The go to 'get out of jail free card' for ANC cadres

Andrew Donaldson on the terminal ailment brought on by the sight of orange overalls


HYPERTENSION can be a strange bugger. Usually there are no noticeable symptoms. But when they do appear, well, there’s a mess of them, an avalanche of ailments and unsettling conditions that include dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, blinding headaches, blurred vision, extreme anxiety, chest pains, even nosebleeds. It is serious stuff and, ere long, as the poets say, we’re in the realm of renal failure, aneurysms, heart disease, strokes and, sooner rather than later, death.

Anecdotal evidence suggests initial symptoms first become glaringly apparent in high-profile South African who find themselves in trouble with the law. In fact, the closer one comes to an orange uniform, the more pronounced the symptoms. Given the strong public interest in such cases, it is not surprising that “hypertension” is now considered an embarrassing, even pejorative term by patients who suffer from genuine high blood pressure.

Simply put, hypertension is fast emerging as the go-to “get of out jail free” health problem for the country’s corrupt and crooked. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Take Brian Molefe, the Saxonwold Shebeen regular who appeared in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on Monday. Together with three others, Molefe is accused of being a “principal architect” of the R398-million state capture at Transnet during his tenure as the state-owned entity’s CEO.

Molefe’s co-accused are former Transnet chief financial officer Anoj Singh, and Regiments Capital directors Nevin Pillay and Litha Nyhonyha. They face charges arising from the dodgy 2012 advisory tender which resulted in the procurement of just over a thousand locomotives worth over R54-billion.

All four submitted affidavits to the court in support of their bail applications. While they acknowledge the seriousness of the matter, they indicated they would be pleading not guilty to the charges against them. They further claimed they are are not flight risks, do not intend to evade trial, will not interfere with witnesses, and so on. All arguably par for the course in such matters.

Molefe’s affidavit, however, reportedly described an individual unjustly troubled by egregious misfortune and circumstances quite alien to the merely mortal among us. Granted, there was the odd common touch — one of the motor vehicles he included in his list of assets is a lowly Ford Bantam. But, jeez, the man’s debts and expenses are staggering.

“I have to provide food and accommodation to my children and my elderly mother,” Molefe said. “I pay school fees of R12 750 per month for my minor children… I must pay electricity of roughly R11 518 [at his Pretoria East home]. I pay medical aid for my wife and my two (minor) children and two major (adult) children every month.”

Not forgetting, of course, the R10-million he has yet to return to Eskom. And all this on a monthly pension of R52 000. It’s a wonder he can fill that Bantam with gas, let alone his Audi A4. Or his Harley Davidson and BMW motorcycles.

Then came the clincher:

“I suffer from the following conditions for which I have to have to take medication on a daily basis – diabetes, hypertension and arthritis.”

Brian Molefe is 55. There are those, perhaps cold-hearted and uncharitable, who regard it odd that a man of his age should suffer from such conditions. But we have of course been here before, famously so, with Schabir Shaik.

Sent down for 15 years following his conviction for fraud in 2005, Jacob Zuma’s former financial advisor was granted medical parole in 2009. Basically, Shaik had suffered a hypertension outbreak of such vehemence that he’d been sent home to die. Only, he didn’t.

Instead, his health rallied and he was soon trawling golf courses around Durban in some sort of zombie fugue state in search of raw meat.

To the medically untrained eye he appeared as fit as a fiddle. And, as a News24 journalist discovered when he attempted to interview him, Shaik was still the cuddlesome wag he always was, as witty as ever: “I will break you, white boy. I will kick you in your poes.”

Back then, in 2015, this seemed an anatomical impossibility. These days, though, we’re not so sure. But, suffice it to say, there were few surprises when, a year ago, Accused Number One’s 15-month prison term for contempt was cut short and he was medically paroled due to a medical condition mysteriously described as “medical condition” on an SANDF doctor’s sick note.

There were no other details of Zuma’s alleged illness. But it’s worth noting that, in June 2014, the Thief-in-Chief was reported to be battling diabetes, a heart condition and blood pressure problems — your basic hypertension cocktail.

The matter of the former president’s health is now before the Supreme Court of Appeal. Zuma and the Department of Correctional Services are hoping to overturn a Gauteng High Court ruling that set aside the decision by former prisons boss Arthur Fraser to grant the Blesser medical parole.

It is possible the SCA will dismiss the appeal, meaning Butternut could soon be back behind bars. Will hypertension then brazenly be deployed? We shall see.

In the meantime, there is some speculation that Brian Molefe may have played that particular card too soon. Usually the complaints of hypertension come only after a prison sentence has started, and certainly not before a conviction. Why then the cart before the horse? What are we to read into that? An admission of guilt, perhaps? Or a misstep? Hopefully all will be revealed sooner rather than later.

Lady problems

My newsfeed has lately been bothered by stories on whether South Africa is ready for a woman president. These articles have invariably appeared in the Iqbal Survé fish-wraps and, as such, are best approached with caution, if not ignored altogether.

What I found initially intriguing, however, is that these reports often included an image of Thulsa Doom, the character played by James Earl Jones in Conan the Barbarian (1982), the film that launched Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Hollywood career. Fans of this sword and sorcery saga will recall that Doom, an evil cult leader, is able to transform into an enormous python at will.

I was baffled by this as reptiles are not known to be presidential material, even if they are female. It was however only after the medication had worn off that I realised these images were not of Jones at all but rather Prime Minister Nkosazana Virodene Lockdown Sarafina Dlamini Proxy Zuma, aka “The Clarice”.

Closer scrutiny of these articles revealed on occasion a smaller secondary image: Lindiwe Sisulu, the gorgon-like tourism minister. Her wig has also been thrown into the ring as a presidential candidate. (And there it sits, menacingly, like the kraken.)

