Confessions of a Zondo addict

Andrew Donaldson writes on why he can’t get enough of this state capture gat


THERE must surely be such a thing as Zondo fatigue, a dulling of the senses and mounting disinterest brought about by the relentless barrage of testimony on the Zupta project. However, I must admit that my interest here remains as perversely healthy as ever. This could change, of course, and maybe sooner than expected. The stench is something else, but right now I can’t get enough of this state capture gat. This is catnip venality.

It’s the little details that I find fascinating. This week, for example, the commission heard from forensics specialist Steven Powell that state security deputy minister Zizi Kodwa had, during his tenure as party spokesman from 2014 to 2017, received cash and “payments in kind” amounting to more than R2-million from tech giant EOH boss Jehan Mackay.

Several of these “payments in kind”, according to reports, concerned luxury holiday accommodation in Cape Town. The fun started in the beginning of October 2015, Powell said, when Kodwa checked into 53 Avenue Fresnaye, one of the most desirable holiday apartments on Atlantic seaboard. Kodwa stayed here for three days, at a cost of R150 000. A further R11 500 was spent on a private chef.

Then, in mid-October, Kodwa spent two days at a Clifton apartment, Pentagon Villa, at a cost of R50 000 a night. Again, a private chef was hired, this time for R3 350. He must have liked it here, for he returned for three more nights in November, at a cost of R150 000 and another R11 700 for a chef.

The troubling aspect of this is: who in their right mind spends that kind of money on holiday accommodation in Cape Town in October and November? 

This is utter madness. On paper, it’s spring that time of year, but it’s a faux spring. To all intents and purposes it’s very much still deep mid-winter. Even on the off chance it’s not raining, it’s bloody miserable and the wind howls like a hammer (as Bob Dylan once put it). 

Summer proper only ever begins in Cape Town in mid-January, by which time most upcountry holiday makers have returned home. It’s the big Spesbona open secret, this. The balmy stuff starts the day after Gauteng schools reopen and ends sometime in May when some guy called Vishnu smokes enough hash to finally see the green flash as the sun setting over the Atlantic dips below the horizon. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

As someone who has studied at the University of the Western Cape, Kodwa should know this. Then again, he was an activist and perhaps he didn’t have time for such things. It could also be that UWC is on the wrong side of the mountain, and they don’t teach the bush college students much about life on the posh side.

Anyway, Kodwa was back in Cape Town for the 2015/16 festive season. This time, according to testimony, he spent a fortnight at a villa in Camps Bay called Barbados at a cost of R230 000.

Again, this is profoundly troubling. A luxury accommodation in one of the world’s most desirable destinations — and it’s named after some jet trash playground in the Caribbean? Other villas in the area have, it must be said, horribly naff names, like Maxima Villa and La Maison Hermes. But Barbados? This is cringe-inducing, and suggestive of a terrible inferiority complex. 

How Kodwa must have suffered at that arriviste hellhole. I feel for him, I really do.

He was, Powell said, just one of several “influencers” in the ANC who had helped EOH win lucrative state tenders. Kodwa and company are alleged to have received more than R15-million from the tech giant in return for their intervention in at least three procurement processes. In one example, Powell said that a R217-million tender had been awarded to the company after it had donated R1-million to the ANC in the Eastern Cape.

Kodwa insists, meanwhile, that he has done nothing wrong. If the National Prosecuting Authority insist otherwise and pursue the matter, the deputy minister — one of Squirrel’s allies — will be required to step aside and resign his cabinet position. It should also be noted that, according to Powell, EOH is now under new management and its leadership is committed “to cleaning up the organisation”.

These, of course, are very familiar words. Particularly where the ruling party is concerned.

Love is blind — and awfully thick at times

The threat of her imminent arrest may have had something to do with it, but Accused Number One’s special friend and top delinquent director Dudu Miyeni put in an appearance at the commission this week. It was, by most accounts, a pleasant experience for all concerned, with the former SAA board chair as sullenly combative as a warthog with toothache.

She had wanted to respond to questions in her home language but, according to a TimesLive report, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo denied her request on the grounds that she had given them no advance warning about this and, as a result, there no translators were available. “We don’t have the time,” Zondo told her. “If it was last year then we could adjourn but I think your reason for giving testimony in isiZulu is not because of difficulty speaking in English.”

Glory be, but this is a clear signal that the delaying tactics and time-wasting so beloved of the Zuma camp can be counter-productive and damaging to their cause. 

Still, Myeni plodded on dutifully, loyally shielding the great blesser when the need arose. Submissions that may have negatively impacted on the sainted Msholozi’s reputation were “misleading, sensational and lies”, she said.

Myeni was questioned on testimony by former Eskom chair, the delightfully named Zola Tsotsi, and SAA legal adviser and alleged Myeni ally Nick Linnell about two meetings which took place in March 2015. Both Tsotsi and Linnell testified that Myeni had, on orders from Zuma, directed Tsotsi to hold an inquiry with the Eskom board on the running of the power utility and then raise the issue of suspending three Eskom executives, including then CEO Tshediso Matona.

