SA’s Walter Mitty triumphs on Mount Everest

William Saunderson-Meyer says that unlike some among us Ryan Davy took responsibility for what he did


South African climber Ryan Davy’s assault on Mount Everest is set to garner him a slew of media awards. 

Unfortunately for him, they will all be mocking accolades of the Mampara of the WeekPoepol of the Week variety. 

Davy, who could not afford the $11,000 it costs to get a climbing permit for the world’s highest mountain, concluded that the only way to realise his dream was to do it “under the radar”, as he put it in a radio interview. So he hopped on a plane to Nepal, organised his equipment, and secretly started climbing solo. 

Aside from safety issues, the Nepalese authorities don’t take kindly to attempts to evade the hefty fee. Apparently acting on a tip-off, they set off in pursuit and arrested him in a small cave, just past Everest base camp, at an altitude of around 7,300 metres.  

It is clear from his reckless behaviour that Davy is a wild risk-taker, with the stereotypical macho South African male’s obliviousness to the likely consequences of his actions.  He’s made a fool of himself, embarrassed his country, and shown that he was happy to endanger the lives of the rescue crews which would eventually have had to go save him from the consequences of his Quixotic actions.

Yet, I’ve got to admit, I have a sneaking admiration for Davy. That is simply because he has one quality that I thought had completely disappeared from the SA gene pool: a willingness to take personal responsibility for what he has done.

Davy is on bail in Kathmandu, awaiting a court appearance at which he will plead guilty to what is basically fraud. On past history, it is likely that he will have a choice between a $22,000 fine or a four-year jail sentence. 

Davy – a struggling film-maker when he is not indulging Walter Mitty fantasies of being Sir Edmund Hillary – doesn’t have that kind of money. Nor is he going to find it, since he called a stop to an attempt by his mates at home to crowd-fund the fine.

In the radio interview, Davy did not beg, plead, or look for excuses. He said he blamed no one but himself for his foolishness.  And although he wished it were otherwise, he is reconciled to possibly going to jail for a long while. 

What a breath of fresh air this is, in contrast to the hypocritical halitosis that emanates from the typical local politician and government official, and which we have been inhaling now for years.

Take Brian Molefe, a man who the African National Congress leadership clearly admires enormously and who has over the years been widely lauded for his business acumen, his leadership abilities, and even his supposed high ethical standards.

As head of Eskom, Molefe was last year implicated in a report from Public Protector, in the controversial Gupta clan’s attempts at state capture. After tearful initial attempts to deny his close ties with the Guptas, Molefe publicly resigned.

His exact words were: “I have, in the interests of good corporate governance, decided to leave my employ at Eskom from January 1 2017. I do so voluntarily…” 

Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown issued her own statement: “I am saddened by the announcement of Mr Molefe’s resignation. However, I do respect his decision to do so.”

Molefe was then hurriedly given an ANC parliamentary seat. It was rumoured that this was done so that President Jacob Zuma could have a suitable replacement for Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, whom he had been trying to get rid of because his stalwart opposition to cronyism. 

Gordhan was fired. Molefe didn’t get the job. 

The consolation prize was to be a R30m pension pay-out from Eskom. But when a public outcry forced Browne to block the pay-out, it was back to the drawing board for the various players. 

The solution was, on the face of it, elegantly simple. Molefe would return to Eskom as CEO, on the basis that he hadn’t resigned after all. He had merely taken early retirement, now rescinded, went the explanation.

Or, an alternative excuse, hurriedly filed in court papers responding to a Democratic Alliance challenge, he had neither resigned nor retired, but had taken leave of absence. This scenario turned to be even more problematic, for it means that Molefe broke the law that forbids anyone from simultaneously being an MP and an employee of the state.

The scale of the lies and evasion in the Molefe saga is shocking ,even to many ANC members. However, this time around there is no docile falling into line with the latest ANC authorised version of what has happened and what will happen next and the ANC as a party has demanded that the ANC as government rescind Molefe’s reappointment.

Brian Molefe is still ducking and diving. No skaam. In contrast Ryan Davy, though he is hapless, even hopeless, at least has personal integrity.

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