Given that the ANC’s elective conference is little more than three months away and the challenges to Cyril Ramaphosa’s leadership are mounting, such interest is perhaps warranted. But to frame this “debate” — if that’s what it is — in terms of gender seems to confirm an embarrassing political immaturity.

The fact is that women of all political persuasions have been leading countries the world over for decades. Some have been great leaders, others abject failures. This has nothing whatsoever to do with their sex.

Britain, for example, will have a new prime minister on Monday — in all likelihood Liz Truss, the current foreign secretary. She’s going to be a godsend for Labour, if the pundits are correct. Fond of barking at foreigners like Sisulu and Margaret Thatcher cosplay, there is no more to Truss, as one columnist here has remarked, than meets the eye.

But more of that, probably, in the weeks to come. We’re dealing with our own problems here. As the former National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete told SAfm recently: “I think regrettably South Africa has proved that it is not ready psychologically [for a female president] … I think there are lots of women who are ready, great and better than many male leaders but South Africa believes women are not the type of people who must be leaders although they see them doing great things but they believe otherwise. It comes from men and women, unfortunately.”

Of course we have capable women leaders. But they’re not The Clarice or Sisulu. Or even Mbete, for that matter. Consider instead Helen Zille and her premiership of the Western Cape. Not a perfect record, admittedly. Many of her detractors will point out, helpfully, that she is a white person. Even so, compared with the premiers of other provinces? No contest.

But perhaps the question we should be asking is not whether the country is ready for a female president, but rather why must we endure such crappy ones?

Mrs Misizulu

Amid the farce and feathers surrounding the formal “presentation” of King Misuzulu Sinqobile Hlomesakhishlangu kaZwelithini to his subjects, a young woman known only as “Avril” was brought to our attention following her stated intention of becoming the first white Zulu queen.

The somewhat mysterious Avril — she first identified herself as “Amelia” — was spotted in the crowds that gathered last week at the palace in Nongoma, KwaZulu-Natal. Chicly attired in culturally appropriated gear, Avril told eNCA: “I heard the king is going to come here today, so I wondered maybe he’s looking for a wife. I don’t know if he’s going to watch this, then he must just know I am here. I want to be the first white queen of South Africa, the first white Zulu queen.”

In a later interview with 5FM’s 5 Breakfast, Avril played down a suggestion she may be ineligible for marriage as she was perhaps not of royal stock. For some reason, this reminded regulars at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”) of a pick-up line allegedly favoured by certain members of the Windsor household: “You look as if you have some royalty in you. You don’t? Well, would you like a bit?”

Moving right on. Avril told 5FM listeners that the notion of a white woman wanting to be a Zulu queen was a “wild idea” that had “captured the nation’s imagination”. She added, bafflingly: “I think there’s a narrative that white people need to step away now and just be very quiet because everything is too tender and too intense. All we can do is move forward and try to see what reconciliation looks like in progress.”

All told, then, it would appear Avril’s turn at Nongoma was really a publicity stunt, and she clearly has no intention of marrying the king. Perhaps it is for the best. Quite apart from the fact that this would result in yet more millions of taxpayers’ money being funnelled into the Zulu royal household’s accounts, there is all that dreadful 19th century palaver about virginity testing beforehand.

More concerning, though, is the possibility that gentleman cabbage farmer Julius Malema would not be supportive of such a union. For all his revolutionary rhetoric, the EFF leader is at heart a stickler for tradition and the old customs. He believes, for example, the Zulu royal family should be “jealously protected” against detractors as it is “one of those black institutions that are still run by black people and led by black people are run in a dignified manner”. No white madams, in other words.

Fair enough. But a thoroughly modern monarch would however insist on some gay men among his collection of wives. This would indeed be a bold move into the future, a truly progressive step, and one that Shaka, were he around, would no doubt have endorsed. The royal family should think about it.

Another royal mess

A ridiculous race row has erupted over the Duchess of Sussex’s comparison of her marriage to Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. Meghan’s remark came in a podcast in which she gushed about a South African cast member of The Lion King telling her that, when she married into the royal family, “we rejoiced in the streets the same [way] we did when Mandela was freed from prison”.

It is the sort of thing that the ultra-privileged like to say, and is fairly common enough in a modern celebrity culture that has encouraged the vapid of the world to claim Madiba as their spiritual grandfather. But now the thin-skinned have gone full tonto, and #VoetsekMeghan is trending on Twitter. Ooo-er.

Grandson Mandla Mandela, no stranger to extraordinary privilege himself, has told The Times: “We would say to people that our struggle cannot be likened to people dancing in the streets and chasing for Madiba’s name. It has to speak to the scars and the painful past we come from.”

He’s such a drama queen, that young man. The ANC MP and tribal chief’s advice to Meghan: “Get out of there, pull up your sleeves and better the lives of ordinary people in England and in the United Kingdom. For the personality she is, she can do a lot of good in the global by adopting the causes that Madiba championed.”

Pot, kettle, black, etc. Even if the pot is lined with ermine.

Passing notes

Farewell, then, to Mikhail Gorbachev, who has died at the age of 91. He was the only world leader to have a birthmark in the shape of a map of south-east Asia on his forehead. More importantly, he was the Russian FW de Klerk, and his reforms led directly to the collapse of the Soviet Union and freedom in eastern Europe.

At the time, in 1987, I returned from an extensive trip to the United States and Europe with gifts of glasnost T-shirts for friends. The ingrates wouldn’t wear them outdoors, though, for fear of being arrested in terms of PW Botha’s emergency regulations and promoting a banned organisation. How simple our lives were back then.