We really are stuffed

David Bullard says it seems the final volume of Zondo will blow everything up


I’ve tried humming “Always look on the bright side of life” and listening to Mr Ian Dury’s witty ditty “Reasons to be cheerful-part 3” but it’s not working I’m afraid. My fellow columnist William Saunderson-Meyer even started his column last Saturday with the words “We’re stuffed. It’s the devil and the deep blue sea dilemma on an epic scale”. Pithy and straight to the point. Precisely the sort of thing to send a chap looking for that half-finished bottle of red at nine in the morning.

Of course William is, as ever, spot on and there is no way to gently break the news that the final volume of Zondo is almost certainly going to trigger massive political unrest, widespread anarchy and very possibly civil war in this country. Other opinionistas in a variety of online media publications have been equally bearish and the usual ANC scumbags have already been scrambling to discredit Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and to challenge his appointment as chief justice.

The rather grandly named Zuma Foundation assembled a fine collection of lowlifes on Saturday to patiently explain that Zondo has been wasting his time and our money and that there is no case to answer against Jacob Zuma.

Which is odd because it’s generally accepted by the majority of South Africans that the reason the country is in the dire mess it is today is because Zuma handed over state enterprises to the Gupta family and their associates and systematically infiltrated most of the organs of state, rendering them worse than useless when it came to defending democratic rights. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

The spokesman for the Zuma Foundation is one Mzwanele (Jimmy) Manyi, a particularly devious specimen who, judging by his performance last week, will resort to every dubious tactic to get his buddy Zuma off the hook. News24 had to suspend a live feed of the Zuma Foundation press conference because Jimmy was going off the rails as he so often does. In the words of News24’s Pieter du Toit:

“The briefing conducted by his spokesperson, Mzwanele Manyi, contains various untested allegations and falsehoods related to the Zondo Commission, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, and the establishment of the commission.”

I’ve had some first hand experience of Jimmy. About twelve years ago I was on a panel session in Joburg to argue the merits, or otherwise, of affirmative action. Back then we hadn’t confidently identified it as cadre deployment.

Jimmy was firmly of the opinion that black people were banned from anything but the most menial posts in the economy. He became quite apoplectic as he railed against racist white employers. This was despite the fact that he had been employed by and drawn an executive salary from several white monopoly capital corporations.

During the panel session I made the point that in our new, democratic and famously non-racial South Africa companies looking to employ particular skills were colour blind. In a country with a drastic shortage of highly qualified people they couldn’t be otherwise.

Jimmy was having none of it and called me a racist who just wanted to keep the black man out of the plummier jobs. I attempted to shake his hand at the end of session but it seemed that even that was too much for him.

As we know, Jimmy briefly became a media mogul after he bought the ‘assets’ (comprising the New Age newspaper and the ANN7 TV channel) from the Gupta’s after they did a runner. Shortly after, MultiChoice decided that the age of Zuma might finally be over and refused to include ANN7 as one of their news offerings.

While Jimmy can always be relied upon for a top class racial rant our Mineral and Energy Affairs minister, Gwede Mantashe, didn’t do too badly either.

Something must be weighing heavily on the conscience of Mantashe because shortly after the release of the final report he too was trashing the findings and launching a personal attack on the Chief Justice.

It’s perhaps fair to point out that if Mantashe is notable for anything at all it is as a spectacular failure as a minister, his fondness for outsized suits and that wonderful moment at a mining conference in Australia when he extolled the virtues of Hazenile, a miracle mineral that could cheapen the cost and extend the life of lithium batteries. Fortunately, he told the assembled delegates, South Africa was mineral rich in Hazenile.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist and poor old Gwede, demonstrating the impressive grasp he has on his ministry, had fallen for an April Fool’s prank. The clue should have been in the comment “we believe that this is a bigger discovery than unobtainium”. Hard to believe that a clown like that could hold on to his job as a cabinet minister.

One of many things Gwede takes issue with in the Zondo report is the suggestion that cadre deployment has been a complete disaster for the country. Pres Frogboiler was in charge of the deployment committee from December 2012 to December 2017 and that appears to have been a period where the most corrupt, the Gupta connected and the inept suddenly found themselves in well remunerated positions of great influence. The important thing though was that they were loyal ANC party members and that is all that mattered. As the Zondo report puts it with delicious understatement:

The unfortunate implications of this are that the deployment committee was unable to select or recommend individuals who are 'fit for purpose’

However, not everything Gwede says is complete nonsense. He does sometimes hit a genuine truth, albeit by accident. One comment of his was that without the much criticised deployment policy many white officials would have remained in leading positions in the state. I’m not sure how that could possibly have worked out with the change of government back in 1994 but maybe it wouldn’t have been such a bad idea.

Back then we used to have reliable electricity, trains, a national airline, harbours, roads, water and all those wonderful things that cadre deployment has since destroyed. The question is, will we ever get them back? Not under an ANC government that’s for sure.


One of the more puzzling reactions to the release of the Zondo commission’s report is that of former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. She has suggested that, in order to finally rid the country of state capture, those accused of wrongdoing so far are persuaded to come clean with the offer of amnesty. In other words, if you’ve been fingered you just say ‘it’s a fair cop guv’ and spill the beans knowing you will walk free.

So many questions though. Will you be allowed to hang onto your ill-gotten gains? Can you really be re-habilitated if you’ve spent most of your life stealing other people’s money? And if you start spilling the beans don’t you run the risk of being silenced by those who don’t want their beans spilled?

In suggesting those accused of wrongdoing receive amnesty to come clean, Madonsela said the German approach should be followed.

"After the fall of the Berlin Wall, institutions involved in law enforcement were re-examined, and people were given an opportunity to come in [and come clean].

I am editing the German system to say let's have accountability plus a carrot if you can come clean and we can rehabilitate you and remove you from the institution where you are, because they must be removed.

You have to break this spiderweb, if you don't it will sabotage everything we are trying to build.

This approach would allow for understanding these people – their mandate, who controls them and their roles – and in return, they could be offered amnesty for coming clean”.

This is all very pie in the sky academic stuff and I wouldn’t dream of challenging Prof Madonsela on it. After all, as a highly respected Public Protector she was the one who kicked the whole idea of a commission off after her report on State Capture all those years ago. However, I wonder about the appetite of the South African public to understand these people and their mandates.

I think what we would much prefer is to see the NPA successfully prosecute the crooks and put them in orange overalls. That would assume that we have a properly functioning legal system though and enough lawyers who have a firm grasp of the facts. Since that seems highly improbable why bother to offer amnesty?

The guilty have got away with things for at least twenty years. They have nothing to fear thanks to the ANC’s policy of burying scandals. What on earth would they need an amnesty for?