Nkandla, perhaps a dishonest and less objective debate in post-apartheid democracy!


We owe it to ourselves to intentionally and clinically engage Nkandla devoid of our confirmed prisms, if we intend learning from it.

It is my submission that we are not learning from Nkandla because our prisms are more important than the principles and lessons we collectively need that must help us for the future.

In the aftermath of the Inter-Ministerial and Public Protector reports, it has become important to ask, has Nkandla that have now made itself on to political campaigning advertisements ever  been engaged devoid of all irrational arguments on both sides of the spectrum devoid of all judgmental conceptions and rhetoric. In fact I shall postulate we owe it to ourselves as a nation to engage Nkandla less from a for-or -against stance. Our debates around Nkandla naturally assumes a for-or-against platform. Our debates adopt stoic stances and reflect deep-seated trenched mind-sets.

I know for penning this article, I run the risk of being accused of defence of Nkandla yet I cannot be held carceral by those who equally refuse to come out of their cast iron trenches. I deliberately write about this subject as it is experienced from my perspective with the hope of compelling as in plea of lifting our collective minds to engage beyond the froth.

Nkandla has become a political instrument, the ‘cat with the nine tails’ – sjambok, a career defining moment, a potential albatross, and a confirmation of casted stance. My intention with this note is to ask direct questions and to juxtapose this with the Obama flights expenditure of $100m to Mandela Funeral and $11M for Michelle Obama visit to Ireland to which we have seen or heard very little impeachment claims or accusations levelled of corruption claims.

I recently read that the Obama trip to Mandela cost the USA citizens $100m, which translates to R1bn. In that same report we are told that Michelle Obama’s visit to Ireland was $11m and though some may have lifted eyebrows generally not much attention is paid to this and its almost assumes as normal.

We must draw some deductions, if this amount is spent on a single flight for the 44th President of the oldest democracy without any fanfare,

–          Firstly, the practice of incurring these costs for travel must be an entrenched one, if it does not raise the ire of opposition party attack.


–          Secondly, the morality question of this expenditure regardless of abject poverty in the USA for those who know is not factored in – why not?


–          Thirdly, it is NOT assumed that the president had a hand in the expenditure, which is directly linked to him.


–          In the fourth instance, why is it assumed that the costs for these flights were not corrupted, inflated and exorbitant?


–          Lastly, why is it naturally assumed that it is correct for the president of the USA to incur such expense and he is not scrutinised and reprimanded let alone impeached for it?


Yet the expenditure of an Nkandla is naturally considered exorbitant, naturally translating to benefit, equally assumed as corrupt and thus attesting to presidential involvement in prove of corruption?

Well it is time to ask some questions on Nkandla.

  1. Is the safety and security of the president an essential aspect and is this covered in all relevant aspects of our constitutional framework footprints? The short answer is yes, but while this yes is real, our debate has seen many opine, with total disregard for that. The premise for them ultimately reflects a mind that plausibly holds the president needs no security. Now a sector of society from all strata of economic and educational definitions subliminally holds this view, to varying degrees. If we cannot agree with this constitutional provision than it means we are in conflict with what we hold sacrosanct as a nation namely our constitution. The challenge with this view is that it inherently holds ramifications for clouding the needful debate on the relevance and legitimacy of an Nkandla or not.


  1. The second question is, if the constitution in all its ancillary definitions of legislative frameworks supports the aspect of presidential security does it unequivocally define and prescribe this security for the president or those in power? This simply asks for the definition of this security – be it national, or in a personal context. Are the boundaries definitively drawn or is the definition of security an interpreted reality?


  1. If safety and security is defined and described, how is it actualised? This means is there a clear understanding of who is responsible for the line-functional provision of the safety and security aspect as competence aspect in a normal setting? Who is responsible for the president’s safety and security as provided for in the various legislative policy articulations?


  1. What are the monetary implications of this need for safety and security? We draw inferences and even comparisons between former presidents and make a determination that Nkandla is exorbitant because the former president’ safety costs were nailed at R12m.


  1. Is the comparing former president’s safety and security expenditure an erroneous aspect to use as the yardstick? If so why and if not why not? It appears natural to conclude that comparisons is a justified means of ascertaining a median, yet that median must be populated by a set of  varying if  not conflicting facts and scenarios that makes comparison plausible. Let me attempt showing this out in the scenario of the expenditure of former President Mbeki. When the expenses were incurred was there a test done to ascertain exorbitance or not. Why did we not are not ask if the costs in the case of the R12m proved exorbitant? How do we know if this R12m was not inflated by 50-60% using the same principle of how it is done with Nkandla? Hence, Nkandla is now compared against a Botha, Mandela, and Mbeki eras, and found exorbitant when none of those eras can be categorically confirmed as not exorbitant for their respective expenditures and for the reason of premise since the benchmark does not exist. The money spent on Botha as R230k in that era may, or may not have been so inflated that it should really have cost us R15k and we use a faulty premise and view this as normal or reasonable.


