Oscar Wilde said the pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.
No wonder Carl Niehaus, now hoping to be given another nice fat job in the ANC so that he can repay all his debts, has so much trouble with it.
The former party spokesman, former chairman of the parliamentary correctional services committee, former ambassador to the Netherlands and current ongoing one-man financial crisis keeps having to ask himself, like the German philosopher Friederich Nietzsche: “How much truth can I stand?”
The main problem with truth is that it entangles you every time you open your mouth. Or so Niehaus has discovered. He resigned from his senior ANC position in a flood of tears three years ago after he confessed “within hours” to having forged a letter on behalf of the Gauteng government to a company, promising it that the government would rent its buildings, in exchange for a personal loan. At least he said he had confessed within hours. The Gauteng government said it had discovered Niehaus’s misdemeanour independently.
He also confessed he had made a lot of other “mistakes”, such as borrowing a total of several million rands from senior ANC office-bearers, businessmen and the Rhema Church, where he was asked to resign as chief executive.
An East London travel agency says he still owes them R75 000 for a luxury five-star holiday in Mauritius six years ago.
But on Radio 702 last week he sprang to his own defence, denying he had been guilty of fraud and calling such allegations straight slander. Instead he had “made mistakes in ways I conducted my financial environment”.
Fraud, apparently, is conducted in a different financial environment entirely.
He also told John Robbie he had settled all his debts. Derek Hanekom, deputy minister and chairman of the ANC’s disciplinary committee, immediately announced this was not true, saying: “He borrowed money from many people under false pretences and never said sorry or that he would pay it back.”
So then Niehaus had another interview with Radio 702 and denied he had said he had paid off all his debts.
In the first interview he also claimed there would soon be a formal job for him in the ANC, but that the ANC should rather talk about it. Questioned about this, ANC spokesman Keith Khoza, who probably hoped like mad it wasn’t true, said: “We don’t know what he’s talking about. We are still trying to find out what he was referring to.”
The last thing the party needed was yet another high-ranking member for whom, in the words of American columnist Franklin P Adams, too much truth was uncouth.
Then in the later interview Niehaus denied he had said the ANC was offering him a job. Phew! What a relief!
Robbie and thousands of listeners must just have imagined they had heard it a day or two before.
As my late mother-in-law would say, why spoil a good story when the truth ain’t worth the telling?
Niehaus had another problem with the truth when he claimed to hold a master’s degree and a doctorate in theology from the University of Utrecht. This was news to the Dutch university authorities who could only remember awarding him “an international medal”.
Clearly he deserved a medal for something, but not for telling the truth.
Should he ever be asked to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, God help him.