Where is the mafia when you need them?

Andrew Donaldson says it is unfair on the Sicilian mob to keep comparing the ANC to them


THE term “mafia state” first gained serious traction in our political lexicon about five years ago. It had been bandied about by commentators before then but the compound effect of state capture revelations, avalanche upon avalanche of criminal activity, did much to entrench the label in our over-awed consciousness.

The term seemed apt, especially as the nature of the relationship between the Guptas and Jacob Zuma became apparent. This was basically that of three slick grifters milking a corrupt country bumpkin for all he and his rotten government were worth. 

And so the label gripped the imagination of commentators, with one offering this excited definition in June 2017: “A democratic mafia state is an inverted system of democracy whereby top government leaders collaborate secretly with notorious mafia corporates and syndicates. All ultra-powerful mafia syndicates worldwide are surreptitiously steered and commanded by respective family patriarchs … This ignoble mafia-politico brotherhood is primarily and deviously geared at subverting the rule of law, good governance and fiscal prudence.”

In September 2018, The Times of London more or less officially endorsed the term in an early account of the “eye-popping evidence” before the Zondo commission of inquiry of death threats, cash bribes and offers of senior cabinet positions. “South Africa’s descent from rainbow nation to mafia state … is the country’s biggest political scandal of the post-apartheid era,” the newspaper reported

Even now, as the ruling criminal enterprise gears up for December’s quinquennial national conference and its squalid grubbing for senior positions, the “mafia” label continues to be tossed about, especially in regard to the party’s various internecine squabbles.

Consider recent statements by Lebogang Maile, the Gauteng MEC for human settlements, urban planning and cooperative governance and traditional affairs. In his failed bid to lead the ANC in the province, Maile was forced to deny that he is a mafiosi, and that any suggestions to the contrary were “last-minute tricks” to derail his chances at the party’s bungled provincial conference. News24 quoted him as saying:

“A mafia is a very dangerous organisation, so I cannot belong to a mafia when I am in a political organisation as a member of the ANC. It is just a smear campaign to try and tarnish my name because I have had no scandals. I have been in the government for more than 12 years. So, people don't know what to use. 

“I will not be surprised if they try and manufacture dirty things and muddy my name. My name is not associated with any corruption or wrongdoing. I would not be surprised if people try to bring up these issues now on the eve of the conference…”

But, it’s now claimed, such comments malign even the mafia, particularly the Sicilian bunch. According to London Sunday Times columnist Matthew Syed, this is one of the most misunderstood organisations in modern history. So much so, it’s almost criminal. Perhaps they should sue.

The conventional view is that the criminality and chaos in southern Italy during the late 19th and 20th centuries, when the Cosa Nostra was at the height of their powers, was due to mafiosi gangsterism. But the opposite, it seems, is the truth. Citing sociologist Diego Gambetta’s The Sicilian Mafia: The Business of Private Protection (Harvard University Press, 1996), Syed points to the corruption that was rife in Italy before the emergence of the mafia:

“Was this pre-mafia society governed by the rule of law, by due process? On the contrary, the law was routinely flouted through bribes, kickbacks and institutionalised graft. This meant that many ordinary people could not enforce contracts into which they had entered, and that it was difficult to do business knowing judges would take bungs in the event of a breach. The mafia emerged, according to Gambetta, to create a parallel form of extrajudicial contract enforcement — ordinamento giuridico. And in its early days, many members of the public felt this represented a fairer and less corrupt alternative to the official system.

“When you look through history, you can glimpse this pattern repeating. When people do not have confidence in the state, when legal mechanisms are not trusted to deliver justice, people take the law into their own hands or through proxies. Vigilantism is, in this sense, a natural offshoot of state corruption.”

In that sense, then, it is surprising that South Africa, though controlled largely by a criminal syndicate, is not, in fact, a mafia state. 

And while it may be true that ANC corruption, maladministration and general uselessness have spawned spontaneous acts of what could imaginatively be termed “vigilantism” or, more accurately, “criminal opportunism”, it is not the ruling elite who suffer as a result of this behaviour but rather ordinary citizens — and, frankly, the police couldn’t care less. Or rather, the police minister couldn’t care less.

On Tuesday evening, Cheek Bile further shot his already considerably deranged bolt when challenged at a consultative meeting between police, community organisations and residents of Nyanga and Gugulethu in Cape Town. According to News24, Action Society director Ian Cameron had interrupted the minister’s waffle, telling him that he had failed to protect citizens or adequately deploy police in crime hotspots.

“You are failing your own constitution and not fulfilling your mandate, from not protecting this community,” Cameron was reported to have said. “I don’t see you patrolling the area at night with the people here. None of these ladies here have bodyguards to walk home with them at night; they have to do it on their own because they are brave. It's unacceptable, sir. You talk down to the neighbourhood watches and don’t understand the policy framework. You are failing in your duties.”

Bile was having none of that and, in his heated response to this impertinence, demonstrated that he is no normal idiot but rather one that is quite exceptional. 

