Georgina Guedes

The great Nkandla subterfuge

2015-07-27 07:00

Georgina Guedes

We’ve been thinking quite a lot about Nkandla in recent years. And every time we get to the point of thinking that there were no more thoughts to be thunk, we get something new to think about.

This week, the unexpected outcome of the ad hoc parliamentary committee’s visit to Nkandla was that actually, our president wasn’t particularly enriched by the R250m that was spent on his homestead.
(By the way, we’re apparently not supposed to say R250m anymore. Police Minister Nathi Nhleko would rather we quoted the more modest figure of R203m.)

No, rather than being enriched, he was hoodwinked. Someone else was enriched. Somewhere, some building contractor was paid R6m a pop for 21 security personnel homes dotted around the homestead, that probably cost him, at a push, R250 000 to build badly.

Or, somewhere, some Zuma cousin set himself up as a building contractor to keep taxpayer money in the family pockets, and billed the prez R6m a piece for some very shoddy work,  to pretend that something had been delivered.

Or, actually, the money never went anywhere at all other than directly into a Zuma bank account, and Nhleko is valiantly trying to pretend that R6m per house is a budgetary line item.

Or perhaps that’s just the cost of getting building supplies down the long and winding road to Nkandla – you know the road, the one that fire trucks might not be able to get down.  

Do they think we’re stupid?

The thing that really boggles my mind is the fact that a team of journalists and MPs were shown these hovels as part of their Nkandla tour.

Is this yet another instance of the government being so audaciously corrupt that they don’t even bother to hide it anymore?

Or is it yet another instance of the government thinking that the press and the public are just a bunch of fools who’ll never see through that old “R6 million a crumbling cottage” scam?

Or will we get a corporate video at another event in a couple of weeks showing us exactly how the construction of those houses could have cost R6 million? Each. Brought to you by the producers of “This is how we use a fire pool”.

Of red tape and rhetoric

Sadly, I think that the whole Nkandla PR team has been tasked with responding to every media and opposition party query with any story at all, no matter how outlandish, to keep us gobsmacked with astonishment at what fools the government takes us for.

But while they haven’t yet given us one satisfactory answer, we can’t say they’ve been stonewalling either.

Because look, here’s the budget, here are the houses, here’s a nice media visit and here’s a fire pool video. Transparency personified.

They are going to keep wrapping us up in red tape and nonsense until the end of Zuma’s term, when he can retire to Nkandla, and dig up the R6 million buried in the foundations of each of those cottages, and live happily ever after.

I don’t know that we’ll ever unravel what happened at Nkandla, and the only small glimmer of hope that we have will be that no future president will ever be allowed such unfettered access to the public coffers without examination or accountability.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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