Oh, go on, let SA’s very own Marie Antoinette eat all the cake

Ideas

Oh, go on, let SA’s very own Marie Antoinette eat all the cake

Surely Lindiwe Ntshalintshali spending R348,000 of our money is justified. After all, she’s a very important woman

Columnist
A bust of France's last queen, Marie-Antoinette, in her former bed chamber at the Palace of Versailles in Paris, which probably wouldn't cut it for Mpumalanga’s MEC for culture, sport and recreation.
No flaky paint here A bust of France's last queen, Marie-Antoinette, in her former bed chamber at the Palace of Versailles in Paris, which probably wouldn't cut it for Mpumalanga’s MEC for culture, sport and recreation.
Image: Francois Guillot/AFP

When it emerged on Monday that Mpumalanga’s MEC for culture, sport and recreation had spent R348,000 of our money living in a hotel because she didn’t like the selection of official accommodation on offer, the reaction was predictably outraged.

You can understand why. According to government officials quoted by City Press, Lindiwe Ntshalintshali had “complained about the slightest faults, such as flaking paint and not enough sunlight coming into a house”.

Indeed, when I read the reports I couldn’t help picturing a far less interesting Marie Antoinette, stamping her slippered foot and tossing her ermine muff across her bedroom, before flinging herself down onto her pillows and bursting into tears.

Still, in the interests of self-care and trying to lower our collective blood pressure, I think it’s worth trying to see things from her perspective for a moment.

First, there’s the amount of money involved. Now, R348,000 is a lot to you and me, but for seven months in a hotel, even a hotel in Mpumalanga, it’s not really that much. In fact, by the standards of the Zupta ANC, it’s probably what you’d expect to pay for after-dinner drinks to celebrate the signing of contracts for locomotives that don’t fit on South African tracks.

Now, R348,000 is a lot to you and me, but for seven months in a hotel, even a hotel in Mpumalanga, it’s not really that much.

Second, the fact that she only got taxpayers to pay for her stay in the hotel, rather than demanding we buy it for her as a pressie, suggests that she is making slow progress towards some sort of enlightenment.

After all, back in 2016 when she was the mayor of Emalahleni, she and her administration made national headlines when they thought it would be a good idea to use funds allocated to service delivery to buy her a R1.5m car. Compared to that little attempted heist (happily, it was thwarted), seven months in a hotel is the penitent austerity of a medieval ascetic.

Third, what is the point of being an MEC for culture, sport and recreation if you can’t embrace the ANC’s culture of entitlement, enjoy the sport of taking taxpayers for a ride and indulge in a little bro bono recreation in a room with no flaky paint, dappled with pretty sunbeams?

Most importantly, however, Lindiwe Ntshalintshali is an important reminder to us that sometimes, just sometimes, the government delivers on its promises.

We always knew that “A Better Life For All” was impossible. No government can provide that, let alone the honking cavalcade of venal clowns on gold-plated unicycles that is the ANC. The best we could hope for was that the ANC would provide a better life for some.

And tonight, when the Lindiwe Ntshalintshalis of the glorious revolutionary movement hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign outside their doors and pull a freshly laundered duvet over their chins, we can all rest assured in the knowledge that the ANC has delivered on that hope.

Because you have to admit, for the unflappable, unrepentant, immovable few, life is pretty damned good.