The world laughs at our ‘Nkandla fuss’

2014-05-26 12:00

Former president PW Botha was an MP for the Garden Route region for 30 years and his private residence, Die Anker, was built there.

Ben Schoeman, the then minister of transport, realising Botha’s requirements to take retreats at Die Anker, built an airport in Botha’s constituency, in George, and even named it after him.

The Garden Route was invigorated and property development in the area picked up.

This turn of events over 35 years ago must inform how we look at the presidential village of Nkandla. No effort and money can be spared to ensure that both protocol and security for a president are not compromised.

There is no president or deputy president in the world who has any idea as to what the cost of his or her security is.

The world is watching in stitches as we make a fuss about this issue because they do not divulge such details about security costs for their leadership, both serving and retired.

Various state departments make this determination and, as the president rightfully said, it was not solicited by him or his office.

The departments of state security, police and defence deal with risk determination, analysis and measures to implement in containing security risks.

All three departments have intelligence competencies that differ in consideration and might inadvertently compound security requirements and cost.

They are also alive to the sensitivities of some of the aspects of this service and cannot follow “normal procurement practices” – as expected by the Public Protector – without compromising security.

The Public Works department only plays its role for infrastructure provision and does not make any determination whatsoever.

There are those who want us to believe the president should have asked about the cost of security features. But what should a president ask and what should he not? Does he have to ask what it costs for a helicopter to scan an area before he goes into it?

Should he ask for security personnel to be cut down from the average 40 to half of that and the fleet to three instead of the average 15?

Why is this president expected to account for what he is never consulted about? Opposition party leaders, who know better, are riding on the crest of this wave that has largely been fomented by a coterie that is against anything African.

No doubt, costs have been exaggerated in the security and safety features of the president’s private residence and that cannot have been done by him or his office – service providers did.

They did so because the cheque is blank when it comes to the provision of such services to a president and were following the trend of overcharging government – a trend that has been set by multinational corporations.

Costs and services are fine and justifiable as long as they are done by multinationals. What we really need to ask is: if large multinational corporations were involved as services providers at Nkandla, would the amplifier be on such high fidelity?

Gwashu was chief of staff in the office of a former MEC for community safety in Western Cape

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