South Africa: lessons in unconventional security

& Opinion

It is with a measure of frustration, desolation and anger that I pen this week’s missive to you, my dear friends in Dubbo, and anybody else reading this anywhere Down Under.

You see, Africa has many problems about which you’re aware – some I have shared in this space. But it truly is tiring when we are always branded as this dark continent of corruption, greed, bad governance, poverty and wars.

Frankly, sometimes this framing is unfair.

Take for instance a matter has made international news – about the house South African President Jacob Zuma has built for himself using state coffers.

Other than side issues like building houses for the poor, improving law and order, producing more doctors and teachers and distributing food parcels and grants to the needy, South Africa has been beset by one issue for the past two to three years – the president’s house.

For those who missed it (because, after all, why would you worry about some insignificant country 14,000 miles away?) the whole world has been abuzz at reports the South African government has spent about $US21million refurbishing the president’s home to upgrade security.

You would wonder what the fuss is about, and you wouldn’t be alone. I mean, which head of state doesn’t deserve the best state-of-the art security? Why should Zuma be different?

Remember we are talking about the president of the wealthiest African state – the world’s gateway to Africa, the home of the “big five” wild animals, the abode of at least 90 per cent of white Africans and the motherland of Nelson Mandela.

So, objectively, let’s look at some the security features that have been fitted and ponder for a moment why right thinking people here and all over the world would have any problem with these:

1. An indoor swimming pool for $US265,000:

Any fool and their dog will know that historically, for reasons yet to be understood, Africans are not very fond of water. So, in the event of the president being attacked, the swimming pool would come in very handy indeed.

He would just have to submerge himself and his family under water, knowing that the criminals – or even terrorists – will not jump in for fear of drowning.

2. An industrial kitchen for $US1.5million:

Outside a military base, I cannot imagine many places with more of the best and most effective weapons than an industrial kitchen. For instance, the knives in this kitchen are sharper than two Einsteins put together. Not to mention meat grinders. These come in handy – just shove the attacking hands of criminals in and mince them one time.

Imagine a would-be attacker being thrown head-first into a fryer with boiling oil. This is exactly what any country needs to inspire confidence that its head of state is safe.

3. An underground bunker for $US2.2million:

This is self-explanatory. Even John F. Kennedy apparently had one, except he used it more for trysts with his numerous girlfriends. I don’t want to give President Zuma ideas, but…

4. An entertainment bar area for $US1.2million:

As a fairly accomplished tippler, I know I’m always alert around alcohol. There’s no doubt a good bar is one place that could keep the president alert at all times. But it could also serve to disarm attackers – they might be tempted to stop first and treat themselves to all the best single malts the world can offer. Before they know it, they’ll be tipsy and, voila, prison beckons.

5. A tuck shop for $US100,000:

For mine, this is the best of all safety and security features. We don’t want our president buying his daily supplies like milk and bread (even newspapers) from untrustworthy sources, now do we? A tuck shop means he’ll always have what he wants just within reach.

6. A gymnasium for $US830,000:

I’ve seen how many former leaders were captured by attackers, and it’s been clear they were all physically weak and unfit. Most of the attackers are teenagers wielding machines guns twice their weight. Now, a half-fit president would have slapped these buggers out of his house and not have needed any help from bodyguards. Go figure.

7. A library $US130,000:

Isn’t it a fact that the best knowledge in the world is kept in books? I mean how else would the president access Sun Tzu’s The Art of War when he desperately needs it?

8. A “kraal pool” for $US100,000:

Now this is unverified, but word has it the president’s cattle will be built a special kraal. Absolute genius! The story of disease in Africa has been told enough and I for one don’t want my president’s cattle to be inflicted with things like Mad Cow disease. What if that makes our president mad himself?

So, before you join the chorus and condemn our president for being just like the rest of world’s dictators who steal from the poor to embellish their lives, please appreciate that at least one president is guaranteed security fit for a king.

[First published in Dubbo Weekender.]