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24 April 2014 12:29 (South Africa)
Opinionista Greg Nicolson

The wonderful Zuma government

  • Greg Nicolson
If you think about it, once the indignation subsides the government’s bravado is funny. If only Zuma’s troupe was aiming for laughs, and not a national democratic revolution. 

There’s been a lot of news lately about the developments at the president’s Nkandla homestead, but I’m still confused. Why does he need such lavish refurbishments?

Is the president so guilty of all the “alleged” crimes against him that he needs to build a fort, ready to defend-or-die when the authorities come for him? He must have visions of a dusk raid, his four wives and dozens of children covering the windows as he sings Umshini Wami, for real this time, outnumbered and outgunned but ready to defend the compound to the last, like the Afrikaners in the Anglo War, or David Koresh in the Waco siege.

Are the next generation of leaders so worrying that Zuma needs an impregnable base? Perhaps that’s what he’s scared of. Look at tomorrow’s leaders. We have Julius Malema, who’s ready to rip out the president’s larynx with his bare hands. Then we have Lindiwe “Killjoy” Mazibuko who is all about law and order. If they don’t get old Msholozi, we have the uneducated and abused masses (who might first need some help with the Map Book to Nkandla).

But really now, who needs 10 underground air-conditioned living areas? Is Zuma building bunkers because Zimbabwe’s planning on bombing KwaZulu-Natal? You might want to share that info with the rest of us, Mr. President. Or did he catch Brendan Fraser and Alicia Silverstone in Blast from the Past and start preparing for the worst? He is a Cold War-era spy, you know.

And what’s with all the security? When Zuma said his visits to townships are keeping him awake at night, we all thought he had a heart. He’s detached from reality, but has a heart. Wrong. He’s scared the tsotsis he saw in the kasi are going to rob him. He’s not that different from your average South African on the winning side of inequality, really.

Or maybe all the security is actually warranted. The Air Force, police and private security guards are most likely all essential components of the strategic plan to keep Zuma’s nephew Khulubuse away from the fridge. 

It’s also nice to see that president knows the importance of sport in a community and child’s life. It seems the state has built two soccer pitches, complete with Astroturf, for the guards, their families and team Zuma. I shudder to think how children could turn out if they don’t have positive activities to keep them out of trouble – just look at Limpopo (sorry to bully the province, but I needed a segue).

Speaking of Limpopo, Minister Angie Motshekga’s Department of Basic Education was in the headlines last week. It didn’t like what it saw so it paid for one of its own. All that court action “was unnecessary and a waste of valuable time and resources,” said the department in an advertisement in the Sunday papers. Phew! For a second there I thought it had failed to deliver learning materials to students again, and again, and again.

But no, the advertisement reassured us all. “The court indeed accepted that it was not the fault of the department.” In an act of goodwill, the DBE said it would provide the court with confirmation of full textbook delivery, “without being compelled to do so”. We should all understand, they said, the job is really hard and if only Section27 “worked with the department rather than against it” the crisis that’s no longer a crisis wouldn’t be so bad.

Pessimists can breathe a sigh of relief. Motshekga’s got this thing under control. I, however, am going to need reading lessons. I thought Judge Kollapen didn’t rule on whose responsibility the failure to deliver the books was because “these are not contempt proceedings”, which Section27 could have pursued but didn’t.

And I must have been confused here: “The respondents (DBE and Limpopo education) are ordered to file an affidavit at court and on the applicant’s attorneys by no later than 17 October 2012 with regard to the steps taken by it to comply with the order (to deliver the remainder of the textbooks).” I also must have misheard Motshekga’s attorneys say they didn’t reply to Section27’s requests for information and a meeting to avoid court proceedings. 

It’s funny, really: Zuma’s homestead is perched in Nkandla, an eyesore of corruption. Public Works denies this, but has failed to prove to anyone the deal’s legit. The Limpopo textbook issue has been the DBE’s scandal of the year; its lies and failure there for all to see in publicly available court papers. But we’re told not to worry, everything’s under control.

It’s obviously not, which is what’s so funny. But the laughs stop when we remember education is one of five priority areas for the Zuma government, along with safety and security, health, job creation and rural development. Corruption can obstruct progress in each of these areas. And it might still be funny if this was new, an anomaly, but the incidents are just another on a list of wrongdoing and denial.

The joke must still be funny to the president and Basic Education minister. That’s because the joke is on us and the national democratic revolution, which so many people are still waiting for. They continue to make their brazen denials, against all available evidence. It derails the country from a serious debate about its most important issues and confines us to a merry-go-round, dizzied with our leaders’ audacity and stuck making Khulubuse jokes. DM

  • Greg Nicolson
greg nicolson BW

Nicolson left his hometown of Melbourne to move to Johannesburg, beset by fears Australia was going to the dogs. With a camera and a Mac in his bag, he ventures out to cover power and politics, the lives of those included and those excluded. He can be found at the tavern, searching for a good story or drowning a bad one.

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