Jeremy Gordin writes on the concatenation of events that made his week
Sometimes, notwithstanding the manifold woes surrounding you, there is a concatenation of events that pushes the horrors aside.
They put a song in your heart and a spring in your step, and make you want to dance when you wake, like King David did before the Lord (2 Samuel 6:14 et seq.) – and it doesn’t matter whether you’re wearing a linen ephod, just your under-rods, or even nothing at all.
For me, this week has been chockfull of such occurrences, all quintessentially Seffrican and media related. Where to begin and what to include are my only quandaries. I am truly faced with an embarrassment of riches and shall have to be strict about not letting my cup run over. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___
We begin with the TV coverage of former president Jacob G. Zuma’s special plea to have senior prosecutor Billy Downer SC removed from trying the arms deal graft case in the Pietermaritzburg high court.
“Shock horror” was the general tenor emanating from those covering this matter. Why? ... Not because, in a 107-page judgment (some okes are suckers for punishment), presiding judge Piet Koen denied the plea.
Oh no – but because, the plea having been denied, Zuma’s legal team hinted that it would apply for leave to appeal Koen’s ruling. Moreover, while Judge Koen was beavering away at his 107 pages, Zuma filed a criminal complaint, demanding that Downer be investigated for allegedly leaking a “confidential” medical report via a third party to News24 journalist Karyn Maughan in August.
Given that it would be highly optimistic for me (or anyone, I think) to believe that Zuma will ever be tried on the arms deal graft charges during my lifetime (and I plan to live another 25 years or so), it’s pretty funny that the media et al still express their collective surprise when Zuma and his lawyers find yet another spanner to throw into the works.
I bet you that right now military historians all over the world are muttering under their breaths, “Stalingrad, Schmalingrad – Zuma could teach Generals Vasily Chuikov and Georgi Zhukov a thing or four”.
But lest you don’t find that especially amusing, let’s move on to the incident that took place at the St George’s hotel, Irene, on 14 October when defence minister Thandi Modise, minister in the presidency Mondli Gungubele, and deputy minister of defence Thabang Makwetla were allegedly held hostage by 53 war veterans (allegedly including members of MK, Apla, and Azanla) – and had to be rescued by the SAPS Special Task Force (STF).
This occurrence created, as one can readily understand, a huge problem for the politically correct and Woke among the media. These veterans, after all, were those who fought for our freedom. What was one to write about this incident?
Local NY Times correspondent Lynsey Chutel knew exactly what to do. She wrote a piece, very sympathetic to the vets, headlined, “They Fought Apartheid in South Africa. Now They Want Veterans’ Benefits.”
Problem, though, as some readers might know, is that the world has gone on turning and things might not be so hunky-dory, to use a phrase much favoured by former minister of intelligence, Ronnie Kasrils (see below).
Nic Dawes, former editor of the M&G and a clever chap, therefore tweeted from New York, where we trust he is enjoying the fleshpots of the good ol’ USA, that “[t]he lack of political context in [Chutel’s] story borders on malpractice” and that “South Africa is a critically important country navigating exceptionally complex risks. The New York Times could powerfully illuminate the situation for its readers. In this piece it has actively subtracted from their understanding of the situation”.
Er, I’m not so certain that SA is a “critically important country” (to anyone except maybe us). Nor am I clear what “exceptionally complex risks” we are “navigating”. I’m probably a bit simple-minded – especially compared to Dawes – but I think our problems are pretty clear: huge corruption, theft on a mammoth scale, completely buggered infrastructure, ANC cadre deployment, lawlessness, and so on and so forth.
Rebecca Davis of the Daily Maverick was apparently faced with the same problem. Thank heavens, therefore, for the NPA, court data and suchlike. She was able to avoid any pro- or anti-comments and to kick off her article (headlined “Might and malefactors: ‘Military veterans’ more like a gang of criminals threatening the nation”) by writing, “Of the 53 self-professed military vets who held ministers hostage in Irene, southern Pretoria, last week, 40 have criminal records – and a military expert says their claims are not credible. Millions have already been paid out to vets.”
And she continued: “Questions have been swirling over the 53, whose names and ages were released by the NPA to journalists on Tuesday. The youngest of the group, at 43, would have been just 15 years old when anti-apartheid fighters were either demobilized or began to be integrated into the new South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in 1993”.
But is “the truth” as simple as that? What I, a long-suffering liberal want to know is this: Which self-respecting Seffrican, who fought the good fight, or (as is often the case) imagines he or she fought the good fight, but has not managed (for some reason) to get his/her slice of the pie, which of them does NOT have a criminal record of some sort?
Talking of which, there’s been too much load-shedding for me to have researched properly the lives of Gungubele or Makwetla [i], but both are long-standing movers and shakers in the ANC – which is enough to make me a tad suspicious about what they might have been up to during the past few decades.
