Nkandla: Now for the good news

2013-12-01 10:00

Yes, there is good news. Nkandla, a village in northern KwaZulu-Natal from which President Jacob Zuma hails, has become a coded word. Now, it is a symbol of excess and of a life lived above people in a bubble of luxury.

The Mail?&?Guardian revealed what Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report into the upgrading of Nkandla is likely to say.

Crisply, but provisionally, titled “Opulence on a grand scale”, the report finds that our president may have violated the Executive Ethics Act by misinforming Parliament about the renovations to his estate.

In addition, it finds the president may have to replenish the public coffers for luxury extras. It also says the regulation limiting security upgrades to private homes of politicians to R100?000 does not apply to the presidency.

So the first bit of good news is that the truth is out. Despite efforts by the Cabinet’s security cluster to tie up the report in red tape called “security concerns”, we now know what the report provisionally contains.

Evidence is clear that our president was informed of the extensions and renovations, and that most of the work was carried out by built environment professionals chosen either by him or his representatives. So, the second bit of good news is that ignorance cannot be feigned.

The third, and most vital, piece of good news is that society has set its face against all that Nkandla means – there is an uproar in society and the strongmen of the Cabinet security cluster have been unable to contain it.

This example shows how: when Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa last week issued the edict that pictures of Nkandla were not to be published, nobody listened.

Yes, all media platforms published but so did hundreds of thousands of South Africans who had the image on their phones, avatars, social media profiles and also sent it zapping into cyberspace via email.

The last time the security ministers tried to throw a dragnet around a scandal, it worked. The arms deal has never raised public outrage as Nkandla has. Technology is an enabling citizen voice and we are seeing this for the first time.

The fourth bit of good news is that ANC voters are raising a stink about Nkandla, so much so that the party has had to write crib notes to explain the spending as its shock troops go door to door. Most people feel the President needs a nice house, but they don’t believe we should pay for it.

And most people we spoke to felt like the Protector does: our president must pay back and make right.

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