Andrew Donaldson says the Zondo reports are a damning indictment of the entire leadership of the ruling party
A FAMOUS GROUSE
ONE consequence of commissions of inquiry and the like is that those who appear before these hearings emerge from the experience suddenly steeped in profound legal wisdom. They may be mentally challenged in this regard before they take the stand, dumber even than a box of rocks, but they are then transformed, bafflingly, into geniuses at jurisprudence.
Hlaudi Motsoeneng is an obvious case in point. The SABC’s former chief operating officer this week confidently suggested that chief justice Raymond Zondo, for all the years of poring over legal tomes, doesn’t quite understand the Public Finance Management Act. It’s a bit beyond His Honour’s grasp, apparently.
Which is unfortunate, as said misunderstanding has resulted in a recommendation in the state capture report that Motsoeneng be investigated and prosecuted for possibly contravening the act. This as a result of the squalid transactions between the public broadcaster and the Guptas’ TNA Media company.
The latter had entered into deals with the SABC and various state entities through cruddy live morning TV propaganda shows. These were produced by the SABC for free, with Transnet, Eskom, Telkom and others handing over millions to TNA Media in sponsorship. The Guptas profited handsomely from this arrangement, Auckland Park was royally screwed and viewers who had had inadvertently stumbled on this televised bilge while channel surfing had difficulty keeping their breakfast down.
Motsoeneng gamely insists this is not the case. “It is a matter of fact that the SABC generated revenue out of advertisements on the Morning Live Show. It goes to show that people who analysed the costs associated with TNA Business Briefing do not understand television broadcasting as an industry.”
Perhaps they don’t understand how it was that the public broadcaster could fall under the control of a delusional Zupta sock puppet. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___
Then again, maybe they do. As Zondo put it: “It is most probable that Motsoeneng’s gross abuse of power at the SABC, including diverting public resources vested in the SABC to benefit the Guptas’ rival media company, appears to have been sanctioned by both Ms [Faith] Muthambi [the then communications minister] and president Jacob Zuma.”
This was such a glaring error, so uncharacteristically un-respected judge-like, and so unlearned that Motsoeneng mockingly wonders whether the report is, in fact, even Zondo’s own handiwork at all: “After careful consideration, I am of the view that ... Zondo owes South Africans an explanation as to who is the real author of the state capture report.”
Thandi Norman, the senior counsel who led the evidence during Motsoeneng’s September 2019 testimony, also came in for a backhanded dismissal. “I believe advocate Norman will not have presented incorrect facts without evidence. It seems the person who presented the evidence from my oral presentation to the chairperson of the commission, presented merely gossips.”
It could well be, however, that there is some unfinished business with Motsoeneng, and that he may not have been, let’s just say, all that forthcoming in his testimony. In typical narcissistic fashion, it was the wunderkind himself who inadvertently suggested in his boasting that he may have been holding something back.
“South Africans must remember,” he said, “that I did not finish my oral submissions at the commission, and I was promised that I will get an opportunity to complete my evidence at a later stage. I sense they realised I was swimming like a fish—the commission could not find what they were looking for.”
Swimming like a fish? What in the hey is that all about?
Idiomatically, this is ideal prattle for a gangster movie: “The Feds hauled in Mooch, gave him the third degree. But insteada singing like a canary, he swam like a fish.” But will it stand up in court? “Do you swear by Almighty God to tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth and not swim like a fish?”
We digress. Another legal expert thrown up by the Zondo report is, of course, Accused Number One. He now wants to take the state capture report on judicial review and refer its author to the Judicial Service Commission for misconduct. This according to Zuma Foundation spokesman, Mzwanele Manyi.
Addressing a media briefing at the weekend, Manyi revealed that Zuma’s objections were couched in agricultural terms: “The parts that are being taken on review are the parts that refer to him but … he is saying that these are fruits of a poisoned tree, he is saying the whole thing is rotten, unlawful, and the whole thing was wrong from the start. It violated the constitution.”
Speaking of poisoned fruit, I wonder if Manyi’s “colonised” name may also be put to idiomatic use, as in: “He was taken for a Jimmy”, meaning he was sold a lemon?
Readers will recall that in August 2017, News24 reported that Manyi’s company, Lodidox, bought the Gupta-owned ANN7 news channel for R300-million and The New Age newspaper for R150-million. Given that these entities were hollowed-out junk, essentially discarded “fronts” for a criminal enterprise, it’s no wonder that their new owner’s hopes of developing “an increasingly important and relevant part of the South African media landscape” have sadly not been realised.
