Nkandla shows contempt in which public is held in

THE country has been captivated by the battle between the public protector and ministers in the security cluster over her report on the construction of President Jacob Zuma’s private home in Nkandla.

The public protector’s report may be legally helpful but I do not need it to exercise the necessary political judgment as a citizen.

Such images are sufficient to prompt anyone with half a conscience to ask if what is being spent on a state official’s personal convenience is appropriate. One does not need to be a minister or a president to do so.

It is a fundamental requirement for anyone who claims to be acting in the public spirit.

Some have said the report might let us know what, if anything, Zuma knew. I think this is irrational. What property owner would not, upon finding workers and heavy machinery digging numerous trenches and making alterations, ask exactly what they were doing to his home? Why would such a property owner not ask who would be paying for the work?

I have an expectation that, as president and chief custodian of the country’s finances, Zuma would be struck by the obviously enormous expense of such an undertaking.

To suggest he did not know the extent of the work done to his own property because it never occurred to him to ask is to insult his intelligence.

And it is an insult to our intelligence to suggest the ministers and officials involved would simply show up at his property and start making changes without explaining to him in detail what they were planning to do, and why. To suggest this is to take us for fools.

If the president had not wanted so much money spent on his home, he would have stopped it. That he never did nor, to date, has he expressed any regret shows he fully agrees with it and does not care what the taxpayers think.

I really would not expect Madonsela to reach that conclusion on our behalf.

I had to pick my jaw up from the floor when Zuma told parliament the construction was the decision of government, implying he had no say in the matter.

Forgive me, but what is his job if it is not to head government? How can he disown the very public agency he crisscrossed the country begging to lead? Either Zuma has a poor grasp of the extent of his job or he thinks we are ignorant.

The South African public needs to ask itself why, in the consideration and approval of this offensive extravagance, the people involved had no fear of public outrage? What is it about our previous and current demeanour that gives the impression we would be fine with the entire enterprise?

If we can find honest answers to those questions, then we will have discovered the holy grail of more responsive and ethical government.

I suspect we won’t like the answers much because they will demonstrate our complicity.

For now we must accept that when Zuma is no longer president, the entire R206-million will turn into a substantial gift to him and his family.

Songezo Zibi writes for the Financial Mail where this article appeared first

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