“Don’t be surprise when I say this,” Myeni responded. “I have highlighted before at the commission that it is unfortunate we are not delving into the real issues — that Tsotsi wanted to meet me first … I was never in any board at Eskom. I had no interest [in the] problems at Eskom.

“This whole thing is so dramatised with him, saying inaccurate things. The meetings took place but I don’t remember the content. I have a problem. I don’t have my diary. At every meeting I have a diary where I write the minutes [of the meeting] so I can’t say what happened on March 6 and 8.”

Asked if she could produce this diary, she replied, “No. My house was broken into.”

This is not very convincing, is it? It must rank as the poorest excuse uttered since that old chestnut about the dog eating the homework. And I don’t believe that anyone was for a moment surprised that she should claim the commission was not delving into the “real issues”.

Neither was it unexpected that Miyeni should claim she was being set up. Questioned about a meeting with Zuma, she said, “This commission loves Mr Zuma. It adores Mr Zuma, even when [the events] have nothing to do with him … These things are hearsay and gossip, misleading the commission, and I’m glad I can clarify. It’s a lie.”

The commission loves uBaba? That is putting it a bit strongly, I feel. I cannot speak for Zondo and company, but I must admit to a certain fondness for the reprobate. His idiot claim at the weekend that “foreign intelligence agencies” had meddled in his prosecution for corruption is yet one more shining example that, when it comes to the stuff coming out the arse of a boy cow, the Thief-in-Chief is a world beater. Respect, then. Grudging, admittedly, but respect all the same.

Our man in a mess

The Democratic Alliance wants to amend foreign service regulations so that diplomats abroad are personally liable for damage to any property they use. This follows a disclosure to Parliament by Department of International Relations and Cooperation minister Naledi Pandor that some R9.4 million had been lost in unreturned deposits for 101 overseas properties rented to her officials in the last five years. “The reasons for not receiving back the deposits are damages to properties and deposits used by the landlord for maintenance work and repairs to damages,” Pandor was quoted as saying.

One principal culprit here appears to be our former slob in Austria, David Kweli Nkosi. According to Rapport, the diplomat had allegedly trashed a luxury apartment in Vienna, running up a repair bill of €40 000, or R714 000, for damages in just two years. The apartment’s owner, Karl Widy, told the newspaper that by the time Nkosi moved out in August last year, all the electrical appliances in the kitchen were destroyed, valuable cutlery was missing, all the glasses were gone, window and door frames were damaged, the bath and toilet were stained, the walls and floors were filthy and stained with soot, and the place was infested with cockroaches.

This is not the only property Nkosi has decolonised. News24 reports that, when he was in New Delhi, Nkosi ran up repairs there of INR306 850, or almost R54 000. This is a comparatively modest amount, and may explain why Dirco stumped up the tom on Nkosi’s behalf. The department disputes the Vienna damages.

The DA argue that such bills should be settled by the diplomats — and not taxpayers. But this is perhaps a bit harsh as it seemingly ignores cultural considerations. The braai, for example, is a uniquely South Africa ritual, one that goes to the hospitable heart of ubuntu; none of our ambassadors should ever be denied the opportunity of sharing burnt meat with dignitaries from host nations. A higher grade of charcoal briquette should however be used for indoor fires. These result in less soot and black smoke stains on walls than chopped up furniture.

It’s worth noting that, when they met in London earlier this month, Pandor and her UK counterpart, Dominic Raab, discussed a number of issues. These included the challenges of Covid-19 and preparations for next month’s G7 Leaders’ Summit in Cornwall, which will be attended by Cyril Ramaphosa. No mention, sadly, of that marvel of British engineering, the Dyson vacuum cleaner. This is a pity. Ordinarily, Mrs Donaldson curses such things, but this is one she swears by, and not at.

Retain and explain retainers

Proposed legislation aimed at protecting the UK’s contested monuments has prompted a U-turn in thinking among officials at Oxford, and it appears the statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oriel College will not be falling after all. The Fallists, as expected, are not amused.

Oriel’s governing body, according to The Times, has indicated the college’s decision is final even as it “reaffirmed its preference for removal”. Its volte-face was due to “regulatory and financial challenges” and the government’s new “retain and explain policy”, which will be backed by law and permit the removal of statues only in exceptional circumstances.

Rather than overcome these obstacles, Oriel will adopt a programme of contextualising its relationship with Rhodes and improving “equality and diversity” at the college. This includes “initiatives to boost ethnic minority student fund recruitment, and fundraising for scholarships for those from southern Africa”. No details yet, but it does sound a bit like a parallel Rhodes scholarship in the making.

Meanwhile, there’s a suggestion from the education desk at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”) that “context officers” be retained at the High Street entrance of the college’s Rhodes Building and there state the obvious to students. We can imagine the sort of trigger warnings that need to be in place as they explain to the young and impressionable that the statue above the entrance is that of a war pig and land rapist, albeit one who gave a fair bit of looted wonga to the university.