Again, we digress. There is perhaps nothing new or surprising in Zuma’s objections to the report, which Manyi said is “unlawful, full of gossip, innuendo and conjecture. It is very short on concrete evidence.”
It was a “serious understatement” to suggest Zondo is “unworthy of being called a judge”. He failed the “the most basic of the tests even for the most junior judge”. His findings that the former president was under the sway of the Guptas, obeying their every instruction, was “absolute hogwash”.
“You can see here the amount of hatred that justice Zondo has for president Jacob Zuma, you can see that president Zuma was actually justified [to walk out of the commission].”
And yes, even if we close our eyes, we can still also see the petulance and childishness raging in these silly men.
It’s interesting that Zuma is making an effort to put some distance between himself and fact that it was he who had appointed Zondo as chair of the commission of inquiry into state capture. To compound the irony, he protests that he had no say in the matter. As Manyi was quoted as saying, somewhat disingenuously:
“At the time president Zuma was not given a choice. Advocate [and public protector Thuli] Madonsela did not give anybody any choice, she said in her report that president Zuma must not be the one selecting the judge, even the judge that must give him the name, must give him one name.
“So president Zuma, I tell you now, his hand was forced into this thing. He was forced, he did not sign voluntarily. He knew that this is breaking the law. He knew that the constitution of the country does not allow this. He tried to raise this and everybody was up in arms.”
Butternut was denied the opportunity of handpicking his own inquisitor? No sympathetic judge to chair a commission of inquiry into his allegedly corrupt behaviour? This is breaking the law? You’d think otherwise, but then again and don’t forget, these guys are the real legal experts here.
Zondo’s report, meanwhile, was also scathing about Cyril Ramaphosa, saying that he should have acted against state capture when he was deputy president. He, after all, had nothing to lose. Or so it would seem. “The option he chose did not prevent state capture from continuing,” Zondo said. “There are good chances, in my view, that if he was removed [from office], that would have shaken those who were pursuing state capture.”
Squirrel, naturally, has, as is his wont, simply ignored this and instead made some simpering noises about what a jolly good egg Zondo has been for cracking on with the task at hand. It’s been an arduous business, dragging on for almost four thankless years, wading through what was more tsunami than mere testimony of corruption and criminal maladministration. Little wonder, then, that the RET bunch are so convinced that Zondo detests the great Blesser. If I was in the chief justice’s shoes, I’d also be filled with a loathing of those responsible for the ruin and chaos of state capture.
The Zondo report may not be perfect. Writing in Politicsweb, for example, Douglas Gibson argues that Zondo is wrong in suggesting the country’s president should be directly elected by voters. In Daily Maverick, Michael Marchant of Open Secrets points out that, while it provides some details of the banking networks that profited from state capture, the report fails to suggest how the international movement of billions of rands in stolen funds can be prevented in future.
The report’s undeniable strength, however, is that it serves as a damning indictment of the entire ANC leadership. No one is innocent here. Not one. As Zondo states, “The natural conclusion is that, during this period, the most dominant political faction—the ANC under President Zuma—permitted, supported, and enabled corruption and State Capture.”
That ANC is still with us. Very much so. For all Squirrel’s mumbling to the contrary, nothing is changing. There is no renewal of the party, no reform. It’s still the same crooked shit-show it’s been for the past quarter-century. And it won’t be changing anytime soon. The Frogboiler’s response to Zondo’s findings will only be presented in four months’ time, just weeks before the party’s elective conference in December. As the Presidency explained: “The President has committed to consider the Commission’s report in its totality and to present a comprehensive response and implementation plan to Parliament. The Presidency will therefore not respond at this stage to specific aspects of the Commission’s findings and recommendations.”
Is there any strategic purpose to this delay? Will it improve Squirrel’s chances of a second term? Does it matter?
Those who have fallen foul of the law claim that it is advisable to remain silent when first approached by the police for assistance in their inquiries. Once the evidence piles up, though, it becomes apparent that accomplices may need to be thrown under the bus in order to stay out of the serious brown stuff. That is when the singing should start. Not the swimming like a fish.
The government is often accused of putting the party’s interests way, way ahead of the country’s. There is some truth in this, but it’s more a case, I believe, of the leadership putting their own interests ahead of the party’s. The self-engorgement and bloating is such that these people, who now resemble large blobs of Plasticine, are at risk of exploding like Monty Python’s Mr Creosote. Factionalism may be tearing the ANC apart, but it is the parasitism and personal greed of its leaders that will finally kill off the party. Une danse de la mort at the trough, as it were.
The country may be well and truly stuffed, as David Bullard reports, but we’ll be here when the ANC implodes. Fingers crossed.