Blue goons

Andrew Donaldson writes on Paul Mashatile and his vicious VIPPs


IT was not a bad impression of Helen Zille. Or rather, it was a passable imitation of the sort of thing the former premier of the Western Cape did say from time to time during her term in office. If, that is, you can excuse the wobbly syntax.

“From the eye of the man on the street, we saw brutality, people being trampled on. It is the kind of thing that takes people to march to take down the government. We saw people on social media frowning on it. We want to ensure this matter is investigated and properly reported to the public…”

This, of course, was the short and shouty Fikile Mbalula doing his utmost to distance the ruling party from the incident in which members of Paul Mashatile’s VIP security detail assaulted young SANDF recruits along the N1 between Pretoria and Johannesburg. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Addressing a press briefing at Luthuli House last week, the ANC secretary-general said it was “easy point-scoring” to suggest the deputy president be accountable for the behaviour of his security detail and that it was only “opportunists” and “chance takers” who blamed the party for the violent behaviour of the government’s blue light brigades.

It is, alas, all too easy to hold the so-called “Alex don” responsible for the thuggery of his security detail. They are, after all, his goons; he apparently hand-picked them in the weeks before he was sworn into office. 

Back in January, in the days following the ANC’s national conference, City Press reported that Mashatile had “beefed up” his security following a risk assessment by the SA Police Service in collaboration with the State Security Agency. This assessment, it’s claimed, “allegedly found that Mashatile was at a high risk of kidnapping and/or assassination”.

Mashatile then chose members of the presidential protection unit previously assigned to Jacob Zuma for his security detail, the newspaper said. This was considered by some senior police officials to be abuse of state resources, as Mashatile was not yet deputy president. However, other sources suggested the bodyguards were deployed in a “personal capacity” by Mashatile, who picked out “the former SAPS operatives because they were no longer in the employ of the police service”.

This is somewhat confusing, seeing as the SAPS state they have suspended the eight bodyguards involved in last week's grim incident. 

Are the suspended thugs then not the same ones who took care of Accused Number One when he was president? Or are they the same bunch but were re-employed by the SAPS once Mashatile was sworn into office in March? 

According to Brigadier Athlenda Mathe, the police would not be discussing the matter further save to confirm that the eight were suspended on Monday in terms of “SAPS disciplinary regulations”. 

There is further confusion: last Thursday Mashatile’s office claimed that the deputy president was not present when the incident took place — it’s now however believed the men were escorting Mashatile to his home when they assaulted the recruits. 

But no matter. Perhaps the deputy president himself can reveal where he was at the time when he is subpoenaed as a witness in forthcoming court actions

Attorney Ulrich Roux, who is representing three of the victims, told Newzroom Afrika: “Our mandate is to ensure the criminal prosecution is ensued and that proper prosecution by the NPA is instituted against the police officials. Subsequent to that, we will also be exploring possible civil claims for damages against the police, and the minister of police following this unlawful assault on our clients.”

According to various reports, senior police officials have rejected the thugs’ version of events, namely that the SANDF recruits had “interfered” with their VIP protection duties. It’s a pathetic explanation. The youngsters were driving a lowly VW Polo while the goons, armed to the teeth, were tooling around in top-of-the-range BMWs. It’s difficult, then, to comprehend what sort of threat the recruits posed to Mashatile’s high-speed convoy.

A far better excuse would have been for the thugs to claim they were all suffering from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder or massed paranoid delusion and they just snapped at the sight of these young men, happily trundling along the highway in their loser mobile. 

Whatever the case, it can’t be easy on the nerves looking after the ANC’s big stuffs, especially now that the ruling criminal elite is riven by suspicion and dark murmurings of political rivals snuffing out one another. 

In this regard, Mashatile was perhaps justified in taking that security assessment to heart; there is no doubt a high risk of his being kidnapped and/or assassinated. The problem, though, is that it is his closest comrades who will in all likelihood be coming for him. As he could have put it (had he been a fan of the Carry On movies): “Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me!” 

Instead, what he did say, in an interview with City Press, was this: “There is a plot to oust me.”

Mashatile refused to name these plotters, who apparently wanted him out of the way by next month. He added that he was still trying to determine the motives of those who had tried to block his election as deputy president of the country and of those who had then tried to remove him after his appointment. 

