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How Zuma can spread Nkandla cheer

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nkandla nov 22

Independent Newspapers

President Jacob Zuma's home in Nkandla. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo

Mr President, how about giving all South Africans just a little bit of what you gave yourself? asks Max du Preez.

Pretoria - A man’s home is his castle, they say, and from what I’ve heard, your castle at Nkandla means more to you than just a place to stay the night, Mr President.

I’m happy for you.

You have always presented yourself as a man of the people – unlike your predecessor, your supporters say. But is it somehow possible that you have forgotten that there are millions of South Africans who also dream of a place they can call home and where they and their children can feel safe and content?

Your ministers told us that we as taxpayers paid for a big pool for your homestead that serves as a “fire pool”, but that your guests also use it to swim in.

I don’t know if your advisers tell you, but there is a fire in one of our country’s squatter camps – I think you refer to them as informal settlements – virtually every month. Many people lose all their belongings in these fires and sometimes old people and children burn to death.

Don’t you think that your government should build a few fire pools in squatter camps so water would be readily available to extinguish fires?

They could also use buckets to dip into the pools as your police commissioner said the plan was at Nkandla.

Millions of black youngsters grow into adulthood without ever taking a dip in a swimming pool and the fire pools can double up as swimming pools as happens at Nkandla.

Your ministers told us that we also paid for electrified palisade fencing, perimeter fencing, security lights, alarm systems and cameras at Nkandla.

I’m sure it makes you and your family feel safe when you go to sleep.

Now here’s a radical proposal. I’m not sure whether your advisers have told you, but many of our township schools, especially in Cape Town, have become unsafe places.

Pupils and teachers get harassed at school, gangsters sometimes enter school grounds and attack people, drug peddlers sell kids nasty stuff and schools are often vandalised over weekends and during holidays.

Mr President, how about giving those youngsters just a little bit of what you gave yourself? Good fences around schools – and while you’re at it, township hospitals and clinics – to make those places safe. And security lights for after dark. They don’t even need the electronic detection systems, underground bunkers or bulletproof glass you need.

I won’t try and fault your ministers’ arguments that your bodyguards at Nkandla need a soccer field to keep fit and kill boredom.

I’m not sure anyone has told you that very few township, rural and squatter camp schools have proper soccer fields for the youngsters to play the beautiful game. They don’t need Astroturf surfaces like at Nkandla, just a decent surface, goal posts, a fence and a few seats for spectators. Believe me, it will make the world of difference to those kids.

I understand that it would be a major inconvenience to you and your family if there were to be a power cut to Nkandla and that you need that powerful and expensive generator.

But did you know, Mr President, that there are millions who do not have any electricity at all?

Electricity would make it easier for school children and students to do their homework at night and families will grow up much healthier and safer if they don’t have to use paraffin or wood stoves.

I can see how it could become a crisis if you were to fall ill on a weekend at Nkandla – who wants to take a helicopter ride all the way to the nearest hospital when you feel out of sorts? So your clinic at Nkandla is no doubt a necessity, as are the doctors and nurses staffing it.

This may come as a surprise to you, Mr President, but did you know that hundreds of thousands of South Africans have to walk for hours to the nearest clinic and then wait many hours before a doctor or a nurse can examine them? Often these patients are the elderly or pregnant women. There is no need to build a clinic for every family. But how about a good clinic for every few thousand people close to where they live?

You get to keep everything we taxpayers have built for you at Nkandla when you retire, which I’m heartbroken to hear could be fairly soon. How about giving every citizen who rents a state-built house full ownership of that house also?

* Max du Preez is an author and columnist.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers

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