ON SATURDAY a reader of the Daily Dispatch commented that the “strange logic of leaders defies common sense”.
He might well have been referring to the mayor of Buffalo City Metro Zukiswa Ncitha who has splashed out R1.2-million on a Mercedes Benz SUV.
Her decision to buy a luxury vehicle is strange logic indeed, for two reasons.
First it suggests she is unaware of – or uncaring about – the extreme sensitivities the public has about officials and politicians splurging on luxury items and the damage this spending is doing to her government and party’s reputation.
For example, a spending spree on cars by President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet in 2009 sparked such outrage and so embarrassed the ANC that a task team was set up to review ministerial spending. Then Finance Minister Trevor Manuel continues to apologise for his role in the debacle – a R1.2-million “error of judgment” – and Blade Nzimande wrecked his communist party credentials with a R1.1-million BMW 750i. Only Collins Chabane, beloved for driving a Volkswagen and his predecessor’s 4×4, and Pravin Gordhan, who bought a R557000 Lexus, emerged with any honour.
At the time government attempted to defend itself saying the spending was within the limits set by the ministerial handbook, but critics pointed out that legally permissible did not translate into morally defensible. This argument remains valid and applies to the mayor’s new car.
The second reason her splurge is “strange logic” is because of its inflammatory effect on the public. Communities are no longer just moaning about their needs going unmet while government representatives and politicians ride the gravy train. The people are in open revolt. Almost daily some part of our country is aflame.
People are angry, not so much because they are poor, said University of Johannesburg deputy vice chancellor Adam Habib at a Daily Dispatch/University of Fort Hare Dialogue last week. Far worse poverty exists in other countries but it is not accompanied by extreme, violent protest. Rather, the rage manifesting in our townships, vineyards and mine compounds, is due to rising inequality and perceptions of what people are entitled to.
To be clear, inequality is not so much about race, but class and who is getting what.
If left unchecked the rising inequality will cause South Africa to burn, says Habib.
This means the continual displays of excess at the public’s expense – the exorbitantly priced cars, the unnecessarily lavish hotel accommodation, the first class air tickets for politicians’ children and their au pairs – are fuelling the flames.
Splurging is not just a slap in the face for the poor but a short sighted exercise that will further destabilise the country. Not common sense in anyone’s book.