Nathi Nhleko shows a video of the fire pool to the media
Jacob Zuma is right. There is an obsession with Nkandla Nkandla Nkandla.
Discussing “the house of one man” as he puts it, has become tedious. It is a
distraction from the myriad challenges that hammer the lives of millions of
South Africans on a daily basis.
has been no escaping Nkandla since the start of the fifth parliament over a
year ago. The Nkandla lexicon sneaks into everything from the energy crisis and
poor service delivery to meaningful debates about job creation and combatting
corruption. It is the elephant in the room in both houses of parliament and
even committee rooms. Over the past few weeks it has filtered into debates on
the government departments’ crucial budget votes.
has split parliament in two – with the 62% majority party having a tough time
deflecting the relentless – and sometimes infantile - attacks on their
has been a trigger for the deterioration of parliamentary behaviour in the past
year, with mutual disrespect and unhealthy anger building between the ANC and
opposition benches. Last week, for instance, the house was rescued from chaos
with the announcement of a 15-minute “comfort break” after DA chief whip John
Steenhuisen accused deputy Trade & Industry Minister Mzwandile Masina of
mouthing to DA MPs the words: “I will f***you up.” Nkandla was not the
spark, but the row over “the house of one man” has helped to breed this rough
pub-like culture of foul mouths and rude finger gestures in parliament.
is now 14 months since the ever-patient public protector Thuli Madonsela found
that Zuma had unduly benefitted from the R246m upgrades to his private home. So
like many Nkandla-fatigued, yet ever-optimistic South Africans, I was looking
forward to a breakthrough in the impasse last week.
was a golden opportunity for police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko to determine an
amount that Zuma owed for non-security features at Nkandla. A gesture would
probably satisfy former ANC MP Ben Turok who warned months ago that the country
was “sick to death” of Nkandla and accused his party of a lack of wisdom on the
way it had handled the controversy. “I would say fair is fair. … I would
say, come on be a sport, pay something,” was his advice to Zuma.
had an opportunity to put the embarrassing Nkandla scandal to rest, so that our
multi-party parliament could get down to the serious business of building
democracy together and tackling the growing jobs crisis which was brought into
sharp focus last week.
built up ahead of the 7pm Wednesday press briefing, with two reminder notices
being issued to the media (like journalists would forget). The hype increased
when the briefing was abruptly postponed for 24 hours, only to be shifted
forward the following morning to 1.30pm.
before, news leaked on Twitter that Nhleko had determined that Zuma did not
have to pay back a cent. The full farce of the 50-page Nhleko report unfolded
in the Zuma-owes-Zero press conference, which included Wikipedia references and
amateur damage control video demonstrations to the gentle backing track of the
Neapolitan “O Sole Mio”.
course, Nhleko’s “f*** you” to the public protector, his announcement that the
questionable features at Nkandla were actually security features and that more
money needed to be spent to complete security at Zuma’s home should not have taken
anyone by surprise. It was naïve to expect anything different from a Minister
who had been tasked by his own boss to investigate the liability of - his own
thanks to Nhleko’s whitewash, we can be assured of yet another season of
Nkandla obsession in the house of chaos with the #paybackthemoney hashtag
continuing to trend.