflagration-management device. According to National Police Commissioner Riah Piyega, people who grew up in rural areas aren’t smart enough to use fire extinguishers; “the best we know”, she said, apparently referring to those responsible for the safety of our President, “is to take a bucket, dip it in water and throw it on the fire”.
This explains why the original plan, for a row of Jojo water-tanks to be elevated on platforms at the highest point in the complex, to provide water at pressure, was scrapped; it would have taken far too long to climb up to the top of the tanks to dip the buckets in.
Reports of a cocktail bar having been installed in the fire pool area have also been dismissed as a scandalous lie. There is, of course, an assembly point for residents in case of emergency. It is well-laid-out, a safe distance from any buildings, and serves a mean pi?a-colada, although their G&T’s are reported to be a little heavy on the gin.
General Vijay Ramlakan is a very smart man. He’s a retired Surgeon General, and knows better than to wear high heels at Nkandla. Especially when it rains. This is why the roads needed to be paved.
I’m being a little disingenuous here. The real reason for the paving of the roads is that the security force detailed with guarding the life of our leader cannot drive on dirt roads. We simply do not have access to the sophisticated technology required. And besides, it would just be an added expense to replace Nkandla’s fleet of security Lamborghinis with bakkies. We’re not made of money.
On an unrelated note, General Vijay Ramlakan now looks absolutely fabulous when he pops in on the President.
3. The chicken run.
Those in charge of the safety of a president cannot leave any bases uncovered. “What if”, they said to themselves, “someone breached the electric fence, dashed past the security Lambo’s, and spent a few hours lurking unseen in the President’s chicken coop?”
Sound far-fetched? Maybe not. There are unconfirmed rumours doing the rounds that just the other day, a dangerous schizophrenic cunningly snuck through the highly sophisticated security cordon surrounding the President by walking through it and saying “hi”, and spent a few hours within a few feet of him, waving his arms around like a coked-up break-dancer being attacked by a swarm of bees.
4. The cattle kraal.
Do you know how stupid cattle are? How would we feel if one of the President’s prize Ngunis stumbled into the fire-pool area, causing hundreds of Rands of damage to the assembly cocktail bar?
We’ll never know. Those hundreds of Rands have been saved for the nation’s poor. By spending a Million rand to move a patch of cleared earth surrounded by a fence. And as an added bonus, the cows now have their own cocktail bar.
5. Air conditioning.
Bullet proof windows are hard to open. This, according to General Vijay Ramlakan, is why the cost of air conditioning counts as a security measure.
Bullet proof doors are also really heavy, and opening them to go outside is really taxing. This is why the cost of the home cinema and indoor bowling alley count as security measures as well.
6. Astroturf soccer pitches.
Not a security measure. An NGO just felt that an isolated homestead in a thinly populated rural area was the ideal place to set up a FIFA World Cup legacy project. We’ll be laughing on the other side of our faces when half of the 2018 World Cup squad turn out to be neighbours of the President.
7. Relocation of neighbouring families.
Some insensitive swine had asked, in light of all the security issues surrounding Nkandla, why the Presidential homestead was not simply moved to somewhere safer. This, as Riah Piyega so rightly pointed out, was a “demanding, if not arrogant question”.
When did we suddenly forget about basic human rights? “When you choose what is your home and you knew that home forever and ever and a day”, the good Ms Piyega added, “[that is an] insensitive question, every person has a right to choose where they should live,”
It was thus imperative that several of Zuma’s neighbours had to be moved. You may think that you have spotted a little irony in this statement, but you are wrong. These were simply not the sort of “persons” that Piyega was talking about. They were just a bunch of inconvenient peasants who happened to be in the way, and everybody knows that peasants don’t have the same rights as proper “persons” like our President.
8. Tuck shop.
The tuck shop was in the wrong place. Simple. It had to be moved. The idea of the President of one of Africa’s richest and most developed countries being expected to struggle on without a tuck shop is simply inconceivable.
Presidents the world over use public money to run small businesses in their homes, and nobody says a word. Obama himself has set up a small hair salon and spa in an unused wing of the White House, and you don’t hear the Yanks complaining. Why should Zuma be any different?
9. The amphitheatre.
There is no amphitheatre at Nkandla. There is merely, as pointed out by Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi, a semi-circular, stepped concrete structure designed for “ground protection”. It is unclear whether the ground of the President needs to be protected, or the President needs protection from the earth itself. It was probably the latter. We all remember the nasty incident four years ago when three members of Zuma’s family were injured by a minor landslide during their production of Les Miserables.
Never again. The Zuma brood can happily stage this year’s dramatization of Far From the Madding Crowd untroubled by the fear of sudden shifts in the structure of the ground beneath their feet.
10. Three attacks at Zuma homestead
There have been three attacks at the Zuma homestead. Oh dear. Somebody should consider putting in some security measures. Maybe they should get a dog.
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