Politicians all over the world are rarely held to account for the lies they tell the electorate.
And these lies come in different forms when politicians make ridiculous promises on campaign trails and then forget them once in office. Others tell lies while in office and get to keep their positions.
So it was no surprise that we all laughed when, in his first press briefing after being appointed as premier of Mpumalanga in 1999, Ndaweni Mahlangu made the infamous statement that “it is acceptable for politicians to lie”.
Mahlangu’s point was that politicians who were caught lying should not be fired condemned because the practice was widespread and was an acceptable political technique.
This week, it emerged that Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene lied to the public when, in 2016, he told an eNCA reporter that he, while deputy finance minister or finance minister, only saw the Guptas at public gatherings, and had never been invited to any “engagements” with the family.
However, it turned out that this was not the truth, but actually an outright lie. During the inquiry into state capture this week, Nene said he had actually visited the family at least four times between 2010 and 2013 – while he was deputy finance minister.
On the eve of his testimony at the commission, the Economic Freedom Fighters called for Nene to resign because he had not disclosed the meetings with the Guptas. Nene told the inquiry that he had not facilitated government deals for the Guptas or any of his family members.
However, the question is, why did Nene lie to eNCA when he was asked if he had met with the Guptas?
South Africans will now be wondering if he has honestly disclosed the true purpose of those meetings with the Guptas.
Nene has proven that he can lie with a straight face, so how can we continue to take him at his word?
On Friday, he apologised for his behaviour, saying it fell short of what was expected of him.
He admitted that these visits cast a shadow on his conduct as a public office bearer, and he asked for forgiveness.
As one of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s trusted lieutenants, Nene has been found wanting.
His integrity and credibility is no longer beyond reproach. He has broken our trust and it will not be easy for us to forgive him.