Parasitic centralism

Andrew Donaldson on Phala Phala, and our ruling party's governing ideology


IT could more accurately be described as a collective gasp of horror. To my mind, though, the reaction to speculation that Cyril Ramaphosa would resign in the wake of the Section 89 Independent Panel report was more like the cawing of angry hadedas. “Fa-aaa-aaack! … We’re sooooo, like … fa-aaaaaa-aaacked…” 

Thus, and for all its preverbal charm, the enthusiastic response to the possibility the inquiry headed by former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo had paved the way for David Mabuza becoming our next president. 

The Cat, it would appear, was now among the pigeons. 

But this has not been the case — not yet, at least. Squirrel has decided to stand his ground. He has, for now, the backing of the ANC, which has directed its MPs to vote against any parliamentary attempt to impeach him. His lawyers, led by the formidable Wim Trengove, have meanwhile launched a Constitutional Court action to have Ngcobo’s report “reviewed, declared unlawful and set aside”. 

In short, and despite accusations of gross misconduct and that he may have violated the constitution and broken anti-corruption laws, Squirrel is going nowhere. The ANC of the “New Dawn” now finds itself in the same position it was in when it came out in blinkered, unquestioning support for Jacob Zuma during all those motions of no confidence; defending the “indefensible”, as journalist Carol Paton put it.

There is further irony, however, in the fact that the Farmgate inquiry report does appear to be a bit … odd. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Judge Dennis Davis, chair of the Davis Tax Committee, has, for one, ventured an opinion after a “first reading” that Squirrel’s argument that the report is “irrational” is quite plausible; that is, there may be no rational linkage between the “reasoning” of the report and its conclusions.

Speaking to The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield, Davis said the issue here, the one “troubling everybody”, was whether “some form of money laundering or similar illegal corrupt activity” had taken place. 

But Squirrel has not been charged with any such wrongdoing. Instead, the beef concerns “paid work”; namely, that he was a used cow salesman while holding office as president. As an aside, it is interesting that the job comes with generous down-time allowing the pursuit of such extra-mural activities. It’s not as if being president means you have a lot on your plate, it would seem. Moreover, by failing to report the theft of the proceeds of this activity, Squirrel had not reported corruption; he had not informed the SAPS of the theft and, instead, had used the Presidential Protection Unit to investigate this “private business” issue.

“Of course it’s political!” Davis said. “And what’s funny about it is that people who seem to have no problem with the Public Protector dragging everything off to court for ever and ever, now have an enormous problem about the President in fact launching a review application.”

In his takedown of the report, Daily Maverick’s Tim Cohen found it striking that Ngcobo and his two colleagues spent “absolutely no time at all, zero, nada,” discussing the charges brought by Arthur “Fingers” Fraser, disgraced former director-general of the State Security Agency and alleged accomplice in the looting of hundreds of millions of rand from secret slush funds.

This is a problem, according to Cohen. “Fraser’s motivation is key because he provides no evidence of his allegations outside of ‘unnamed sources’. To me, the question is this: can you ever base a successful prima facie case solely on the back of hearsay evidence? Now, I am not a lawyer, but I would guess that would be a little tricky.”

For all that, Cohen is supportive of Fraser’s intentions in this instance. “He says the president should be investigated for exchange control violations, and I think he should be. We, the citizens of SA, and the economy as a whole, have had to live under the burden of these stupid exchange controls for years; laws that mostly apply to us but not to foreigners. At the same time we all know the ANC has for decades treated these laws as little-people problems. I for one would love to see the party come a cropper for ignoring laws they gleefully imposed on all of us for ages.”

Which brings us back to David Mabuza and the possibility that he will be our next president. This clearly has alarmed the “little people” out there, many of whom regard Squirrel as being the better of the two evils, as he is “business-friendly”.

There is much that is concerning about Mabuza. There is, for example, the theft in 2009 of cash from his own farm when he was Mpumalanga premier. The amount stolen was mysteriously whittled down from R14-million to R1 200 as an inconclusive investigation proceeded.

