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Tue Dec 23 07:08:49 SAST 2014

Maharaj plays tired old race card to dodge Nkandla issue

The Times Editorial | 06 November, 2012 00:09

The Times Editorial: Presidential spin doctor Mac Maharaj launched a fearless attack on DA leader Helen Zille yesterday. Emboldened by the police's removal of the DA leader from outside President Jacob Zuma's traditional home in Nkandla on Sunday, Maharaj tried to put Zille in her place.

Not only did he criticise Zille's "cowboy style" of seeking answers, he took issue with her use of "colonial language".

Zille's great offence apparently was calling Nkandla a "compound". Maharaj belaboured the term as if it were the only issue relevant to the president's KwaZulu-Natal homestead.

Not for Maharaj the vexing question of whether taxpayers were being forced, unfairly, to pay for extensive renovations to Zuma's home. No, he took issue with "compound" - because it is language, he says, loaded with prejudice.

"[Zille] called the president's house a 'compound', a word used for hostels and migrant workers. She'd never use that for a white person's home," Maharaj said.

He is correct. The Collins English Dictionary entry for "compound" refers to "an enclosure, especially on the mines, containing the living quarters for black workers". The dictionary goes further though, describing "compound" as a camp for prisoners of war or the enclosure in which a European's house stood.

But would US President Barack Obama take offence to Camp David, the presidential retreat with golf course, underground bunker and secret communications facilities being described on the White House website as a "compound"?

Would the influential Kennedy family be revolted at what has become known as the "Kennedy compound", a 24000m² estate in Massachusetts from which John Kennedy ran his successful 1960 presidential campaign?

To see racial prejudice behind every white South African's criticism of Zuma is nothing short of silly and cynical.

But, because Maharaj cannot possibly defend the Nkandla compound, he resorts to the oldest black trick in the book.

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