Curiously, much of this plotting has taken place, not behind closed doors or in darkened chambers, but in the great wash of social media. Text messages have been circulating like Covid, and it appears to be public knowledge that those conspiring against him want him gone by August. “I can’t remember the exact words,” Mashatile told the newspaper, “but I think the messages stated that I had to be out by then.”

On Tuesday, however, TimesLIVE reported that, following a meeting with Cyril Ramaphosa, Mashatile has now pulled a reverse ferret: “…we talked with the president about this matter [on Monday] and he has also done his checking and we’ve concluded there’s no plot,” he said. “So for now, we regard these as faceless people. We’ve decided let’s leave it there.”

Faceless people? Non-plotters? Let’s just say that, in Luthuli House, it remains prudent to keep one’s back to the wall. As for the blue light bullies, they won’t be much help as the party turns on itself. Besides, there’s a chance they’ll wind up as collateral damage when the contest for high office gets heated. 

Bottom line, though, is that these protection units should be disbanded. Like their wards they are a menace to society. 

Out and about

To Bristol on the weekend, for a fun outing with the family in the heart of the UK’s most punctiliously right-on and politically correct city. 

I’d been led to believe that the place had been trying a little too hard to come to terms with its historic links to the Transatlantic slave trade and, as a result, an overbearing self-righteousness was now its chief characteristic. This I of course needed to see for myself.

The city’s magnificent cathedral, for example, is cluttered with displays reminding visitors of how the city and the church had benefitted from slavery. At the west end of the nave is an enormous stained glass window, installed in 1877, and dedicated to the merchant Thomas Daniel (1799-1872) and his wife Augusta. According to the accompanying display, Daniel’s father, Thomas (1762-1854), owned several plantations in Barbados and the family’s fortune was built on “the slave economy”. Pretty window, then, but ugly context.

Which brings us to Edward Colston (1636-1721), an even wealthier trader. He was a member of the Royal African Company, which transported more than 150 000 people into bondage. 

The display at his memorial window informs visitors that Colston “did not believe that selling people into slavery was incompatible with his Christian faith. During his life he gave money to this Cathedral for repairs and improvements”. 

When the window was installed, in 1890, Colston was remembered by many as a benefactor; he set up homes for the elderly and schools in Bristol’s destitute areas. Celebrated as a philanthropist, repeated calls over the decades to remove this name from various institutions across Bristol came to nothing until June 2020 when his statue was toppled during a Black Lives Matter protest and dumped in the city’s harbour.

The cathedral wants to hear from visitors on how best to proceed. Should it keep a permanent exhibition explaining its links to slave trade? Should it remove some or all the monuments connected to slavery? Should it commission a monument to the victims of the Transatlantic traffickers? 

Gee, tough one. But I’m reminded of a similar jam the City of Liverpool found itself in 2006 when it debated the matter of renaming streets that were named after those linked to the slave trade. Penny Lane, named after James Penny, the 18th century slaver, escaped the makeover as most people associate the street with the Beatles song.

All of Britain, incidentally, profited from slavery and colonialism, so there’s no escaping these paroxysms of virtue wherever you are.

Meanwhile, and as luck would have it, the streets outside the cathedral were shut off for the city’s annual Pride parade. Bristol boasts that its thrash is one of the largest in the world, with tens of thousands of marchers taking part each year. 

Certainly, and as far as I could tell, most of the 55 officially recognised gender identities seemed to be present this year. Mechanophiles were getting rather excited by a tender from the Avon Fire & Rescue Service. Covered in rainbows, it had a notice on the side, “Fire doesn’t discriminate, neither do we.” 

Later, in the aquarium, an elderly moustachioed man in a far too tiny red Speedo giggled like a child as he tried to stroke brightly coloured fish through the tank’s glass, although this may have been just the party drugs and not something far more weird.

Later, there came the bizarre news that a cervical cancer trust had published a glossary intended to make health professionals “aware of terms that trans men and non-binary individuals may choose to use in in place of the usual medical labels”. Accordingly, “bonus hole” and “front hole” are now alternatives to vagina.

Unsurprisingly, the glossary has been labelled by many women — adult human females, that is — as misogynist. 

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has issued a statement in response, which reads in part: “Women are our main audience at Jo’s. However, some trans men and/or non-binary people have cervixes and to reduce as many cervical cancers as possible it is important that we also provide information for this group and the health professionals that support them.”

Here at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”), some regulars claim they know from which hole this nonsense appeared. We should leave it at that.