Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele have reportedly said using images of President Jacob Zuma’s private residence renovated with over R200m of our taxes is illegal and has since asked us, South Africans citizens and anyone for that matter, to desist from using the images. Is this a bit extreme?
Cwele said “It is against the law [to publicise Nkandla images]” and that “[they] are asking nicely that people no longer do it. He claimed publication of classified documents and images of key point areas like Nkandla “happens nowhere else in the world in no other democracy”. It is therefore not surprising that taking a picture of Zuma has also now become illegal especially following a report today that a member of Zuma’s protection unit early this week had assaulted Eyewitness News (EWN) journalist Reinart Toerien, who later opened a case of common assault against the unit.
According to Mail & Guardian Online, the security guard leaned out of his vehicle window on the road outside Nelson Mandela’s Houghton home to knock Toerien’s camera out of his hand, slapping him and telling him to “voetsek”. EWN editor-in-chief Katy Katopodis condemned the conduct, saying it is shocking that Zuma’s security detail appeared to believe they can act with such “impunity”.
A few years ago one of its members had man-handled Chumani Maxwele for apparently showing the President’s convoy a “middle finger” for which Mthethwa, is yet to apologise following a Human Rights Commission ruling that he should. The minister’s behaviour or lack thereof about the case has also been worrying. Police spokesperson at the time told Mail & Guardian that Maxwele had “pointed his middle finger” at the president and that “this [was] a gesture that is synonymous with swearing and showing disrespect”.
When police stopped to question him about his actions, claimed Mnisi, he then became aggressive and began to swear at them. Police then arrested him and charged him with crime injuria and resisting arrest, he said. However, M&G later reported in June this year that Maxwell had rejected the police’s R80 000 out-of-court settlement – by implication sticking to his R1.4m for damages against the Police – saying “I want the court to make an order”” and that “Ultimately, the court order has a weight that goes far beyond a settlement. It has an influence for future [cases].” Which now seems true, come to think of it.
In March 2012, M&G reported of an incident where a 702 Eyewitness News reporter, Tshepo Lesole, was forced by one of Zuma’s bodyguards to delete pictures of the presidential cavalcade. The journo had apparently been grabbed by bodyguards and forced to delete pictures he had taken while Zuma was visiting the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital at the time. His colleague, Stephen Grootes, was quoted as saying of the incident: “Suddenly … he was surrounded by about four or five guys, they were shouting, screaming, holding him back, holding him by the wrist, and really shouting at him. I kept shouting, ‘come on, talk about this’, and they just refused to listen.”
These are just a few examples that show what a strange country we now live in especially since Zuma ascended to power more than five years ago and are likely to remain like this for the next five more coming years. We South Africans must prepare ourselves for a bumpy 5-year ordeal whereby we are likely to be threatened with silly things as we now are threatened with not taking any more Nkandla images or deleting those we have.
Do you remember reports when Higher Education Minister and SACP general secretary, Blade Nzimande, said anti-insult laws were needed in order to protect Zuma from insults? (Also see here and here) This after many called him “arrogant”, a “tyrant” and “monster”? Well, it looks like the banning of Nkandla images is following a similar trend: secrecy for No.1. Against what or from whom?
So it now does not come as a surprise that Nkandla images have also been classified under the controversial National Key Points Act which is bizarrely used to classify Nkandla and everything that has to do with it. The recent events where Public Protector Thuli Madonsela was taken to court by Parliament’s security cluster headed by Jeff Radebe, Thulas Nxesi, Cwele, etc. to bare her from releasing a Nkandla report into how our taxes were used to fund most of Zuma’s private residence – a decision withdrawn just a day before its sitting – is just an example how Nkandla has become synonymous with corruption and secrecy that it has to be protected at all costs by all these politicians surrounding the presidency. At whatever cost!
While these images will remain classified and must be kept away from the public eye and not published by any publication or anyone as per Cwele’s directive or order –and as noted in the media – it however remains unclear whether other key points like the Union Buildings and Parliament are now also banned, or if the matter is only relating to the president’s private home. It is further unclear how an entity like Google will be prevented from publishing Nkandla on its Google images and maps functionality.