IN THE absence of the NPA, the Hawks and with the office of the Public Protector sending mixed messages, seemingly still trying to decide which side of history it wants to be recorded in, we, the ordinary citizens, are on our own.
But we’re also increasingly organised and vigilant. And this is a good thing. In good time, the pressure our collective vigilance is placing on the wrongdoers of our time will bear fruit; giving up should never be an option.
This is the only South Africa we have. The future will judge us harshly if we allow ourselves to be intimidated to let go. Bell Pottinger might be out of our space, losing clients and facing charges of unethical professional conduct elsewhere, but the people who brought it to South Africa and briefed it to sow racial divisions are still here, roaming among us. We should never let our guard down.
It’s also a good thing that the leaks that have been coming out seem to be serialised. The more protracted the media coverage, and the longer it remains in the public’s eye and keeps us awake to the extent of state capture, the more effective it will be.
In this fast-moving media consumption world with short reader attention spans, a once-off leak would have been covered in the media and quickly replaced by something else, leaving many people thinking it’s “old news”, “all sorted”, etc while the organised crime against our state institutions continues unabated.
Pretending the dots are not connected doesn’t take them away
It is incredible to listen to Police Minister Fikile Mbalula boisterously going on about not wanting to let criminals take over our country, while he remains mum on the organised heist that is state capture and the central role his own boss apparently played in it.
It is incredible to hear ANC spokespersons and increasing numbers of provincial leaders speaking out against the Gupta effect, even using media platforms to beg the influential family to “leave the ANC alone”, while they remain mum on their leader, the obvious kingpin who opened the door to them.
It doesn’t make sense when Eskom’s board and executive management, with a straight face, allow the hugely compromised chief financial officer Anoj Singh to continue playing a central role and sit in when they present financial reports – as if the man’s name doesn’t appear in all allegations of financial wrongdoing, both at Transnet and at Eskom, where he is reported to have been deployed with Gupta approval.
Why has he not been suspended? Where is Minister Lynne Brown? Who controls this lady who used to be known as a real fighter and a hard-working slavedriver before she moved to the Cabinet? What is she scared of? What do they have on her that we do not know about?
Everyone might happily pretend to forget the immediate and very public outcry of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe and the party’s treasurer general Zweli Mkhize – all of them big hitters in the party – when their president presented them with a suspicious-looking new Cabinet list back in March. This was a move that unleashed all the sovereign credit downgradings our economy has suffered.
The three leaders agreed that the list had been put together elsewhere, before they were whipped back into line and made to apologise in public. Well, the list was never changed. So, effectively, South Africa continues to be run by a Cabinet that includes ministers who were selected and vetted elsewhere – not in normal party structures.
This worrying matter may have become ‘old news’ to those who fell for the forced apology, because it was never serialised and kept in our faces by the media. So, we continue in our false comfort while the rot continues.
The brazenness erodes public and investor confidence
Our political leaders have become accustomed to doing wrong, then issuing insincere apologies to a gullible public and getting away without correcting anything.
This is why Zuma is still standing after his party chose to accept – presumably on our behalf – his meek ‘non-apology’ following the Constitutional Court judgment on Nkandla. We should never forget that Ramaphosa, Mkhize, and Mantashe lost the “new Cabinet” round and agreed to move on for the sake of the party, not for the sake of the country.
It is not surprising that another presidential wannabe – also for the sake of party, not country unity – Lindiwe Sisulu, has taken to going around promising to grant amnesty to Zuma if she were elected president. On what legal grounds is she promising to do this? Is Sisulu promising to disregard our Constitution and rule of law even before she gets elected? If so, shouldn’t we be asking what else she will do if she wins the ballot?
One can go on about Mosebenzi Zwane still remaining in his position, despite having lied about Cabinet deciding to investigate South African banks after they closed Gupta business accounts; lying about his ties to the Guptas from long before he left the Free State as an enabler for them and was promoted with their blessing, if not recommendation, to a Cabinet position; and his travels to, reportedly, facilitate a Gupta deal in Dubai.
The origin of the strange Mining Charter he presented without undergoing the required industry and public consultation processes is also still to be investigated. Not to mention Malusi Gigaba, wearing a straight face and pretending his reputational troubles will go away if he keeps behaving as if they don’t exist, the poor man.
Defence Minister Nosiviwe Noluthando Maphisa-Nqakula also remains in her position, unsanctioned despite having abused her standing to illegally bring the foreign girlfriend of her late son into South Africa without following established immigration processes.
Kebby Maphatsoe, a deputy minister who is often seen protesting against other state institutions in paramilitary garb, has never been called to order by the president. Incompetent Bathabile Dlamini and her cantankerous spokesperson Lumka Oliphant remain in their positions, despite all the negative press around them.
It is unclear whose agenda is best served by their continued presence in that crucial ministry of social services, and their firm grip on deciding which agency gets to distribute social grants in the period leading to the 2019 elections.
With all of these people, including many more Gupta enablers quietly earning generous board fees in various state-owned entities, we would be foolish to think that the apparent calm of the waters we’re sailing on can be sustained into the future.
Our future remains imperfect for as long as we’re led by people whose values have long ceased to be in sync with those espoused in the founding documents of our democracy; values that inform and determine how South Africa is seen and what it gets associated with, at home and abroad.
At the going rate, we remain on an uncontrolled train fast heading south. Is South Africa ready for its own “Macron moment”?