A big day in court for Accused Number One

Andrew Donaldson writes on the contempt of court application against Zuma, and the DOD's reception party


TOMORROW is a big day for Accused Number One. The Constitutional Court is set to hear an application to have Jacob Zuma declared in contempt of the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture and duly bundled off to spend some time behind bars.

Thursday is also the day the recently formed alliance of civic organisations, Defend Our Democracy, has urged the citizenry to turn out en masse, lockdown notwithstanding, to make a big ruckus in defence of the Constitution and rally against its defiling by the former president and his allies in the ANC’s radical economic transformation faction.

What’s more, a dress code has been proposed: wear orange — orange T-shirts, orange masks, orange hats; wave orange banners and blast away on those orange vuvuzelas to make the most orange noise. Orange, as we’ve heard so often, is still the new black. According to reports, the colour has been chosen by DOD because it is symbolic of the convict clobber that those guilty of fraud and corruption should be wearing — but aren’t. 

No matter. The tangerine machine rises. Time, then, for a naartjie in our sosatie

However, and before we lose our way in the fruit salad, a few thoughts about all this. 

First, and most importantly, it is never a bad thing when citizens gather to noisily voice their displeasure — even if such gatherings are deemed to be illegal. “Protest beyond the law,” the American historian and philosopher Howard Zinn noted, “is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it.”

That said, some misgivings. The two DOD launches last week attracted very little in the way of young blood. This was old toppie central. There were large contingents of veteran anti-apartheid activists and civil society leaders, including among others the Reverend Frank Chikane, Mavuso Msimang, Sheila Sisulu, Sipho Pityana, Murphy Moroble, Saths Cooper, Cheryl Carolus, Mojanku Gumbi, Cas Coovadia and Trevor Manuel. 

Several commentators liken the launches to United Democratic Front reunion bashes. There is some truth in this. Like the mass democratic movement of the 1980s, the DOD is a broad church. Hence the involvement and support of bits and pieces of the SA Communist Party and Cosatu, Mmusi Maimane of the One South African Movement, former public protector Thuli Madonsela, scientists like Glenda Gray, Salim Abdool Karim and Shabir Madhi, and groups like the Helen Suzman Foundation, Corruption Watch, the Thabo Mbeki Foundation and the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse.

As was the case with the UDF, the DOD presents itself as a single-issue initiative, one that is centred around Zuma’s defiance of the Constitution and the law — although, as Business Day’s Carol Paton has noted, it possibly also wants to tackle the “anti-democratic political culture that has gripped the ANC”. This despite the fact that there is no mention of the ruling party in the DOD’s manifesto or call to action.

In this respect, commentators have pointed out that the DOD is a non-partisan campaign; political parties have not been invited to support the initiative — only individual members in their personal capacity. There is nevertheless chatter of a new, as yet unnamed political system emerging here. 

I suspect, however, that this is not so much about a new political system but rather a reboot or makeover of the old ANC. 

The DOD, in other words, is a means to extract the ruling party from its present stasis and give it a solid overhaul; to jemmy it free from Squirrel’s dithering inaction while at the same time distancing itself from the RET lunatic fringe. It’s a scenario that makes more sense with each successive Fernet Branca shooter.

Elsewhere in the battle for a more reasonable ruling party, ANC NEC member Joel Netshitenzhe takes secretary-general Ace Magashule to task in a memorable Daily Maverick piece. Of particular concern to Netshitenzhe are Magashule’s pronouncements that that the DA is “the enemy of the National Democratic Revolution” and that those ANC MPs who voted in favour of an inquiry into disgraced public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office are “sleeping with the enemy”.

What “conceptual confusion” on the part of Magashule, Netshitenzhe sneered. 

More hilariously, he rubbished Mini-Magashule and resident RET numpty Carl Niehaus’s “basic document” calling for the ruling party’s return to its “socialist ideological orientation”. 

This was particularly cruel. Niehaus had spent many hours working on this revolutionary eight-page blueprint. How nice it would be if his comrades could be just a little more appreciative of his efforts. Instead, there is naked contempt and scathing laughter at such Carlist urgings that food security cannot be a factor when it comes to land expropriation. 

There is nothing new, Netshitenzhe said, about the RET’s appearance within the ANC. “As with the PAC in 1958 and the Group of Eight in the 1970s, this ultimately led to rupture. The elephant does take long to turn — or to use a different metaphor — the fruit was allowed to ripen and drop at the slightest shake of the tree.”

The fight is on, in other words. Oranges versus lemons.

Beastly business

Horrifying news from Port St Johns in the Eastern Cape where some 350 cows have been left to starve to death at the state-funded Mantusini Dairy Project. According to News24, their carcasses rot in the field, picked at by vultures. This gruesome discovery was made during a visit by a DA oversight committee.

