Izikhothane throne has many apparent heirs

2012-10-27 15:15

Rural pre-1994 legend had it that the then Venda bantustan leader, chief Patrick Mphephu, had such an insatiable appetite for beautiful women he knew no bounds when doling out expensive gifts to his concubines at taxpayers’ expense.

So besotted was this apartheid apologist with one of his conquests in the 1980s, he even tarred a road leading to her remote village despite no one in that village owning a car.

When the affair later ended, so did the tarred road infrastructure, as he instructed his government officials to remove it because he would no longer be driving there.

I recently found myself at a funeral wake in Soweto when the subject of wanton pillaging and conspicuous consumption by public representatives caught centre stage among the men skinning the fallen cow meant for the “after-tears” the following day.

It was only when some of our politicians – most notably fallen kindergarten cop Juju and the “big man”, President Jacob Zuma, whom Malema was once prepared to kill for – were lambasted for their profligacy, using state resources, that the subject of “izikhothane” came up.

Izikhothane, recently described by City Press as impoverished teenagers who burn luxury clothing and shoes in a carnival of excess, were likened to some of our politicians who are motivated by hogging the lavish lifestyle with reckless abandon while squandering limited financial resources they never had to sweat for.

If you ever thought the izikhothane phenomenon was only limited to youngsters growing up in poor communities such as Daveyton on the East Rand, then think again.

Recently, “sushi king” Kenny Kunene anointed himself as the king of the izikhothane, a title any self-respecting South African would be too ashamed to assume.

For just more than three years, this scourge, albeit under a different guise, has been visited upon weary South African taxpayers by Zuma, who has demonstrated unprecedented profligacy, courtesy of the National Treasury.

Nestled atop the Nkandla hills, his palatial homestead can now only be matched by those once belonging to departed Brother Leader, King of Kings, Muammar Gaddafi.

With access to the apparently limitless state purse and an insatiable appetite for the finer things, the president is not without stiff competition.

Some of his ministerial appointments have ably demonstrated a penchant for, among other luxury items, Christian Louboutin shoes and German cars.

One Gauteng MEC infamously crashed one, while another minister squatted at Cape Town’s swish One&Only hotel.

Some senior public servants are known to employ “consultants” (read mistresses) they really don’t need at highly inflated salaries, or over-book accommodation they don’t need to augment their food and travel allowances. The list goes on and on.

This made one mourner wonder if it would not be appropriate to suggest our “big man” was presiding over a legion of public service versions of the izikhothane.

Unlike the township youngsters, Zuma will not tear taxpayers’ money in half, set his no-expenses-spared rural homestead on fire or remove the newly built tarred road to Nkandla.

» Khaas is founder and president of the SA SMME Forum

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