Phala Phala is your Nkandla, Mr. President

In politics it is the law of the jungle and the leader of the reigning lion pride is badly injured, too many hyenas click painfully at him for his faint, partisan pride to really save him. Animals and politicians have an almost infallible instinct to assess the odds and ensure their own livelihoods. DA pride, meanwhile, ready to absorb other pride to gain control, how shaky and fragile such a coalition could be. Its leader, John Steenhuisenputs the narrator’s chair and asks in words tasteless for the mostly reluctant gathering, how it came about. Lion King Cyril is oppressed – and describes how disappointed his subjects are. This is a compelling story, full of intrigue, betrayal, conspiracy and self-destruction, not to mention the cunning, mischievous jackal that led King Cyril into the land of the hyena. At Christmas, we get to know exactly how the next chapter begins – and where the story could end. – Chris Bateman

Phala Phala is your Nkandla, Mr. President

by John Steenhuisen *

Madam President

Mr. President

Distinguished members

The purpose of this debate is to vote on the budget for the presidency, but as we have come to know, this ministry is full of secrets and scandals.

We’re being asked today to say yes or no to this budget, but the fact is that none of us really know what’s going on in your office. And this makes voting today very difficult.

Why is the Prime Minister’s Office the only ministry without a standing committee? We have asked this question many times before and we have yet to get a satisfactory explanation.

Why should every other ministry be under the control of a standing committee, not the presidency? After last week’s shocking revelations, it should be clear to everyone that the presidency cannot control itself.

There are many questions that we would have asked in such a standing committee, but since we can not, it is only a matter of asking them here in this debate.

One of these questions is about the blurring of the line between Ramaphosa, the head of state, and the businessman Ramaphosa.

While police budgets for civilians are being cut and law enforcement measures in areas where crime is thinning are dwindling, the VIP protection budget of the president and his minister is the only part of the police budget that is rising.

And now we are told that these valuable police measures have been put in place for the benefit of the president’s private business interests – to conduct covert investigations, interrogations and secrets.

I’m sure you agree, Mr President, that South Africans have a right to know if you use your VIP protection unit as a private collection agency.

Just like they have a right to know what’s going on behind closed doors in your Phala Phala town.

I want you to imagine for a moment what all this must look like for ordinary South Africans.

What a hard-working, tax-paying citizen should make out of a remote farm where tens of millions of rands in foreign currency have been stuffed into the upholstery of the living room.

What should such an ordinary citizen think when he is told that more than R60 million of this hidden money has been stolen and that the president did not want anyone to know about it.

That he had the suspects tracked down, gathered, interrogated and paid to keep their mouths shut.

Ordinary people – law-abiding South Africans who have to save months to pay for things like school uniforms, school fees and children’s birthdays – can not imagine such money. But you did not even report it to the police.

Do not bother to get it back, you did not want anyone to know it existed.

How much money have you saved if you can afford to close your eyes for $ 4 million?

What should the average South African citizen do about this, Mr. President?

You say that all this money was from the sale of animals, but I do not think many people really believe that.

You say that this is all above the table and that you have not broken the law. But trampling millions on the couch, hiding the robbery from the police and paying the robbers hundreds of thousands of rands for not saying a word – these are not the actions of someone who has not broken the law.

These are things we see in mafia films about cartels and organizations and criminals.

If this were all above the table, as you claim, you could have ended it right away with openness and full public disclosure. None of this would have endangered any research and no one will believe you when you claim that this is why you can not speak.

An honest and innocent man who was the victim of a major crime would not have wasted his time trying to put the story straight.

Only a man who has a lot to hide would choose to silence himself behind the smokescreen of “pending investigation”. And in this silence, people will begin to answer the many questions themselves.

So once again, I urge you to come clean to the people of South Africa. No more subterfuge, no secrets. Just direct answers to these questions – and I’ll be happy to send you the text of this talk so you have them all listed:

How much money was stored in Phala Phala when the robbery was committed and in what currencies?

How much was actually stolen?

How did this money get into South Africa and who brought it in?

How long has this money been in your custody?

Was the South African Central Bank subject to capital controls?

How much foreign currency is stored on your farm right now and how much is stored on your other assets?

Why did you not report the crime to SAPS?

Were suspects detained in your town and, if so, on whose behalf and under what law?

Are you sending General Wally Rhoode to Namibia to conduct an investigation and if so, with what authority did he travel there?

Who paid for this cross-border study and how much did it cost?

Who paid for subsequent security updates on your various assets and what did these updates involve?

Did you use your position as head of state to seek help from the Namibian government?

Was the rest of this currency deposited in a bank and if so, on what day? Was it reported to SARS?

And finally – and probably most importantly – given your unique duty as President to uphold the Constitution and serve the people of the Republic, how do you interpret this duty in the ugly details of this case?

Every day that these questions go unanswered causes irreparable damage to the office of the presidency, which has now gone from paralyzed to stone dead.

Even the very best case scenario – with the most generous interpretation of how you got the money, why it was hidden in your house and your reasons for the cover – is reprehensible to you.

But here we are not talking about the best case, is it, Mr. President?

Because if we were, you would certainly have reported this incident to the police two years ago. Or at least come clean when everything is revealed now.

The fact that you used a considerable amount of your power and resources – paid for by the taxpayers of this country and financed by this budget – to conceal all evidence of this money tells me that a real story is something that your presidency can probably not survive.

Even your greatest praise singers are now realizing that perhaps the emperor was naked all along.

To fully understand the anger and disappointment of South Africans now, you must remember that we have been here before.

Do you remember the shame of Nkandla and the arrogance of your predecessor?

Do you remember the trouble in the video about the fire pool and all the shameless protection that the members of these ANC classes stood for?

Do you remember the brutal reprimand that the parliament received for not making President Zuma responsible for Nkandla and the solemn promise of “never again”?

Do you remember the words of the then Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng in his 2016 judgment in which he spoke about the unique duties of the President and the first citizen of the Republic?

Let me remind you.

“He is required to solemnly and sincerely promise to always be connected to the true precepts of his conscience in the performance of his duties. He should do this with all his strength, all his talents and to the best of his knowledge and ability.

And, but for the Vice President, only his confirmation or oath of office needs to gather people, presumably so that they can hear and bear witness to his irrevocable commitment to serve them well and with integrity.

He is, after all, the image of South Africa and the first to be remembered when it is mentioned on an international level.

You see, you have to be cheeky. You must be open and transparent so that the people of the country can know that you serve them well and with integrity.

But you are none of these things. It is only suspicion, secrecy and silence.

How exactly are you different from your predecessor, Mr. President?

Phala Phala is your Nkandla. It will forever be a big and ugly stain on your presidency.

But here’s the thing: The presidency is not yours or your party’s. It belongs to the Republic of South Africa. When you drag the presidency down the drain, you are dragging our country there too.

South Africans do not want this and they do not understand it.

They do not want a two-bit mafia boss with a house full of dirty money for the president. They want someone who sets a good example – someone who puts their personal ambitions farther away from the needs of the country.

And then maybe all this disgusting mess is doing South Africa a favor by opening its eyes to the reality of the ANC.

If you were definitely the best that your party had to offer, then your party’s days in government are over in the next election.

Our country’s number one goal must be to reduce the ANC, which once dominated the minority in 2024. That is certainly my own party’s priority.

Once South Africa has put the ANC behind it for good, our country will finally start to make progress.

Thank you.

  • John Steenhuisen is the leader of the Alliance for Democracy.

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Phala Phala is your Nkandla, Mr. President

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