Stop sticking the knife into Mac

Jeremy Gordin on the new old allegations against the president's spokesman

[Note to readers: those not interested in my long introduction, those interested in what the Financial Times calls a speed read, may scroll down now to the 14th paragraph below.]

I want to get something off my chest. Or, maybe, to keep up with Eusebius McKaiser, Dr Eve, Stephen Mulholland, Pierre de Vos, and the Joneses, I ought to write "off my man boobs".

Of course, it's not wise sommer to get things off your man boobs - i.e. to respond emotionally without wise and considered cogitation on the issues involved.

And, in this case, what I am about to say could be really bad for my reputation.

People will say and write even more terrible things about me than they already do. (Politicsweb is not for sissies, hey, Dr Eve?)

Nic Dawes, Drew Forrest, Sam Sole and Stefaans "broom-broom" Brümmer will probably grunt patronizingly the next time they see me. They might not even deign to see me! The same might happen when it comes to various other members of the righteous and holier-than-thou order of journalists (RHTTOJ, known as the League of the Righteous Todgers), not to mention various other Parkviewans, such as David "Sisyphus" Lewis of "Corruption Watch".

On the other hand - and there is always baruch ha-shem another hand, if not two - David "the Bullfinch" Bullard, Rian Malan, and Absalom-Absalom (the emotionally challenged oke who handles the parking on the corner diagonally opposite Scusi's), won't give a damn, will they?

Above all, Anne Rich, who grills the Prego rolls at the weekend at Croft's, and the gorgeous Marisa, who doles out the Havanas, are not likely to care either. So, as Alfred E Neuman used to ask, what me worry?

Besides, what's the point of being 60 and increasingly decrepit, taking all my medication on schedule and going to gym at 5am (strue!), yeah, living a sober and cloistered existence in the increasingly genteel (though not gentile) suburb of Parkview (HF Verwoerd must be turning in his grave) - what's the point if I can't say what I like, you tell me that?

I have nothing to lose after all. As you might have read two weeks ago, Dr Eve has dumped me. I could never have kept up with someone who reads everything by "Tolstoy to Bolaño, from Rushdie to Hitchens". Bolaño?  Really? I'm so impressed. I didn't read him till I was 59.

As for Rushdie: c'mon, Dr Eve. Have you read the latest, Joseph Anton: a Memoir? What a pain in the tuchis! It goes on and on, longer than an article by Nazeem Howa in the New Age (or, some would say, an intro by Jeremy Gordin), and Rushdie, the egomaniac, drops celebrity names more often than you, Dr Eve, mention masturbation on the Redi Tlhabi show. What a shmuck Rushdie is. I don't wish death on anyone; but maybe it would have been a good thing if the mad mullahs had at least wounded the pompous prat.

More seriously, however, besides vilifying me as usual (for what I have to say - okay, hang on, I'm getting there - see paragraph 14), people might also say that I'm corrupt, crooked, given to taking bribes, etc.

I am so goddamn straight and incorruptible that I find myself tediously squeaky clean. Not a naughty or semi-naughty story to tell. (We're talking about money here, nota bene, not nookie.) But let me not protest too much ...

[The column proper begins here.]

What I wanted to get off my man boobs is this. On Friday (1 February), feeling, thanks to the heat, as though a truck had driven over me, I settled down, for a jolly and energizing read, with the Mail&Guardian (M&G). 

Well, fug me George and call me Alf. [NoteThe publishers of The Naked and the Dead persuaded Norman Mailer to use the euphemism "fug" in lieu of "fuck" in his novel. - Wikipedia.] There was yet another hoary attack on poor Mac Maharaj about Zarina, his wife, an alleged bank account in Switzerland, and a trip to Disneyland.

This time the attack was predicated on the "testimony" of one Shirene Carim, sister of Mac's wife Zarina and clearly as, er, flighty as Zarina has been known to be from time to time.

Now, frankly, my dears, I don't give a damn. Does the M&G really have to bang on about this? Can't we have some news? Something exciting? A smuggled-out interview with Pussy Riot? An authorized audit of New Age's circulation figures? The Helen Zille cooking column?

Obviously, sometime in 1996, Schabir Shaik gave Mac - or Zarina - money for something or other. I don't know what precisely it was for. I have heard possibilities other than those cited by the M&G, but never mind. However, it would appear that it wasn't kosher.

If it'd been kosher, Maharaj would not have resigned in 2003 from FirstRand bank's board following the joint report by Deloitte & Touche and attorneys Hofmeyr Herbstein & Ginwala. We don't know what the report alleged or found (the bank did not release the report), but we know Maharaj resigned. Ergo, something presumably unsavoury had happened and Maharaj took the path of least resistance.

But it's over. It's done. Let it go. Mac's paid a price, I'd say. If he'd been able to stay on at FirstRand, he wouldn't have to spend his twilight years running around, cleaning up after Zuma. So why bang on about it? I have said this before - and I'll say it again - the whole Shaik (and now Maharaj) fandango has, in my view, been exaggerated out of proportion, especially compared to some other corrupt stuff that's gone on.

Was Shaik arrogant? Sure he was; he was pretty unspeakable. 

Mac was angry, almost wild, around about the time he became one of Mandela's ministers, after the Vula balls-up and the incidents in Bophuthatswanaand various other things. I daresay there was a time when he did say things such as "I don't ‘do' second-hand furniture" and that he drank Johnnie Walker Black Label only. But what is the point of all this reporting to death of the Mac saga?

"No, no," says my friend Ben Trisk, almost breathing fire, his vociferousness due more to my apparent amorality than the Dragon Salad we have just consumed, "Shaik bribed a senior government official  and Maharaj apparently took massive amounts of money too. It's not how most people behave. What we seem to have here is a clear case of bribery."

I know. But I would still argue that it's all past its sell-by date and that we need to move on.

The news on Friday night (SABC TV 3) started with three items. First was an incident of so-called "people's justice" somewhere at a factory on the east Rand. Two cops watched (and waited patiently) while some factory workers beat the hell out of a suspect. Second, a head-on train collision was attributed to the theft of cables. Third, a fly-by-night company was apparently offering - for a mere R700 - completely non-existent call-centre jobs to people dying for work.

In my view, the unexplored - the un-investigated - stories underlying each of those three items (the "back stories") are a whole lot more serious and frightening (and more important) than whether Maharaj got some boodle from Shaik and whether Zarina's sister is harbouring a farible (grudge) towards Zarina for whatever reason.

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