Reed and weep: the king has led us on a merry dance

Ideas

Reed and weep: the king has led us on a merry dance

You have to feel for the minister who must figure out what to do with Goodwill Zwelithini's money-sucking graft magnet of a cultural village

Columnist

It’s a dilemma. It really is. Gosh. What to do? I mean, seriously, if only we could ask some sort of superhuman Solomon figure who could tell us which way to go. Finish King Goodwill Zwelithini's half-built money-sink graft-magnet for a total cost to the taxpayer of R1-billion, or knock it flat and walk away? If only there was some sign!
If you missed it, the story goes like this. In 2013, the king said he wanted a “cultural village” built for him, as one does, and the Ministry of Arts and Culture worked up a budget of R300-million, which was approximately R300-million too much given that Zwelithini, already vastly rich, gets handed another R60-million every year by South African taxpayers.
What happened next was ... actually, why am I even telling you? You know exactly what happened next because you’ve been reading the news for the past 10 years. Suffice it to say that by the time R126-million had been flushed down the royal toilet in 2016, the ministry froze the project and called in auditors.What they found was the inevitable cesspool. There hasn’t been much dancing done by maidens since the first sod was turned, but it’s been a veritable chorus line of contractors, consultants and various other people best described with c-words who have danced in, helped themselves to our cash, and boogied away into the eternal night that hangs over all public finances in this country. (I especially like the sound of the guy who was paid R11-million for delivering “items that had nothing to do with the reed-dance precinct”. I’m guessing those items were spit-braais, strippers and shopping bags full of blow.)According to a report on Tuesday, the ministry feels it has only two options: continue with a project that makes Nkandla look like a garden shed, or demolish the precinct and save a few bob.
See what I mean about a dilemma? I don’t know about you but my thoughts and prayers are with Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa as he wrestles with this one.
For my part, I hope the king gets his cultural village. It must be very demoralising to be a king with no actual power and a mere R60-million a year. I mean, that’s only R164,000 a day, or R6,800 an hour. That kind of pocket change can evaporate faster than you can say “feudal fantasist living in a taxpayer-funded dream world”.
If I were a king, I think a nice reed-dance precinct would definitely cheer me up when the usual kowtowing just wasn’t hitting the spot.
Luckily, there’s a simple way for him to have it, and way under budget: he just has to pay for it himself.

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