On top of that there have been allegations of political assassinations, corruption and tender fraud and mysterious medical treatments in Russia after he was supposedly poisoned. Mired in such murk, his nickname could well be “The Gat” rather than The Cat. (The 44 people out there who still speak Afrikaans can explain this to the rest of you.)

However, as fellow columnist David Bullard suggested yesterday, it doesn’t really matter who is president. There is only one “evil” here — and that is the ANC itself. Experience has shown that the party is not “led” by individuals but by the collective greed of its national executive. Call it parasitic centralism, but it lurches through public life like a voracious grubbing blob after its next meal-ticket. All its leadership can do is hang on during the engorgement.

Which brings us to the event at the heart of Farmgate — namely the sale in December 2019 of 20 buffalo to a secretive Sudanese millionaire, Hazim Mustafa, for $580 000. Although Mustafa was first named by News24 in September as the possible buyer, he has only now confirmed that this was indeed the case. 

However, in an interview with Sky News, he claimed that he had no idea that the animals, or the Phala Phala farm itself, were owned by Squirrel. “I wasn’t aware it belonged to the president. I dealt with a broker – the one working on Phala Phala farm,” he said.

The transaction, Mustafa added, was not completed. “When we did the deal, they were supposed to prepare the animals for export. Then the Covid-19 lockdown happened and there was delay after delay after delay … It took too long, so I didn’t get my money back, but there is an understanding that I will be refunded.”

Some of the more naive regulars here at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”) do hope that Mustafa got that “understanding” in writing. But the more cynical among us question why this Sudanese millionaire should have been in Limpopo in the first place.

It has been reported that Mustafa is married to a South African. She has been identified as Bianca O’Donoghue. Mustafa’s claim, then, that he was in the country at the time to celebrate Christmas and his wife’s birthday may seem feasible to some.

But a quick rummage through O’Donoghue’s Instagram account suggests that she is not the type of woman who’d want to spend her birthday in the sticks, much less Limpopo. Besides which, she’s from KwaZulu-Natal, a place that’s weird enough as it is. Instead, this “designer of the life I love” (as she describes herself) is clearly more at home in the upmarket boutiques in Dubai. 

This is not to suggest that O’Donoghue is a totally vacuous and self-centred person. She does appear to take an interest in her husband’s affairs. She has, for example, posted on social media an image of a cheque that Mustafa donated to the Sudanese army. “I am so proud of my husband,” she wrote. “You are a super hero. May you always stay blessed inshallah.”

The cheque was for 50 million Sudanese pounds (SDG). Not speak ill of the Sundanese pound, but that’s almost $88 000. You could, at a push, get three buffalo from Squirrel for that amount. 

There remains, however, a lot that is fishy about this cow stuff. Squirrel’s opponents may make a stink about it at next week’s national conference but the fuss and bother is not likely to upset his re-election plans all that much. The general elections in 2024 may be a different story altogether.


Meanwhile, and in related events, one of the president’s most unhinged opponents, my unhappy friend Carl Niehaus, has claimed that a bunch of Squirrel’s heavies were sent to attack him while he was picketing outside the National Exhibition Centre in Johannesburg on Monday. He claims they were given food as a “reward” for doing so.

There he was, said the RET’s Che Guava, picketing peacefully about events at Phala Phala when he was set upon: “Ramaphosa’s rent a crowd of thugs sent to attack me were rewarded McDonald’s burgers and KFC. It didn’t help them; I still stood my ground against the stomachists. They pushed me around, they insulted me; I’ve been pushed in the ribs. I could’ve laid charges of assault because they are not allowing freedom of speech. It related to all the wrongs which started with the way in which he became president of the African National Congress through the buying of votes right here at Nasrec in 2017.”

This is outrageous. Burgers and fried chicken? That’s way too much. Everyone knows the going rate for beating up on Carl is, at best, a packet of crisps and a Fanta. Clearly someone has been ripped off here.