The project, situated on 337 hectares of communal land and intended to benefit around 500 households in the area, was launched in 2014 with 500 cows and a R43-million grant from the provincial and national governments. The site is no longer operational and it’s believed that around 148 cows are wandering around the project, feeding on natural pastures. They are in poor condition and starving. They have not been treated for ticks and other parasites and drinking water is scarce.

According to DA spokesman Retief Odendaal, community members are reportedly angry as they’ve seen no benefits from the farm. They also allege that the project has been looted by local government officials. The DA will demand an audit to determine how the R43-million was spent.

The community, meanwhile, have called on government to intervene in the project. Typical remedial action by provincial authorities at such times is to merely change the name of the failing facility or municipality and then hope for the best. 

There is no truth, however, in the rumour that the Mantusini project will be renamed after Thandi Modise. At least, not until after the courts have dealt with the Parliamentary Speaker’s own animal cruelty matter. She is due to appear in the Potchefstroom Regional Court on April 13.

A legal matter

The Constitutional Court ruling that parties in divorce cases may not be identified brings a particular drollness to press reports of one such matter: a former president has told the Pietermaritzburg high court that he is not as flush as generally supposed and is therefore unable to pay an estranged wife more than R20 000 a month in maintenance. Which is a far cry from the estranged wife’s initial demand of R170 000 (subsequently revised to R145 000.) 

The former president claims his only income is his state pension of R143 000 a month. From this, he must pay R66 000 a month to service a bond, and the rest is used to support his family. However, and to the distress of the former president’s lawyers, the estranged wife has unexpectedly produced in court bank statements that suggest regular large and hitherto undisclosed deposits into the former president’s various bank accounts.

The former president was not in court when these documents were handed in. Neither was he taking any urgent phone calls from attorneys. His legal team were thus unable to explain, for example, a cheque deposit of R500 000 from a certain “Dudu” into his Capitec account or regular deposits amounting to several hundred thousands of rand in other accounts. Consequently, the court directed the former president to pay his estranged wife interim maintenance of R95 000 a month plus R50 000 in legal costs pending the outcome of divorce proceedings. 

On Tuesday, the matter was back before the court. The former president now claims acting high court judge Barry Skinner had misinterpreted his bank account statements; the large cash deposits in his accounts were not “income” as such, but rather “contributions and donations from sympathetic members of the public or donor organisations who support me politically”.

The former president further insists he is unable to service his bond, and says VBS Mutual Bank are suing him for some R7-million in this regard. He could lose his home. He also owes R13-million in legal fees and expenses. He is adamant he cannot pay the R95 000 maintenance. This, he admits, means he is a “very high risk” of being in contempt of the court’s order and, as a result, could very well be sent to jail.

Incarceration may seem cruel. But such an outcome does amuse the regulars at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”). The former president’s suggestion that the judge may have difficulty reading bank statements is especially hilarious.

Saxonwold shebeen PR disaster

Dark arts specialists Victoria Geoghegan and Nicholas Lambert, architects of Bell Pottinger’s notorious “White Monopoly Capital” campaign for the state capture crowd, have failed in their legal bid to escape action that could see them banned from ever acting as company directors, The Times reported this morning.

The Insolvency Service, an agency of the UK government’s business, energy and industrial strategy department, is seeking to sanction Geoghegan and Lambert, along with former chief executive James Henderson, for inciting racial hatred with their work for the Guptas. The scandal prompted the wholesale flight of Bell Pottinger’s largest clients, resulting in the company’s collapse.

Former business secretary Alok Sharma issued a disqualification claim against Geoghegan and Lambert in September, arguing that their work had contributed in part to Bell Pottinger’s demise, bringing the public relations industry into disrepute. 

Geoghegan and Lambert, however, claimed that the proceedings against them should be dropped as they were not members of the firm’s management board and were thus not responsible for the management and control of business affairs. The court was having none of that, however, and on Tuesday ruled that all members of a limited liability partnership were potentially liable to face proceedings in terms of the Companies Directors Disqualification Act.

One to be filed under “Nicer Folk, Could Not Happen To”.

The grandest canyoning

Twitter, eat your blue heart out. Donald Trump is shortly to return to social media — but with his own platform. According to reports, the former president’s new app will attract “tens of millions” of new users and, as “the hottest ticket on social media”, will “completely redefine the game”. So says a Trump flunky. 

No word yet on a name for this nonsense. Trumpet is an obvious choice, although that title has probably been the property of music teachers and the like for years now. This however doesn’t rule out “blowing-your-own” on-brand variations like Trmpt or Trumppit and so on. But whatever it’s called, it’s bound to be the world’s largest echo chamber and already we hear the booming reverberations: “… stole the election… voter fraud… stole the election… voter fraud… stole the election… voter fraud…”