Gift tainted with shame

According to an old tradition, not only was Caesar supposed to be beyond reproach, it was also expected of his wife, by virtue of being Mrs Caesar.

Such were the high standards expected of public representatives that the requirement of integrity extended to those closest to them.

It is in this regard that we are surprised that new Minister of Transport and former KwaZulu-Natal premier Sbu Ndebele finds it difficult to understand why anyone would be bothered that a group of business people from the province he used to head have clubbed together to present him with a car worth over R1 million.

We would have thought the concerns are obvious for all to see.

It goes beyond whether his benefactors have honest intentions. Ndebele must remember that he is a public representative of a party that purports to have as its core constituency, the poor. Driving around in a car worth that much will be incongruent.

Ndebele must also be alive to the message that his acceptance of the car will mean to the perception that high public office is an avenue for personal aggrandizement.

We are not implying that Ndebele might have acted improperly in the past or will do in the future. But unless he returns the largesse, he will forever have to live with the perception of being in some people's pockets.