|The PE debate (Source: Herald)|
Tuesday 8 April: I am speaking for Agang in a debate in Port Elizabeth with 7 other parties, and the other opposition parties find a way to work Nkandla into every other sentence, sending the ANC part of the crowd into a frenzy each time.
Sorry, I am too much an academic to play this sort of game. We discovered the ANC’s on switch. Now talk about everything else, the humiliation and pain our people experience every day, and what we are going to do about it. How we can restore pride, rebuild hope and rekindle the promise of our new democracy of 20 years ago? But the ANC are the ones to watch. Nkandla is their issue, and you have to wonder how they can go into an election with such a liability.
So what is the ANC speaker’s response to all this? He totally ignores all reference to Nkandla and goes on about his party’s track record.
What track record? I wonder, having just been to a place called Taliban in the vicinity of Uitenhage. This is one of the most depressing places I’ve ever seen, with people living in utter hopelessness amidst heaps of trash. I talk to young people who passed matric and have no jobs. They are angry and feel betrayed.
Then the light comes on. This is the ANC game plan. Let the opposition shout Nkandla at the top of their voices, and calmly prattle on about all the good the ANC is doing. The message: Nkandla was a cock-up but otherwise we are doing just fine.
Well, are they?
Last financial year the government by their own figures lost R33-billion to wasteful spending and corruption. That’s one Nkandla every three days.
Nkandla is not an anomaly. It’s the way the government regularly does business.
And that’s just the money they admit to wasting – no doubt totally leaving out the waste of a bloated bureaucracy in the Eastern Cape Health Department that leaves insufficient funds for medical staff, to quote one example.
It is wastage on this scale that makes all our problems seem so hard. Yes, equalizing education post-apartheid was always going to be a challenge. The same for delivering quality health care to the poor and fixing economic inequality. We are not going to solve any of these problems by throwing money down the toilet on a vast scale (in parts of the country that have toilets).
In this weird inside-out looking-glass world, a government that flushes money away more efficiently than it delivers clean water has found a way to turn what should be a massive liability into an electoral advantage. A way of personifying corruption and incompetence in the president, while somehow carrying off the fiction that his personality has nothing to do with the government he heads.
|Agang visits Glenmore|
I think about the people in Glenmore, a dry dusty apartheid forced removal dumping ground also here in the Eastern Cape. No jobs, no hope, nothing to look forward to but the next social grant day.
Would people living in a trash heap be happy that the government has turned Nkandla into an electoral strategy to evade the issues that blight their lives?
Here’s a challenge for the ANC. Maybe you should go and ask them. Try Taliban and Glenmore to see if you get the same answer.
But first, disguise yourself as a human being. I’ll lend you my Agang T-shirt.
But of course the ANC will not take up this challenge, because Nkandla is their strategy to win. By talking loudly about this one thing, opposition parties turn the voters’ attention away from the other 120-times Nkandla-scale misspending that happens every year. We implicitly accept the ANC line that everything else is fine by making this one big failure the only one we shout about.
The personality of the president is not incidental to the ANC. It embodies what the ANC stands for now: a party of greed and self-enrichment.
Every person in Glenmore, Taliban and countless other townships and settlements who live lives of hopelessness and despair deserve better. It is Agang’s mission to change this country for the better, and that will not happen if we let the ANC get away with this. At very least, we should force them to defend their entire track record, not just disgracefully profligate expenditure on a financially incontinent president’s house.
The sad thing is that the money gone on waste and corruption could go a long way towards the social programmes we need to turn this country around. We do not need crazy economic policies or empty promises. What we need is sound governance and active citizens who stand up for themselves – a rekindling of the promise of freedom that burnt so bright in 1994.