As for Modise, she might not have a criminal record – but she ought to have one. In 2017, she was nabbed taking a travel allowance of more than R125 000, which she was not entitled to as the chairwoman of the National Council of Provinces. She was asked to repay this allowance over a period of three years, but she resisted this request, and no one knows whether she did eventually repay the sum.
With the help of Dali Mpofu SC, she also shimmied out of the charges brought against her for animals being horribly starved to death on her “farm” in Tlokwe by laying the blame on the man hired to look after the animals. But you, me, and Gerrie Nel know what we know, right?
But never mind what I write or think, I’m no vet. Let us turn rather to Judge Dennis Davis’ most recent “Judge for Yourself” programme on eNCA, featuring himself, Ronnie “hunky dory” Kasrils, and MK veteran, Obbey Mabena.
Mabena, 71, seems to be the real thing – and has been inter alia an advisor on the issue of pensions for vets to various ministers of defence and military veterans. Now – though Mabena didn’t manage to answer too precisely questions about why so many among the 53 had criminal records or looked about 15 years’ old – he did note a number of other things, which rather, it seemed to me, took the wind out of the sails of both Davis and Kasrils.
First, he said, the contretemps was not a hostage situation. The vets knew Modise et al would be at the hotel, so they went to have a chat with them, as one does, about the promises made to the vets by President Cyril Ramaphosa almost exactly a year ago – promises which, the vets say, have not been kept. Mabena also said the matter was not a “hostage situation,” that the only armed folk present were the ministers’ bodyguards.
Mabena also said – and he claims he’s an “IT person” – that the database relating to vet pensions, which apparently resides in the military veterans’ department computers, has been hijacked by persons unknown (which might also explain the presence of folk at the hotel he didn’t even know and who might have been under 45); and that consequently the millions due to legitimate vets, which do go off the books, don’t get distributed to the correct people.
“The money invariably goes to people it shouldn’t go to,” he said. “The money goes to private armies related to factions into which the ANC has deteriorated.” He added, “Judge Davis ... you know that everything we are told as South Africans is not what it is, in almost all situations. We are dealing with very dishonest people in my organisation. ... The ANC that I joined 45 years ago has been hijacked. ... We have a pandemic called corruption in this country and, because of this pandemic, nothing is working.”
Davis then said to him: “The ANC was the body which, to the largest extent [sic], was the one that got us a constitutional democracy, which, as Mandela said, meant we were never going to repeat the kind of authoritarian and racist past we had before – but how can we have a constitutional democracy when people move in and kidnap people?”
To which Mabena answered: “It was the same Mandela who said that if the ANC treats you the same way as the apartheid regime treated you, then you must do the same to the ANC as you did to the apartheid regime.” He added that there was no kidnapping – and that calling in the STF was part of an orchestrated drama staged to cast people like him in a bad light.
Have to say that I believed pretty much everything Mabena said.
A perhaps happier matter. You might recall the strange case of Iqbal, Piet and the mystery of the missing decuplets of June 2021? Well, it seemed, since the decuplets could not be found, that perhaps the whole issue might just disappear – and everybody could just forget about the whole matter and get on with their lives.
Not a chance. Dr Iqbal Survé is made of sterner stuff. On Wednesday he called a press briefing, to which he promises there will be 15-minute follow-ups – like a Netflix series, he said.
Bolstered by the presence of an apparently leading gynecologist and a senior counsel, he announced that a crack investigation had discovered that 37-year-old Gosiame Sithole from Tembisa did in fact give birth to 10 babies several months ago (though unfortunately two of the decuplets died in the womb).
Where are they? Ah, Survé explained, they were trafficked with the help of hospital and home affairs officials as well as a Nigerian doctor with a false name. In the forthcoming series, all these officials, medical officials and shady doctors will be named.
Probably unappreciative of journalistic pursuits and tenacity, the Gauteng Provincial Government and the national health department do not seem be impressed by the investigation. “The provincial government cannot stand by while serious allegations are made against nurses, doctors, hospital management and health officials,” said a statement from Premier David Makhura’s office.
“The provincial government has instructed the State Attorney to institute legal action against the Independent Media group. A senior counsel has been briefed and court papers will be served on the Independent Media in due course.”
There’s much more I wanted to tell you about – such as the equally mysterious bending of the knee incident, Quinton de Kock, and Cricket South Africa, which has threatened to tear the country asunder.
But, alas, I have shared my happy moments from the last week or so for long enough. Still, I am not dismayed. Soon, sooner than you think, on Monday, it will be time for our local government elections.
I shall, by the way, vote for the Democratic Alliance. I believe it’s healthy not to pay attention to most of the media and the various pundits and owners, but rather to do the right thing – and damn the torpedoes.
[i] Though there’s some pretty iffy stuff on Makwetla’s Wikipedia page, including his having allegedly used state funds to deal with an “alcohol problem” and his alleged “kidnapping” in May 2017.