Andrew Donaldson writes on the odd coalition rallying round Busisiwe Mkhwebane
A FAMOUS GROUSE
MUCH snorting and honking here at the self-isolating Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”) upon receipt this week of news of legal matters in the old country.
Of particular interest is the apparent intention by the Economic Freedom Fighters to approach the Constitutional Court in a bid to reverse Tuesday’s ruling by the Gauteng North high court that set aside the public protector’s finding that the president had misled parliament.
A full bench of the court ruled that Busisiwe “Beeswax” Mkhwebane had no jurisdiction in this matter, which centred on whether or not Cyril Ramaphosa’s 2017 ANC presidential campaign had benefitted from a R500 000 donation from Bosasa, the dodgy “facilitation” people.
What’s more, not only had Beeswax not minded her own beeswax, but her report into this murk was riddled with statutory errors. In short, and this is distressingly the rule rather than the exception, she just wasn’t up to snuff with this one and the clamour for her dismissal has grown louder still — but not from the fighters.
The redshirts claim the judgment against the public protector is unreasonable and they consider it “ridiculous” that Judge Elias Matojane and his learned colleagues had in this matter apparently applied their minds to principles of the law — and little else.
The EFF are not alone in this. Andile Lungisa, an ANC councillor in Nelson Mandela Bay and an ardent Beeswax fan, has accused the judges of adopting a “political position”.
Lungisa knows of what he speaks. Having been convicted of assaulting a DA councillor, Rano Kayser, by smashing a water jug on his head during an October 2016 council session, he is an expert on positions taken by the courts.
It’s an expertise that will no doubt be sharpened by his current legal hassles: the Reserve Bank governor, Lesetja Kganyago, is suing him for R500 000 for defamation after Lungisa labelled him a “lackey of racist people” in a June 2019 Twitter spat over a suggestion the bank be nationalised.
One of Lungisa’s tweets described Kganyago thus: “He, like many of his ilk, imagines that proximity to the culturally fetid but economically dominant Neo-settlers, coupled with a few lattes makes him the exceptional Kaffir.”
As an aside, it seems reasonable to assume that, unlike (let’s just say) Marie Basson, the Kempton Park woman reportedly on the run after losing her appeal against a six-month jail term for racially abusing a police officer, Lungisa is not at present hiding out in a Johannesburg hotel wearing a blonde wig as a disguise.
Another expert in jurisprudence to have come out batting for the public protector, meanwhile, is the manqué revolutionary, Carl Niehaus.
We’re all well aware this habitué of the debtor’s court is the spokesman for MK military veterans.
What’s less known, due perhaps to cunning use of camouflage, is that Niehaus also fibs for Radical Economic Transformation, an imaginatively-titled pro-Jacob Zuma group, and it’s in this capacity that he has darkly warned: “At the appropriate time, we will respond in the appropriate manner to the challenges of this judgment, and the general state of affairs in our country.”
Then there is Edward Zuma, who, in his painful reaction, has reminded us: “As Edward Zuma, I have always been vocal on the issue of the public protector and her office. It must be taken further, until these people and ordinary people realise the judiciary has been biased. What is being done to [Beeswax’s] office, and to her personally, is uncalled for and unfortunate.”
There are others, but we get the picture. Such emotional testimony all but masks a conviction that the courts have yet to get with the programme and that, by and large, most lawyers remain far too … lawyerly.
What on earth, then, is the matter with the collective beak? Why the callous disregard for the aims and ambitions of the orcs and their fascist fellow travellers in the Zuma death cult? Why do the courts forsake their radical agenda?
Pressing questions, you will agree, requiring urgent answers.
According to EFF spokesman Vuyani Pambo, the Gauteng North high court’s ruling “effectively rendered the oath of members of parliament futile, uprooting the respect this important arm of state has. The finding that Ramaphosa did not mislead parliament is not only ridiculous, it exposes the court as an institution complicit in weakening parliament.
“We seek to give the highest court in the land the opportunity to either correct the unreasonableness of the Gauteng North high court or join in obliterating the principles of equality before the law, transparency and accountability.”
All are not saints who go to church, as we used to say back at the old Mahogany Ridge when faced with such hypocrisy and cant. As for some well-known lawyers, well, this sort of dissemblance has been par for the course, and profitably so, what with the many, mostly unsuccessful court actions that characterised the Zuma era.
One of the reasons for the slew of such losses, the attorney and activist Richard Spoor has suggested on social media, is that the fighters and their ilk are advised by lawyers “who are chosen on the basis of their ideological outlook rather than on the basis of their competence and independence”. Or, as Spoor later tweeted: “Good lawyers give advice, bad lawyers take instructions.”
Wise words that may give the EFF’s Godrich Gardee pause for thought now that he has resigned his seat in parliament to follow a career in law. As the aforementioned Pambo later explained: “Mr Gardee is currently a candidate attorney under the employ and tutelage of Mabuza Attorneys pursuing his articles. It is clear that the battle with reactionary forces has extended to the courtroom.”
Indeed it has. And a few minutes on the google machine reveals the firm of Mabuza Attorneys is right there in the bloody fray.
So are their clients, one of whom is the Sunday Independent’s assistant editor Piet Rampedi, who is being sued for R500 000 by journalist Jacques Pauw. This after the renowned muckraker allegedly defamed Pauw by claiming he was a “racist liar” and a paedophile who had “molested young boys in Mozambique on SABC assignment in early 2000”.
