P.W. Botha Dragged into Nkandla Debacle


The former president of South Africa, Pieter Willem (P.W.) Botha is being dragged into the Jacob Zuma Nkandla debacle. Zuma has referenced the former president to the ongoing Nkandla upgrades that have been symbolized as waste of taxpayers’ funds. The R246 million spent on upgrades has caused an outrage of comments by both opposition parties and the public.

The vast sums of money spent on Nkandla the private property of Zuma, the president of South Africa has cast a shadow of incompetence in the public eye. The state provides for official accommodation, and transport to ruling presidents, Nkandla remains an individual homestead. The expenditure on security updates at Nkandla vastly exceeds the value of the property and that spent on former presidents of South Africa.

The Frederik Willem (F.W.) De Klerk Foundations said the comparison of Nkandla to the George Airport raised some disturbing questions. It is a question to determine the distinction between appropriate state expenditure on legitimate plans and disbursements spent on Nkandla that will result in Zuma’s inexcusable enrichment

At a media luncheon this week, Zuma said the airport built-in George was not for economic reasons, and built to serve P.W. Botha, who lived close to the airport. Zuma said the criticism over Nkandla was unnecessary and raised the question, “Is Nkandla not meant to produce a president?” Zuma said the state had a responsibility to protect the president.

Botha served as the last Prime Minister of South Africa from 1978 to 1984 and became the first State President of the country from 1984 to 1989. The wilderness situated in the Western Cape was home to the president and close by George Airport, formerly known as P.W. Botha Airport was built in 1977.

A discovery of natural offshore gas was found during 1969 in Mosselbay, and this led to the development of a refinery. Located close to the George area, the airport construction served to enhance the expansion of gas to liquids. The airport was built during P.W. Botha’s tenure as Minister of Defense, and this was built in a strategic position. The state-owned company struck gas during 1980.

Any state action that results in the enrichment of political officers is inherently wrong and not acceptable. The remarks emerged from President Zuma raise the concern of sensitivity to criticism over the wasteful expenditure at Nkandla. It raises the government’s failure to accept the credibility of organizations findings on the Nkandla issue.

Ownership of the George Airport was never given to P.W. Botha. As president, Botha derived no personal benefit from the airport. The George airport was built for economic progress and not for P.W. Botha’s personal needs.

P.W. Botha experienced health problems and in 1989 was succeded by F.W. De Klerk. Perhaps P.W. Botha will be remembered for the stern approach and infamous Rubicon speech that was viewed worldwide during 1985. Due to health reasons and the debacle over abolishing apartheid, the former president declined to make a statement. Instead, Botha announced, that the position over renouncing apartheid or releasing Nelson Mandela from prison would not change. This announcement had serious effects on the economy and caused further isolation from the international community.

F.W. De Klerk issued a statement after the death of P.W. Botha in 2006 and said, “I did not like his overbearing leadership style. De Klerk admitted that the relationship was often strained. F.W. De Klerk began the process of dismantling apartheid, freeing Nelson Mandela and unbanning all terrorist groups within months after being elected as president.

The expansion and upgrades to the King Shaka Airport, situated near Nkandla have no bearing on the homestead of President Jacob Zuma or perhaps it is a coincidence. Dragging the late P.W. Botha into the Nkandla debacle is another tactic to discredit the former presidents of South Africa. However wrong the rule might have been under apartheid the current Zuma government raises serious concerns of Marxist law.

Opinion by Laura Oneale

SA History

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