/ 20 May 2022

OPINION | What will power Mthethwa’s erection?

Minister of the Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa

Like many of my fellow South Africans, I’m wondering where Minister of Monuments Nathi Mthethwa thinks he will be getting the electricity from to power his R22-million, 120m glow-in-the-dark stainless steel flag.

After all, the state’s electricity provision entity is not capable of keeping the lights on for the rest of us for longer than a couple of days on the trot, so how does Mthethwa hope to keep his planned beacon of patriotism shining 24/7/365 when there is going to be no Eskom to power it up during most of the coming decade?

Perhaps Nkosinathi hasn’t noticed, given that he appears to live in a parallel universe to the majority of his compatriots, and is a bit busy trying to square away his career after December, but the “e” in South Africa stands for electricity.

Will the precinct in which Mthethwa plans to hoist the flag — like the minister of funerals himself — be exempt from load-shedding and keep shining, Eskom be damned, when the lights go out for the rest of the population? It’s a permanent reminder of the distance between our leaders and the people who pay for their stupidity, right on time for the 2024 elections.

That would be neither a shock nor a surprise, given the track record of the honourable minister, who didn’t notice that the South African Police Service’s (SAPS) Crime Intelligence Division slush fund money was being used to build a wall around his house back when he was police minister.

I got to see the wall — up close and personal — in the 2010s, when a report by the police service’s Major General Mark Henkel into corruption in the crime intelligence slush fund, including the wall, estimated to cost about R200 000 — was leaked.

One thing led to another, and one Wednesday afternoon photographer Khaya Ngwenya and I burst out of the sugar cane for a surprise visit.

Mthethwa wasn’t home.

Neither was the Mercedes Benz allegedly bought for him by the boys in crime intelligence for a sweet R300 000, which, according to testimony at the Zondo commission into state capture, was given back because Mthethwa was worried that he was being followed by journalists, not long after we popped past.

The wall was there, though, in its head-height breezeblock splendour, just like the Henkel report said it would be, along with a static police post and a Nyala — and a flag, but it wasn’t 120m high, or made from metal, or lit up with electric light.

I don’t know whether that flag cost R22-million.

The Croc did his thing, which was pretty easy, because the wall couldn’t run away and the cops on duty were sleeping in the guardpost.

I sparked up a spliff, saluted the flag and we motored back towards the big city, the cops — and our absent host — none the wiser that his weekend was about to go to hell.

I’ve always wondered if Mthethwa made the cops on duty salute the flag when they signed in and out, to instil the necessary level of patriotism in them, or simply because he could — especially after we came to call.

It wouldn’t come as a surprise.

Perhaps that’s why Mthethwa didn’t see the team of spooks building a stop-nonsense around the pozi, as he claimed when confronted about the allegations that it was built with ill-gotten gains.

Perhaps Mthethwa thought the wall built itself.

Back to the flag at hand.

No act of disregard for the general population appears to be beyond our man Nyambose — ask the artists and cultural workers who have been starving since March 2020; the widows of Marikana  — so blowing R22-million on a glow-in-the-dark metal monstrosity and breaking the bank to keep it lit up at night when everybody around it is forced to use candles and gas stoves is right up our man’s alley.

Perhaps Mthethwa simply didn’t think that far and simply expected that power for his latest crime against the public purse would automatically be there, like the perks and privileges of public office, no matter what happens, Covid-19 or no Covid-19, load-shedding or not.

Perhaps Mthethwa thinks that his flag is special — like him — and doesn’t need electricity to light up the Republic at night; or that it, like the starving artists and cultural workers he’s dodged for two years while making his way to celebrity funerals and the rest of the people who pay his bills, can survive on oxygen.

Perhaps Mthethwa simply doesn’t care.