NEWS & ANALYSIS

Everyone’s Favourite Fascists

Andrew Donaldson writes on the strange touchiness of the EFF when it comes to VBS

A FAMOUS GROUSE

ONCE again, the Economic Freedom Fighters — or the VBS Mutual Bank looters, as DA chief whip John Steenhuisen has memorably referred to everyone’s favourite fascists — have shown that there’s nothing quite like atrocious behaviour to get media attention.

Here at the Mahogany Ridge, we believe the EFF do need to be observed rather closely, if only for reasons of personal safety. One never knows when next Julius Malema may arse about with a “toy” assault rifle, or Floyd Shivambu’s legendary patience with journalists will be tested.

Certainly, Tuesday’s brawl in the National Assembly demonstrated that the EFF have lost little of their appetite for belligerence when it comes to the uppercut and thrust of parliamentary debate. 

There was, as usual, a great deal of pushing and shoving. But for all that, it was clear to commentators that the most painful blow of the afternoon was Steenhuisen’s aside. 

It certainly stung, that remark about the VBS looters, and it’s clear that the association with the bank is going to be a problem for Malema and his chums — especially in the run-up to next year’s elections.

A few months back, at a meeting in Boksburg, Malema reportedly declared that all EFF councillors, MPLs and MPs must each recruit 5 000 new voters, who must pledge to vote for the party next year.

According to City Press, Juju wants a million voters in each of the country’s nine provinces. 

This is perhaps possible in Gauteng, which, as the country’s most populous province, has just more than six million registered voters. The Northern Cape, on the other hand, has only a tenth of that number…

Nevertheless, the newspaper claimed that the recruitment campaign had apparently “injected vigour” into party members and supporters. 

One leader has boasted that he was a few hundred names short of the 5 000 target, while the party’s national spokesperson, Sixolise Gcilishe, tweeted to her “excited followers” that she planned to lobby at least 23 people every day until the elections.

All of which reminded older Ridge regulars of the great Kubus scam, the Ponzi scheme involving rotten milk culture cooked up by conman Adriaan Nieuwoudt in the early 1980s and which cost thousands of South Africans an estimated R140-million before it was declared an illegal lottery.

Of course, nowadays looting a bank would appear to be a far more assured way of enriching oneself most pronto, and it does seem a godawful shame that advocate Terry Motao had to include Brian Shivambu, Fraud’s brother, as a recipient of ill-gotten gains in the SA Reserve Bank’s report on the investigation into the VBS looting.

The vehemence with which the EFF dismissed Motao’s report as “fake news” did not go unnoticed, and that old chestnut from Hamlet did suddenly rise unbidden and uppermost in our thoughts: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

Except it wasn’t a lady, but Malema himself who declared that the EFF leadership had duly scrutinised Fraud’s bank account and found nowt there that was untoward and therefore there was no need for further investigation. This was a very convincing display. Not.

Malema further claimed that the EFF was being targeted unfairly by the press as no EFF leader was directly implicated in the report, but subsequent reports have suggested otherwise.

The SARB investigation, you may recall, revealed that Brian Shivambu received more than R16-million in “gratuitous payments” from VBS. According to the Daily Maverick, at least R10-million of this was given to his brother. It’s claimed that at least R1.3-million was handed over to the EFF.

It is true that Brian is not as high profile a member of the EFF as his brother. But he is still a member — a fairly active one at that, and he plays an important role at the party’s headquarters in Braamfontein. 

When Fraud dropped in on the eNCA and SABC television studios last month for a bit of VBS damage control, he laughably insisted that he knew very little of his brother’s business dealings. It’s a claim that will certainly return to haunt him in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, the EFF have indicated they have bigger fish to fry at the moment, and that is the public enterprises minister, Pravin Gordhan. 

To this end, they’ve written to public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to investigate whether Gordhan violated the executive members’ ethics code by lying to Parliament about his meetings with the Gupta family. 

In Gordhan’s leaked sworn statement ahead of his coming testimony before the Zondo commission he revealed how, at the insistence of Tony Gupta, he attended a meeting with an Indian businessman in 2010 who wanted to buy a stake in MTN. 

However he said he couldn’t recall whether any Gupta was present at that meeting even though his former chief of staff and current Treasury director-general, Dondo Mogajane, had advised him that Ajay Gupta was present at the meeting.

Gordhan has admitted that he did not disclose this meeting in a reply to a DA parliamentary question because, at the time of submitting his reply, he had no recollection of the meeting.

The EFF claim this is unlikely, and have labelled Gordhan’s alleged amnesia “opportunistic and misleading”.

Given the other stuff contained in Gordhan’s leaked affidavit it does appear the red shirts are sweating the small potatoes here.

There’s all the dirt, for example, on Jacob Zuma’s very hands-on role in the state capture project which cost the country an estimated R500-billion at the very least. And heaps more besides.

But on the other hand, the EFF attack on Gordhan is in keeping with their racist campaign against, among others, South Africans of Indian origin. So no great surprises there.

The EFF, it must be said, are not the only VBS looters. And we we do note that some weeks have passed since ANC elections campaign boss Fikile Mbalula had promised the party would be acting decisively against its members who have been implicated in the SARB report.

As he put it, with inimitable bluster: “Heads will roll‚ the ANC never sent anyone to be corrupt‚ they must answer for themselves unless they say they were sent by the ANC.”

You will notice, though, that it’s been awfully quiet, here at the guillotine.