President Zog

Andrew Donaldson on the sinister forces reportedly afoot in the land


THE President has insisted that he’s not a canine. It was on Sunday evening, at a prayer meeting in Durban, and Jacob Zuma took the opportunity to deal with this seemingly popular misconception.

“They say all sort of accusations about this dog,” he told congregants, “saying I am corrupt, I steal, without a shred of evidence of this theft. They say I am a dog, but I have two legs, not four. I don’t have a tail or a snout.”

Some of which may even be true, although here at the Mahogany Ridge we note there was no mention of the cloven hoof.

True, dogs don’t have hooves, but the image does spring to mind whenever Zuma mentions the devil, as he did on this occasion in a broadside directed at the ANC’s alliance partners, which he accused of interfering in the party’s affairs with their calls for his resignation.

“These unusual actions,” he said, “indicate that there is a third force that these people report to … I’m not saying much, but it is suspicious. Religious leaders must pray for us political leaders when we go astray and not criticise us like some are doing, calling us criminals or idiots or Satan.”

Speaking of idiots, the exhausted idea that a third force was behind Zuma’s current woes, if not the country’s, was once again picked up by the bonkers Minister of State Security, David Mahlobo, who enthusiastically ran with it during his budget vote in Parliament on Tuesday.

In a bid to terrify MPs, Mahlobo spoke darkly of foreign governments manipulating mainstream media, non-governmental organisations and religious bodies, among others, in an attempt to bring about regime change. (The minister made it sound as if this was a bad thing, remarked the Freedom Front Plus leader, Pieter Groenewald.)

The manipulation of bodies, let alone the truth, is a practice that Mahlobo is apparently familiar with, having frequented on many occasions that palace of happy endings in far-off Mbombela, the Jinxu-Chinese massage parlour. 

This is according to Guan Jiang Guang, the parlour’s owner and a self-confessed rhino horn trafficker who last year boasted that Mahlobo was a regular customer who swung by sometimes once a week.

Back, though, to regime change. Before all this waffle to MPs of “nefarious agendas”, reporters at a media presentation of the State Security Agency’s policy statement were allowed a glimpse into his shadowy and paranoid world. 

It was, mind you, only the merest of glimpses. Cards close to the chest, and so on, for Mahlobo did not want to disclose “details that enemies can use”. 

He would not, for example, disclose what the SSA’s overall budget was. But, alas, this amount, R4.7-billion for “secret services”, is public knowledge.

These enemies, though, were everywhere. Kick a rock, any rock, and out they scurried. Shake a tree and down they fell, like rotten apples. 

“During the past year,” Mahlobo said, “they continued their efforts, in close collaboration with negative domestic forces, to undermine our democratic and constitutional advances.”

Media houses were being manipulated, NGOs subverted, and foreign companies invaded by, um, foreigners. 

Worse, enemies were funding “opposition activities”, infiltrating government departments, recruiting agents through the churches, and making use of both prominent people and covert intelligence networks to further their aims.

Crikey! All very Manchurian Candidate and what have you. But again, no details. Mahlobo would not identify any NGOs or media groups involved in “undemocratic regime change”. He would not explain what he meant by “opposition activities”. 

As he put it, “I will not disclose the players doing certain things. These things — they are happening. The world is not as flat as we think.”

But, more to the point, Mahlobo was asked about the “intelligence” report allegedly detailing how the former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas had planned to meet with foreign banks on an international road show and plot the removal of the President. Was this part of the regime change conspiracy?

At the time, Mahlobo denied such a report existed. Then, later, he claimed the report did, in fact, exist but that he had no idea of its contents. He also said he couldn’t understand why the report even had anything to do with him.

But now he said the report was subject to a court case and an investigation by the Inspector General of Intelligence, Sethlomamaru Dintwe.

Oddly enough, Dintwe’s office has also been approached to investigate the SSA for possible involvement in last month’s extremely suspicious theft of reporters’ laptops at Parliament, and the ongoing intimidation of journalists.

There could well be some very bad guys out there.

This article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.