Whitewash just doesn't wash
There were several scandalous aspects to the press conference by Minister of Public Works Thulas Nxesi to explain away the Nkandlagate mess yesterday. There were the obfuscations. There were the lies. Yet Nxesi ignored the one really huge scandal in front of him. He totally ignored it, despite the fact that it was breaking wind in his face and begging for attention.
The scandal is line five of the findings section of Nxesi's press release. It says: "The investigation has found that the amount paid by the state to date [for President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla home] is R206420644.37."
Read that again.
In this country, where so many of our people are living in abject poverty and hunger visits schoolchildren and parents alike, the "government of the people" spent R206-million upgrading security at the presidential compound in his home village.
This is the scandal of our country: our leaders have forgotten that they lead a country of extreme poverty, and that it is obscene that so much money can be spent on just one man and his family. The fact that there was no sense of shame or embarrassment from the ministers assembled in Pretoria, or from Zuma himself, that this obscene amount could be spent on just one person and his family is the real scandal.
The lack of shame, the belief by this administration and its numerous acolytes that this is just fine, that is the scandal. That is a fundamental loss of what makes us different from the kleptocratic leaders of this world. We are lost so long as this government, its ministers and all our people believe that it is right, it is not to be questioned, when R206-million is spent on just one man.
Nxesi probably does not realise it but his failure to question why we need to spend R206-million fortifying the house of a leader says a fortune about him as a central committee member of the SA Communist Party and his loss of a moral and ethical centre.
There is a price to pay for all this. The people of Zamdela, Sasolburg, who went on the rampage last week can see what is going on. So, too, can the many others who have been revolting against this state since the early 2000s. There shall be a reckoning.
There are other scandals contained in the flimsy excuse of a report presented by Nxesi yesterday.
First, the report will not be made public for "security reasons". Wow. After this massive public outcry over Nkandla, we are told by Nxesi, Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa and Justice Minister Jeff Radebe (three men who were key to the re-election of Zuma to the ANC presidency and who owe their political careers to his "slate") that we must believe their every word and be content.
Nxesi then added a fillip to the whole thing by suggesting that, in fact, the state was doing us all a favour by revealing the information it did yesterday.
Then there is the incredible assertion that Zuma did not know the gross escalation of costs to his own home. First, which homeowner sits and watches his house grow and grow and grow. and does not actually ask one question about how and why this is being done?
Either Zuma is an incredibly incurious human being, who cares nothing for his own home or his finances, or we are being lied to.
It seems we are being lied to. Both the City Press and Mail & Guardian newspapers have published documents showing that Zuma was informed of major aspects of the Nkandla homestead's progress. Now, without any proof whatsoever, Nxesi and the security cluster ministers want us to believe that Zuma did not know anything.
The truth is that yesterday's report was a whitewash from start to finish. We heard lame noises that there were irregularities by some junior officials. We also heard that law enforcement agencies will be involved in following up on some of those implicated in these irregularities.
The truth is that Nxesi has just pushed the real and serious looting of funds by political leaders - not civil servants breaking minor rules - from his desk and conveniently parked it elsewhere. From him we are unlikely to get the truth.
Yet the truth shall indeed come out. Zuma faces an election in 16 months or so. There will be members of his inner circle and civil servants feeding the media more allegations about Nkandla. The public protector will also be looking at this issue. So, too, will the opposition. Nxesi's whitewash will not stick. There will be more stink.
It is sad, though, that no one at yesterday's press conference thought spending R206-million on one man's pad was a problem at all. This is how far we have come.