Defend Truth


Forget Malema, where’s the outrage at Andile Lungisa?

Sipho Hlongwane is a writer and columnist for Daily Maverick. His other work interests also include motoring, music and technology, for which he has some awards. In a previous life, he drove forklift trucks, hosted radio shows, waited tables, and was once bitten by a large monitor lizard on his ankle. It hurt a lot. Arsenal Football Club is his only permanent obsession. He appears in these pages as a political correspondent.

Here you thought Julius Malema was the worst thing the ANC Youth League could throw at an unsuspecting public. His deputy at the Youth League is much more dangerous. Andile Lungisa is a fat Nero fiddling merrily on the roof as Rome burns.

It really is a pity Lungisa will never get the kind of press his turbulent senior gets. He deserves the sort of media attention that will have him desperately pleading for a media appeals tribunal. If I had my way, every Lungisa story would be the type that appears to have been written after the writer woke up to find that his cat died during the night and his wife ran off with the milkman. Tar, feathers and a pole are too good for this oily creature.

Personally, if I have to choose, I’d prefer Malema at this point. He is a bare-knuckle political fighter and isn’t above dipping his snout into the trough, but you get the sense it can all be trained out of him. Someday we will all look back on today’s Malema and marvel at how far he has come (look at his predecessor Fikile Mbalula as an example of how proper hard work can change even the slimiest Youth League fat cat into a half-decent public servant).

What afflicts Lungisa is unfixable. Malema has good grace to set up companies with which to win public tenders. Lungisa dispenses with these pretences and helps himself straight from the government’s coffers. He is the most dangerous type of politician – he cannot be shamed into at least pretending he’s in power for the public’s benefit.

As chairman of the National Youth Development Agency, he presides over what must be the most sickening open display of wasteful expenditure in the country today. After spending R100 million on last year’s disgraceful Youth Festival, we all thought that finally the NYDA had gone too far. Finally this joke of an agency that had a rich history of piss-poor service (beginning with Umsobomvu Youth Fund) would be shut. But no. The finance ministry has just granted the NYDA another R1,22 billion for the next three years. This year alone it will be getting R385 million.

According to TimesLIVE, this was not enough for Lungisa. He lobbied finance minister Pravin Gordhan to give the NYDA R1 billion every year. He wanted about as much money as is being allocated for the improvement of healthcare facilities across the entire country. The greed. The greed.

The part which boils my blood is just how much these NYDA characters make from wasting the public’s money. Lungisa himself pockets R800,000 every year as chairman. The CEO of the NYDA Steven Ngubeni takes home R1.8 million a year. For what, exactly? He’d have to be a cabinet minister to be in that pay bracket if not for the NYDA. Let’s not even ask what he would have to be doing in the private sector to command such a salary. A further 12 executives at the NYDA earn a combined R11 million a year, TimesLIVE reports.

It isn’t enough for Lungisa to loot the public purse locally, he has to go and make an ass of himself in America as well. He gatecrashed last year’s White House town hall meeting with young African leaders. He wasn’t an official delegate, but he went anyway. Where is Jack Bauer to protect POTUS from lunatics when you really need him? Lungisa’s little stunt, which did not amuse the Americans at all, cost the NYDA (meaning us) a tad less than R100,000. He then had the temerity to lie about who had footed his bill, before admitting that it was the NYDA after he’d been shown to be a two-faced liar.

To think this man is in charge of an agency that is supposed to fund entrepreneurial projects of people under the age of 35. In a country with millions of unemployed people between the ages of 18 and 35, Lungisa’s acts are not just deeply immoral, they border on the criminal. He and his cohorts are cynically exploiting the youth unemployment crisis to line their own pockets. Government is funding them in hopes of curbing the disaster, yet Lungisa sees fit to use the money to stuff his own face.

Despite all this, Lungisa is left to his own devices largely because we are all pinning our hopes on him to rid us of Malema. Should he ever take over the ANC Youth League from Malema (which he won’t), we would in time look back fondly over the quaint Malema period. Lungisa has his face deep in the pig trough, and there is no hope of it ever coming out again. DM


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