Critical it is perhaps time we admit there exists no uniform standard costs  reflective in a  number as reasonable, and to act as if it does is to deny the truth of a praxis that we have done in a very haphazard and less bench-marked sense. Terms like reasonable means, nothing, or it rather is  open-ended and lends itself to confusion for claim of opaqueness.


  1. At a another level comparing the Mbeki expenditure of R12m to a Botha era R230K proves highly exorbitant, when it may not at all be true in its essence. I guess I am asking is there a one size fit all, if not why are  we comparing apples with bananas and feel justified that we are correct?

Can we categorically tell South Africans anytime we spent a rand of their taxpayers on the safety and security of the sitting or former president that we have not committed ourselves to wasteful expenditure.


  1. Is Nkandla not a sentiment guilty verdict? Did we not incur a precedent for not having engaged the expenditure of Mandela, and Mbeki in not questioning or engaging it or at least render it suspicious to ask for some clarity? We therefore may have set a precedent informed by nothing but sheer sentiment. Is Nkandla not judged from another premise of assumed sentiment? Is our vigilance now not questionable as only sentiment informed as opposed to be honest. Zuma is regarded by some as naturally corrupt although no court has found him guilty of any such, but in the court of sentiment he is only corrupt when the same is naturally not assume of Mandela or Mbeki. Interesting how we will find we have no reason to assume either corruption or non- corruption in the case of both Mandela and Mbeki.


The problem is in the absence of a clearly stipulated budget allocation informed by research and substantiated by evidence of due pricing it is my contention that all expenditure on safety and security may have been exorbitant and the opposite cannot easily be proven.


The 44th USA President Barack H. Obama Questions:

  1. Is the expenditure of $100m for any country exorbitant for a single flight?
  2. If so does it translates to irresponsible expenditure, which can be deemed morally challenging ?
  3. If it is not for the USA, why is it justifiably not an issue?
  4. If it is morally challenging should it naturally translate to corrupt if not why not? Why it is not assumed equally corrupt for its exorbitance?
  5. Why the general silence from all quarters?
  6.  Why are the Republicans not leading a campaign for the impeachment of an Obama if the yardstick is abject poverty of citizens in the USA, which is a reality?
  7. If he is not impeached does it make the trip correct ?
  8. Why is there a natural assumption if it was South Africa that it has to be corrupt?
  9. Does it not show our immaturity for assuming a transparency always premised on an axis of corruption?
  10. Can we use the same principle in both Obama trips and Nkandla if not why not – because both nations have presidents both incurred expenses albeit for different reasons and both nations have poverty as an accompanying partner in manifestation of a citizenry lending credence to universal moral challenge.


Again, I contend that we have not engaged Nkandla to learn from it we have engaged it to find someone guilty of corruption that was our departure point and our ultimate destination. Nothing else for us matters that a president is guilty of corruption. Anyone looking at it through that window, will only be satisfied to have his view stick. In research language, you can prime your sample to ensure a set of outcomes that you already may have concluded on.


Thus Nkandla can happen again because we not engaging it we judging it, less of reason but concentrated in what we already had determined before engaging it. All reports generated so far attests this prism be it the Inter-ministerial Task Team or PP reports it moves from an assumption of guilt and innocence and the entire reports cannot escape this paradox and its fed into the national narrative until all we hear is corruption, defence and counter accusations. These in my assessment prove all symptomatic of the lack of clinical engaging of Nkandla.

The sad reality in SA is that we have yet to engage honestly and objectively on Nkandla. I think we all owe it to ourselves and our collective future to duly engage on this topic devoid of our presupposed prisms, trapped convictions, and make belief realities and untested beliefs.

Even those who defend Nkandla is not free from challenge of engaging in it honesty. Nkandla can and will happen again because we have not analysed it and develop a non -emotional response to it. Not all reports on Nkandla can escape the preoccupation of a prism defined as a made- up – mind. The challenge is if one’s mind is made up already to believe there is corruption you never going to be open to accept that there was none even if you are given evidence.

If you rush to conclude this a defence of Nkandla, you have only proven my contention that we cannot talk of Nkandla unless we see others in for or against cloaks.

I want to agree with the exorbitant claim for both Nkandla and Obama flights, yet my challenge is there is not a single corroborating premise indicative and defined in monetary sense to hold these presidents accountable for having benefitted from taxpayers money, having had a hand in the  so called ‘bloated’ expenditure, also for being corrupt in benefitting and for being immoral when poverty is real in both the USA and SA . The moral arch if invoked now must first show a consistency in previous eras that justified the claim of immorality.

If we have not questioned Bush’s flights or Mandela’s security adjustments how dare we in fairness attempt beating the drum of morality today. Certainly the Republicans would love to impeach an Obama, if they were ready to impeach  William Jefferson Clinton for his escapades in the Oval office when the country was economically sound, they would find it easy in an economically depressing season to impeach Obama who spends $100m on a single flight.

Respectfully submitted

Clyde N.S. Ramalaine


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