Now, anyone who has followed Rampedi’s career will know he can get things wrong. Not all the time, true, but certainly when it matters. It is an ability that, like the actor Danny DeVito’s undiminished skill in portraying short people, has apparently not deserted Rempedi in the years since his byline first appeared in the Sunday Times above fanciful stories concerning the SA Revenue Service’s fabled “rogue unit”.
Pauw made much of this misinformation in his best-selling book, The President’s Keepers, which clearly enraged Rampedi, causing the man to lose his mind. Or perhaps it was the siren song of Beeswax herself that drove him mad.
No matter, but when Mkhwebane claimed in June last year that reports of a Sars intelligence unit were, in fact, “substantiated”, Rampedi went absolutely bonzo on the fourth estate’s backside and took to Twitter to reveal a labyrinthine conspiracy to hound him out of journalism.
In short, a cabal of newspaper publishers, editors and other editorial executives had forced Rampedi to resign from the Sunday Times in 2015, thereby “killing” his rogue unit reports and sparing public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan from exposure as a stooge of white monopoly capital.
What’s more, said cabal ordered politicians and advertisers not to support Rampedi’s now-defunct publication, African Times, and blocked him from economic opportunities.
Speaking of which, and according to interim DA leader John Steenhuisen, the findings against the “compromised” and “incompetent” public protector do not mean that Ramaphosa is automatically innocent of all claims against him. There are unanswered questions, Steenhuisen maintains, about the involvement of the president’s son, Andile Ramaphosa, in Bosasa’s affairs.
These may not, alas, be answered anytime soon.
But the DA can at least draw some comfort from the fact that, when she was appointed to the job, back in October 2016, they were the only party not to endorse Beeswax’s nomination, accusing her of being a spy and on the payroll of the State Security Agency.
Whatever her faults, and there are many, she has at least kept lawyers busy. In that, and typical of the Zuma culture’s gargantuan appetite for costly litigation, she has been a gift that has kept on giving.
That flush purple period may however be drawing to a close. When it comes to the awarding of costs, the courts have adopted the cruel position that our obdurately errant public officials should, at the very least, pay for some of their mistakes.
This nasty development came as an unpleasant surprise to Jacob Zuma when, in mid-December 2017, he was ordered by a full bench of the Gauteng North high court to personally pay the costs of the “unreasonable” application he brought to stop the release and finalisation of former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report.
That ruling could be paraphrased thus: Accused Number One called the tune, therefore he must pay the piper. Not a happy festive season at Nkandla that year, apparently.
And the same thing happened to Beeswax as a result of her bungled and biased investigation into the so-called apartheid-era Bankorp bailout.
The Reserve Bank took the matter to the Gauteng high court in 2018, thereby incurring the considerable wrath of Andile Lungisa down in Port Elizabeth. Undaunted, the court ruled against the public protector, gave her a dressing down about lying to the courts and not fully comprehending her constitutional duty to be impartial, and then ordered her to pay 15% of the Reserve Bank’s costs out of her own pocket.
Beeswax then took the matter to the Constitutional Court, who turned down her appeal in July last year, and let’s just say that 15% of the bank’s costs were now considerably higher than 15% of their costs the previous year.
That the courts are offering this sort of protection to the hitherto seemingly bottomless public purse will have been noted by Godrich Gardee and it could transpire that his change in career won’t be all that rewarding.
Which is a pity. Money does appear to be an issue with this Effnik. When he announced his resignation as an MP, Gardee did so in a blaze of stupidity, taking to Twitter to unleash a torrent of complaints about the wretched working conditions and slave wages paid to parliamentarians.
When, for example, the journalist Andisiwe Makinana suggested that out-of-town MPs pay a mere R362 a month for a four-bedroom house at Acacia Park in Cape Town, Gardee shot back with these “(sic) all over” tweets:
“There is no kettle or toasters supplied…. Those houses are worse off than an RDP house in a village…… In fact, no one ever miss that misery of Parliament village…. Its no different from a hostel…. Mattrasses are never changed to date…. Its no by choice to be there….”
“Most are wooden houses except for few in bricks..You get into a bus to parliament.. No wonder Ministers resign once demoted to be a back Bencher.. It is not nice at all… Its like a jail.. For a pittance salary… No wonder #Bosassa took care of politicians in that @ParliamentofRSA”
“There is no free lunch at Parliament…. we carry lunch boxes .. or you thought there is food for MPs…..”
For the record, and according to Africa Check, the lowest salary an MP could earn was R1 106 940 a year, or R92 245 a month. In addition, MPs also qualified for 88 free single journeys by air, rail, bus or car a year; free daily commuting; free travel to and from airports; free parking at airports; the cost of annual relocation to Cape Town and home; travel for their dependants; free mobile phone, laptop and tablet; free stationery and office furniture and equipment; and subsidised accommodation in Cape Town when parliament in in session.
Gardee is correct, though, about the kettles and toasters. None of those in the perks and benefits. And it appears MPs really must air their mattresses themselves. That this should come as a rude shock to a member of a political party that likes to dress up as domestic workers is a little puzzling.
Still, one wonders how long he’ll be at Mabuza Attorneys before he starts to miss Cape Town. Perhaps parliament really is like a pig pen. Gardee and his comrades have certainly treated it like one. But better to have been a lawmaker who never did any work, one supposes, than to earn a living as a lawyer.