So much can happen in a week in South Africa. A week here is probably a year in other countries’ politics. The past week has been no exception.
It all started off with a lovely stroll by DA leader Helen Zille, down in KwaZulu-Natal, where she was going to be walking around Nkandla on a fact-finding mission. She was stopped by police, as it was reported, for her own safety.
No walk has made such news since Julius Malema walked from Joburg to Pretoria on his Economic Freedom march.
So far, Malema’s march hasn’t achieved anything, and we don’t know what Zille’s march has achieved besides awareness of the Nkandla affair, which was already at a record high anyway.
It seems it was a publicity stunt more than anything, although her march revealed some disturbing things about freedom of assembly and the clear intimidation which we saw.
These are testing times for freedom.
Perhaps this is a good time to ask if Nkandla would have been hidden behind the Protection of Information Bill if it had been left in its original form.
It wasn’t long before our attentions were turned towards another Nkandla story. All in the same week.
This time the SABC was told which words not to use to describe Nkandla, because these words were deemed to be racist and colonialist in nature. They included “compound”, “homestead”, “Nkandlagate” and “Zumaville”.
While we do need to be careful with our choice of words, it was revealed that government ministers had, in fact, also referred to Nkandla as a “compound”.
According to the Mail & Guardian: “In early October, amid growing coverage of spending at Nkandla, the Department of Public Works issued a statement in which it refers to the ‘security compound’ that forms part of the Nkandla complex – twice. Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi read that statement aloud to a live television audience.”
No one accused the minister of racism for using the word “compound” to talk about Nkandla. I’m almost certain even the minister found the SABC decree ridiculous.
Then we heard the shocking news that police may have planted weapons on the bodies of the deceased Marikana miners in order to strengthen their self-defence case.
We know the mineworkers were striking illegally. We also know that there had been an order from the police minister that live ammunition was not to be used, and that rubber bullets were to be used as an absolute last resort.
Finally, there was some good news to end the week. Former president Thabo Mbeki was named African of the Year by the Daily Trust for his work in Sudan.
The trust’s advisory board chairman, Salim Ahmed, said: “Normally, when we as an advisory panel choose the African of the Year, we look for an ordinary African doing extraordinary things.
“But this year, in our deliberations, we have decided to choose an already prominent African, but someone who, in the context of the Sudanese crisis, has made what we consider to be an extraordinary contribution.”
That same day, Zuma was due to make his Thabo Mbeki Lecture as part of the ANC’s centenary celebrations. Mbeki himself was unable to attend due to previous commitments, and the lecture gave us no new insights into the man Zuma ousted as leader of the ANC and the country.
All in all, an ordinary South African week.