“I am a son of the soil,” he shouted. “I chose to not speak about politics today. Whatever happens to me, I will be buried in this country. I did not join human rights battles yesterday. I will not be called a garden boy. Don’t provoke me. I’ve lived this life. Shut up!”

I cannot even begin to understand what he was on about. But, with that peculiar outburst from their minister, SAPS goons descended on Cameron and forcibly removed him from the venue. Which is how fascists deal with crime: get rid of those asking the difficult questions. This is the latest in a long history of such Bilious incidents. They’re characterised not only by his staggering arrogance and disdain for the public but also his sheer incompetence. 

Where then are the mafia now that we need them? 

One crime after another ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

To be fair, though, the SAPS may have more important matters to attend to. They’re under savage pressure to arrest Cyril Ramaphosa over Farmgate. RET KwaZulu-Natal spokesman Nkosentsha Shezi recently announced that a “directive” would shortly be released calling on its members to place the president under some sort of citizen’s arrest.

“Our message to the police is clear—arrest Ramaphosa or else we will do it ourselves.” Shezi said. “We would like to advise the police that should they continue to drag their feet, then we will be left with no option but to exercise our constitutional right as citizens of this country. Apart from the fact that he concealed the robbery which took place at his farm, he has also been accused of instigating the torture of the suspects. Clearly, he has become a danger to society.”

That was more than a fortnight ago. Since then, nothing has happened. Zilch. There has been no police action. Unsurprisingly. Curiously unaffected or at least indifferent to all manner of attack from the RET faction, Squirrel remains at large, a slothful billionaire cow baron with a La-Z-Boy recliner for an ATM. 

We hold no particular brief for the man, here at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”). But we do wish Squirrel would at least offer some response to his detractors, if only to inject some drama and fizz into an otherwise mundane ANC leadership contest, now little more than five months away. As it is, the Zumarrhoid attacks are piling up. Left unchecked … well, it could get very ugly.

Brink? What brink?


Foreign news, and by the time you read this Boris Johnson’s premiership may be no more — although at the time of writing, the Britain Trump was characteristically huffing away at full bluster, telling aides it was “business as usual” in the wake of the shock resignations on Tuesday of chancellor Rishi Sunak and health secretary Sajid Javid. Asked by an ally if he considered quitting, he simply replied, “F*** that.”

The fishwraps’ front pages on Wednesday morning suggested otherwise, however. “Finally,” ran the banner headline in the Mirror, “after years of backing toxic PM, Sunak & Javid wield knife.” “Last Chance Saloon,” The Sun declared, “Boris knifed on day from hell.” “Can even Boris the greased piglet wriggled out of this one,” the Daily Mail wondered. The Metro: “Going! Going! Gone?” And Scotland’s Daily Record, “The whole rotten lot need to go.”

So much for the tabloids. The broadsheets were much the same, if a little more muted. The Daily Telegraph soberly noted: “Johnson hanging by a thread as Sunak and Javid walk out.” The Times: “Johnson on the brink”. Same with the Guardian: “PM on the brink after Javid and Sunak quit.”  Ditto the Financial Times: “Johnson on brink as ministers quit.” 

But what’s this, on the front page of the Daily Express? “Boris fights on! Declaring … I’m free to cut taxes,”  and “‘Liberated’ Boris promises change after Cabinet coup.” Some readers thought this a cruel parody, and Monty Python did spring to mind. It was a different story inside, however, for at least one Express columnist. “This is not, as Churchill once noted, the end of the beginning,” David Maddox wrote, “nor is it the beginning of the end, it is simply the end for Boris whether he accepts it tonight or not…”

He, she, they, them, whatever…

A sister-in-law who lives in Australia was recently approached by a human resources type at her place of work who asked her, “What are your pronouns?” It was an outrageous question, and one that prompted some discussion among family members, the details of which we won’t go into here. 

The correct response to such an inquiry is, of course, to simply offer none. Don’t answer. As the evolutionary biologist Colin Wright explained in a recent Wall Street Journal column:

“Coercing people into publicly stating their pronouns in the name of ‘inclusion’ is a Trojan horse that empowers gender ideology and expands its reach. It is the thin end of the gender activists’ wedge designed to normalise their worldview. Participating in pronoun rituals makes you complicit in gender ideology’s regressive belief system, thereby legitimising it. Far from an innocuous act signalling support for inclusion, it serves as an implicit endorsement of gender ideology and all of its radical tenets.”

This month is Pride month — and it’s not surprising that corporate virtue signalling has now been amped up to a full-blown cadenza. Here in the UK, for example, there’s a row about a building society, Halifax, which launched its “Pronouns matter” campaign last week with an image of a staff name badge featuring the words “she/her/hers”. Other banks followed suit, with HSBC praising this “'positive step forward for equality and inclusion” as it is “vital that everyone can be themselves in the workplace”.

No-one, unfortunately, asked Halifax’s customers for their input. They hate the campaign, and have complained about the social media manager who told them: “If you disagree with our values, you’re welcome to close your account.” Which they did. In great numbers. 

But the truly astounding thing about all this is that a real live manager actually spoke to the bank’s clients. When last did that happen?