Like a sketch artist’s first lines on a blank piece of paper, at first the object is unclear and undefined. Yet as each additional line is applied to the sketch, the subject gains focus & the confused canvas gains clarity. So it is with the unfolding Zuma / Gupta / State Capture / dirty tricks /trumped up charges saga. Thuli Madonsela in her noble endeavour applied multiple illuminating strokes with the release of her much anticipated State Capture report.
Yet, once again, there is insufficient granularity of detail in the sketch for a formal criminal charge to be laid. Instead, South Africa will have to wait again with bated breath for the final strokes to be applied: This time in the form of a commission of enquiry.
Thoughts and comments on the imperfect sketch so far and prognostications about possible future events
Main picture: President Jacob Zuma, Atul Gupta and the Eastern Cape Premier Noxolo Kieviet at a New Age breakfast in Port Elizabeth
Where are we?
The latest expose to befall the Zupta enterprise, is the revelation that the use of the Waterkloof Air Force base as the entrepot for the Gupta’s wedding guests was not their numero uno choice. Instead, they had ticked none other than the O.R. Tambo International Airport as their preferred destination. Yet they were thwarted in that endeavour. With their unparalleled access to Zuma and the levers of power, how could a mere underling like ACSA boss Bongani Maseko resist a call to divert all traffic from O.R.Tambo? Yet he did! An unspoken hero.
Perhaps the apparently unbribeable Mr. Maseko should have crumbled under duress, listened to his master’s voice and acceded to the Gupta’s request. The resulting firestorm of outrage could potentially have awakened the docile ANC NEC sooner to the rapacious tentacles of the Gupta’s and their facilitator, Zuma himself.
What this whole sorry saga reveals defies what a novelist could ever envision. Amongst its ingredients are rapacious thieves, hidden agendas, backstabbers, chancers, useful idiots aplenty, apologists, political opportunists and a few genuinely brave souls.
Yet to appear on the scene are reformed crooks now posing as saints. Beware of them for they are fair-weather friends more likely to be recidivists lacking in moral spine than enraged with reformist zeal. Rather thank them at a distance for their support but do not embrace. If not, prepare to have one’s hopes dashed.
The next category of individuals will be the last to experience their Damascus Moment. Rather, despite their assertions to the contrary, their repentance will merely be the wailing as their snouts are removed from the trough. From their exalted positions with no intrinsic worth to the organisation, they will subside to their natural status in life.
Feel pity for those whose conversion is belated due to their misguided loyalty to their boss for they are generally kind of heart, innocuous and with no evil intent. Generally, they are instantly spotted by their sycophantic demeanour, ever eager to impress especially those in senior positions. These are the cogs that ease the way for the malevolent. With an unquestioning behaviour, never will they adopt a career-limiting attitude to apparently illegal or illogical instructions.
Beware of canonising within the court of public opinion those whose only deeds was the mere performance of their job as per their initial job description. With the surfeit of incompetents in positions of authority, the mere performance of a job as per its specification and what the incumbent is being remunerated for, does not entitle them to be viewed as saints. Only anoint with holy oil those who truly deserve such accolades.
Personally, one of the enduring disappointments of the saga as it has unfolded has been passive behaviour of Cyril Ramaphosa. So far, many of the notables within the ANC such as Gwede Mantashe have nailed their colours firmly to the Zuma-must-fall masts but no so Cyril, the Silent One. Perhaps he is adopting the silent diplomacy approach so beloved of Mbeki. Remember Cyril how disastrously that failed with Mugabe! So too will it fail with Zuma for Zuma lacks ethics and principles. As such, he is not amenable to calls to obey his conscience.
Cyril, let me provide you with advice for nothing: “That is a fool’s errand.”
Equally, impervious to calls for his resignation is Shaun “The Clown” Abrahams. Do not even attempt that approach, as one’s hopes will be dashed on the rocks of impossible dreams. Rather administer the coup de grace by means of an appointment in court. It should not be a Herculean challenge to convince a competent court of his unsuitability for his job. Bluster and impromptu Press Conferences will not sway a judge with a guaranteed lifetime job.
Welcome the renewed spirit of accountability awakened within the ANC. Hopefully it will not be like the 1968 Prague Spring, which was snuffed out by the Soviet tanks.
The self-appointed gatekeepers to a more prosperous South Africa since 1994 have been the anti-business COSATU and the SACP – The South African Communist Party. While the rest of the world including China are now in thrall of the wealth generating abilities of a free enterprise economy, the recidivists in South Africa hankering after a chimera or nirvana called the NDR – National Democratic Revolution – still search in vain for a working example.
Despite 20 years of power, ANC still clings to this ideal as a panacea or a comfort blanket. Perhaps that was required initially as a link to the past but that past is no longer. The only remaining adherents to such a failed ideology are North Korea, Cuba and Zimbabwe none of which is shining example of prosperity and growth except for Julius “blame-it-all-on-the-Whites” Malema.
Perhaps while clearing out the cobwebs of failed economic models, the reformed ANC should cast aside the deleterious effects of BEE by abandoning the numbers game. Furthermore, remove the definitions of race in all its iterations. The people of South Africa are the people and should be treated as such. The fixation on race as the basis for employment or tender awarding lends itself to cost escalation, appointment of incompetents or politically connected people and the general lack of growth in the economy. Recognise it for what it truly is: an impediment to progress and a retrograde step.
Naturally one should not abandon attempts to redress past racist policies but the replacement of one policy based upon race with another based upon race will not excise the cancer of race. Rather it will impoverish all of South Africa.
What the future strokes on the sketch will expose no crystal ball can reveal. While precise details are not discernible, what one can conclude is that the process will be traumatic for the ANC. Moreover the longer that the ANC takes to exorcise the demons, the more deleterious its long-term effects will be.
Given what human nature is and how it reacts, that process will be painful. Zuma is unlikely to go gracefully or without a fight. History has taught South Africans that. His default tactic has been the so-called Stalingrad Defence. Like its namesake of WW2 fame, it invokes the memory of the fight for every yard of the doomed town of Stalingrad. Similarly, I predict a protracted battle with Zuma.
If Zuma adopts this stance, will he throw his fellow “captured” Guperites within the ANC under the bus or will he use them as a shield to protect himself by distancing himself from their deeds. Ask the Police Minister, Nathi Nleko that Zuma did to him over the Nkandla saga!
By all objective measures, Zuma is a lame duck. Be that as it may, but what is greater importance is Zuma’s stance: going quietly or slowly and painfully.
All of the rest of the additional strokes on the canvass of South Africa will provide fodder for talk show hosts and the chattering classes – South Africa’s own real-life reality TV show – and nothing more.
Concurrently with the expulsion of Zuma, South Africa must perform the unenviable task of cleaning the Aegean stables of the rest of the Zupta minions, lackeys and incompetents.
Are my hopes merely some imaginary, mythical and illusory future devoid of substance, or will the Zuma era prove to be the recalibration of South Africa for a brighter future?