Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi describing the Nkandla swimming pool as a fire pool was ridiculous, says the writer. File picture: Doctor Ngcobo

All Eusebius McKaiser wants for Christmas is some honest politicians.

Johannesburg - Don’t know about you, but wouldn’t it be totally awesome if Father Christmas gave us honest politicians as Christmas gifts? That’s all I want. But, of course, there is a bigger chance of the Mandela family getting along or Bob Mugabe regaining his sanity.

Two particularly nasty bits of politicking over the past week demonstrate just how addicted to lying some of our politicians are. ANC-speak is a language all on its own. Two phrases have been added to the ANC-speak dictionary.

One, of course, is “fire pool”. The painful look on Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi’s face gave away the fact that he knew he was being – how does one put it equally ridiculously? – economical with the truth. Since a swimming pool cannot be justified as a security necessity, this minister had to invent the idea that the swimming pool is actually a fire pool from which water may be drawn in case of a fire.

“Slaan my dood met n tien pond hammer!’ (Kill me with a ten pound hammer!) as my mom would have exclaimed in disbelief at such naked lying. But what I really would love to know is what Minister Nxesi thought as he prepared to read the statement, and make the non-argument, to the media and the public?

Hey, minister, did you secretly die of embarrassment but simply got on with singing for your Nkandla supper? Or did you actually think the public are a bunch of moegoes who will swallow the ridiculousness whole like a sumptuous Christmas lunch?

Because I can guarantee you, Sir, there is nothing sumptuous about taking voters, and taxpayers in particular, for a ride. Political morality might be an oxymoron, sure, but one worth dreaming about. If you had an inch of political morality, you would have pushed back against the lies from the public servants who prepared that defence of the swimming pool. Better still, you’d stand up to number one – whoever that is – and ask number one to defend his own ridiculousness. Fork off, minister!

Speaking of fork off. The other bit of ANC-speak came from the young ones, the ANC Youth League. (Remember that outfit? They’re trying to make a comeback. Don’t laugh).

The ANCYL’s national convener, Mzwandile Masina, told Numsa’s Irvin Jim to f*** off. Because, you know, it’s cool to swear as a substitute for argument. Instead of immediately apologising for the inappropriate language, and hope your sincerity and contrition will see you through, they release a statement saying the honourable gent mispronounced “fork off”. He, uhm, actually meant that Irvin Jim must accept, I don’t know, a fork in the road…?

I am indeed shaking my head, still, as I am typing this column entry. I honestly thought it was a spoof press statement released by Late Nite News. Who needs stand-up comedians when you have politicians of outstanding wit?

These two phrases – fire pool and fork off – reminded me of how much I love political satire. The Not the Nine O’clock News scriptwriters have nothing on some of our politicians.

But, of course, the difference is that satire is satire, and exists to make us laugh, reflect on our society, and so forth. Politicians who lie with a straight face and invent new words and phrases in the process aren’t funny. Because the consequences are serious.

And that’s why it’s important to hold them accountable. The opportunity cost of an unnecessary swimming pool being built for the president is that fewer textbooks are delivered, a feeding scheme for schoolkids suddenly comes under fiscal pressure, and more people wait for housing that isn’t delivered.

And that is why minister Nxesi should be ashamed to be the face of the lies. Equally, when young leaders lie about what they had said – fork off – that too is worrying. It means we have no guarantees that a younger set of politicians in the government would be a better lot than the older ones exiting the political stage.

Of course, it’s unsurprising that the ANCYL should behave so ridiculously, thinking they are a bunch of cunning linguists. Clearly, when someone like Nxesi role-models how to behave badly, then why on earth would the kiddies in the Youth League behave in an exemplary way? They are taking their cue from their seniors.

But let’s not spoil our Christmas break too much. Gawd, we need a break from the political trickery. But as soon as we’ve all recovered from overeating, and nursing a moerse hangover on January 2, let’s continue to put pressure on the politicians to behave honestly. Even if Santa forgets to bring us a few new honest ones.

For now, it’s time to fork off to the fire pool!

* McKaiser hosts Power Talk With Eusebius McKaiser on Power 98.7. He is author of the best-selling collection of essays A Bantu In My Bathroom

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

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