During June 2015 I attended a function in Kempton Park, when Bridgestone handed over a cheque for one million Rand to PinkDrive, a breast cancer Public Benefit Organisation (PBO), which educates the public on breast cancer, with a specific focus on rural and disadvantaged communities, with the message that `Early Detection Saves Lives´.
PinkDrive takes “Pink” mobile breast check units and educational cars to the countryside, thus giving access to various disadvantaged communities the benefits of education, physical examinations and the knowledge and know-how on breast self-examination. Noble work indeed, but of course this is done outside the gamut of state intervention, so the funding of this worthy initiative comes from fundraising efforts and donations, such as the money collected from Bridgestone’s Pink Valve Cap drive. Every Rand counts, and as PinkDrive’s CEO and founder Noelene Kotschan says, “each and every donation will help people in communities by raising awareness and educating them on breast cancer.” And the bigger the donation the better, because new mammography units do not come cheap, and the maintenance of the older units also comes at a price.
As I sat there, basking in the glow of such a noteworthy initiative, I began to absorb the words of the keynote speaker Gert Oosthuizen, deputy minister of Sport & Recreation. He spoke of the resonance of PinkDrive to him, as he is also been a prostate cancer survivor, and thus his ability to “speak from the heart” about the subject. He also referred to the five pillars of the government’s National Development Plan (NDP), and how the ministry of Sport & Recreations fits into this plan, with its aim for a healthy and fit nation, and its further goal of harnessing the powerful message of sport, and the concomitant message of peace and harmony. He pointed out that these admirable objectives are aligned with the aspirational intent of the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP), in bringing the worlds of sport and development closer together. As he spoke, I was nodding in agreement and appreciation, because even a hardened journalist such as I would have problems in finding an argument against his words. His keynote address was spot on, I concluded.
Then, alas, he went off script. He started to sing the praises of our president, and what a wonderful and considerate man he is. I’m not too sure whether this is standard procedure, or an instruction from his bosses, but this unsolicited piece of nonsense soured the whole day for me. How can a minister in this government, when giving a keynote address at a cheque handing-over ceremony, for a million Rand, for the benefit of the community, start singing the praises of someone who has dipped into the public purse to the tune of R246 million, mostly for his personal benefit, and definitely not for the benefit of the community? He was singing off tune, and so much so, that he even managed to make my singing in the shower sound like Roy Orbison at his peak.
The praise singing went on for an unseemly amount of time, and I started to gag. I am aware that I have always regarded the whole Nkandla affair with a mixture of horror and amusement, and that it has been great fodder for aBr’s back page, but as this foot soldier of Luthuli House spewed his nonsense, I started to realise that Nkandla is no longer a laughing matter, and even though it has been a fount of jokes for comedians, the implications of such grand larceny are truly profound. Here we were praising the fund raising activities of good solid corporate citizens, and even though one million Rand is indeed noteworthy, imagine what R246 million could do for this cause. Taken in this context, the Nkaaaaandla debacle is really nauseating. It is truly a scandaaaal.There I go again with the jokes! Someone hit me.
Take all the other corruption scandals going on in our beloved country into consideration, and you will be staggered, and once again imagine how many social ills could be solved with all this stolen loot. I sat there in tears. And through my tears I saw a man who clearly is not ashamed to sing the praises of a disgraced man. My thoughts turned to metaphysical musings, and I wondered to myself, “Does this man really need a job so badly?”