Nkandla: Who are the real fools here?

2015-05-31 15:00
President Jacob Zuma giggles and gestures his way through Parliament this past week

President Jacob Zuma giggles and gestures his way through Parliament this past week PHOTO: (Leanne Stander )

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‘He will be quoted in the shebeens over the weekend with great amusement. Sadly.”

This was one of the reactions to President Jacob Zuma’s performance in Parliament this week.

It was an epic performance, it must be said. Epic in its comedic value, and in its utter foolishness. Epic in the confirmation that this nation is led by someone who should rather be queuing for a job as an extra at the Boswell Wilkie Circus.

On Wednesday, Zuma outdid himself with his clowning in the National Assembly, where the presidency budget was being debated.

Although South Africans have resigned themselves to the fact that he is in office solely for the purpose of fattening up his family (as if that is still required given the girth of some of them), there is an expectation that he may as well provide us with entertainment while he is at it.

So he is expected to croon, dance, say silly things and generally make a fool of himself. It is a case of “we know you can’t govern, we know your family is a burden on our public purse, so just make yourself useful somehow”.

He did not disappoint this week. He started the week off at the Africa Day celebrations by gyrating wildly and making those silly dance moves that inebriated wedding guests make at about midnight. On Tuesday, he began his speech with a “Hehehehehe” giggle.

By Wednesday, when he had to respond to opposition criticism, he was going full throttle. There were enough “Hhololos” “Hhehehes” and “Mayebabos” to fill a CD. He lectured the opposition about discipline, respect and dignity – qualities that he presumably possesses in great abundance.

With an accompanying giggle, he bellowed “Wanda Msebenzi. Yimali kodwa engekho [So much work, such little money].” When he thrice failed to pronounce the word “problematise”, he just burst out laughing – his favourite defence mechanism.

But he did not leave the stage before uttering the phrase that, like Umshini wam, will forever be associated with him: “Thixo wase George Goch [God of George Goch].”

It had become ubiquitous by the weekend and had many scratching their heads as to why the godforsaken men’s hostel was being given a God. It is this phrase, apparently culled from old mine workers’ Fanagalo, that will dominate shebeen conversations for weeks and months to come.

The show was not over though, as Zuma’s minstrels were to demonstrate the following day. Police Minister Nathi Nhleko and Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi had the nation in their thrall as they unveiled the 437th Nkandla report. Except for their unnecessary and frequent references to some Makhanya guy, the report was extraordinarily hilarious. (Seriously, though, could they not have just referred to the man as “The Architect”?)

The two ministers, who are both family men whose children and partners must have been cringing for those two hours of live comedy, set out to show their boss just how hard they worked to protect him from paying for the undue Nkandla benefits.

They had clearly researched deeply. In doing so, they had discovered that the Pocket Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of kraal is “a traditional African village of huts” and “an enclosure for sheep and cattle”.

However, they also found out that the Scholar’s Zulu Dictionary, co-compiled by scholar and author CLS Nyembezi, defined it as “storage space”, “sacred place”, “burial site”, “meat-eating place” and a place for making ritual “incisions”. Based on this, the jesters informed us, the kraal was not a kraal, but rather an “animal enclosure”.

During their extensive work on this matter, they had also come to the conclusion that free-running chickens can be very dangerous.

US President Barack Obama may fear al-Qaeda and the lunatic right wing, Colombia’s Juan Manuel Santos may fear the Farc rebels and Italy’s Sergio Mattarella may fear the remnants of Cosa Nostra, but for our man, the greatest danger comes in the form of fowls. Yes, izinkukhu. Dikgoho.

The jesters had great fun playing with the English language. The amphitheatre became a “soil retention wall”. With the aid of pictures, we were shown the difference between the two.

They then justified it with the following gobbledygook: “With illumination on the vertical walls, whereas if it was used as an amphitheatre, there would have been people seated and obscuring the illumination. It would be unimaginable that people would be seated in an aloe garden with an irrigation system, this could not be regarded as an amphitheatre under the circumstances.”

If you feel you have to read the above sentence twice or thrice to understand it, don’t bother. You still won’t get it.

Rather try this explanation of something called “dwarf stepping solid retention walls”.

“The dwarf stepping walls are preferred in terms of strength and safety as opposed to steep sloping single retention walls that pose a danger to persons falling and breaking bones or falling to their death.”

Yah. Exactly!

The swimming pool became the famous “fire pool”, or “open water source”. They told the nation that the swimming pool “is known to be the best firefighting water source and as such the most important security feature”.

Our performers then revealed that, in a firefighting exercise undertaken in February, it had taken an hour and 10 minutes for the emergency team to arrive at the president’s compound. This is indeed worrisome and begs the question as to what would happen if a fire threatened the rest of the community’s households, which have no fire pools.

There was also a visitors’ centre to accommodate consultations with the community and to host meetings with heads of state and other VIPs. Why would a president with three world-class residences in three cities need to drag his visitors to his village?

Anyway, the entertainers entertained and South Africa laughed. But what really happened this week was a demonstration of just how much the nation’s collective IQ has plunged in the Zuma years. When Zuma performed his comedy act, the ANC benches applauded in admiration as usual. And it was not just the cheque-collecting backbencher mob that cheered – it was also the intelligent and the experienced.

After Laurel and Hardy were done making donkeys of themselves on Thursday, the ANC pronounced vindication. To the party, the work of bad fiction that is the Nkandla report was a masterpiece.

The retort by millions of South Africans as they watched the Laurel and Hardy show was: “Do they think we are fools?” The answer is yes, they think we are fools.

But who are the real fools here?
Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  nkandla

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