Zuma at Zuma

Andrew Donaldson on what to do about all those kleptosaurs still roaming free in the world


SOME indignation, I note, at Jacob Zuma’s presence at the opening of a cheesy chain restaurant in Umhlanga at the weekend. It was a fun night out for Convict Number One. He got to do the ribbon-cutting thing, sit on a big stuff throne and boogie a bit. His former financial adviser, the fraudster Schabir Shaik, even joined him on the dance floor, much to the delight of his daughter, Dudu Zuma-Sambudla, who posted a video clip of the pair on social media.

Moved to distraction by this display of mauve vulgarity, the commentariat were quick to point out that both Butternut and Shabby are medical parolees, released from chokey for reasons of poor health. The latter, you will recall, had a heart condition so severe he was sent home to die, while the former president was stricken to the point that he refused to tidy his cell and make his bed in the morning. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

It is now widely held that, given their remarkable recovery, the two were perhaps in far finer fettle than initial diagnoses suggested. But no matter. Mistakes do happen. 

Zuma’s lawyers certainly believe that the Supreme Court of Appeal had erred in its judgment when they ruled that their client’s early release had been unlawful and that he should return to the correctional facility at Estcourt to complete his sentence for contempt of court.

Ditto the Jacob G Zuma Foundation, which said in their statement on the ruling: “Judges, like all of us, are human and they must be allowed to make mistakes.” 

This penetrating observation aside, the foundation then delivered a stern rebuke:

“What is totally unacceptable is for judges to change the law to achieve certain outcomes, depending on the name and identity of who is before them. Since when is it the business of judges to even prescribe the name of the prison where a person must be incarcerated?

In addition, is it not a version of the death sentence to send a person to a place where it has been independently declared that there are no suitable medical facilities for that particular individual? Should judges play God? Should they be complainants, judges and executioners in their own cause?”

Yes, and how dare these judges, uh … judge? And how very, very dare they order him back to prison without the benefit of a trial, a right afforded to “even the worst of criminals”? 

Did they not understand the double jeopardy rule? That an accused cannot be punished twice for the same offence? Were they not aware that the official expiry date of His Excellency’s 15-month prison sentence was 7 October, 2022? “This is an act of injustice,” the foundation fumed. “It is nothing but an exercise in cruelty and degrading punishment.”

Which is perhaps the point. Convict Number One has yet to complete his sentence. His early release by then-prison boss Arthur “Slugger” Fraser was declared illegal. 

Therefore, and once again, it’s “Do Not Pass Go” and “Do Not Collect $200”.

In theory, that is. For there is some consensus that the man will, in all likelihood, not be returning to prison anytime soon, if ever. This may explain the current jauntiness in the Thief-in-Chief’s step. The arrogance and disdain is breathtaking, but nowhere near as galling as the notion that, as a poster boy for impunity, we have a world-beater here.

That said, the world does appear to be fighting back. On Monday, the Netherlands, Canada and Ecuador officially endorsed the call for an international anti-corruption court, a body that would hopefully operate on similar lines to the Hague-based International Criminal Court. “Such a court,” the Dutch foreign minister Wopke Hoekstra announced, “will provide the international community with an additional tool to enforce existing anti-corruption laws.”

This, admittedly, seems very much a case of SFW. 

Everyone knows corruption is bad, right? Graft costs the global economy an estimated $2.6 trillion a year, or about five per cent of the world’s GDP. No country is immune, so it’s hardly surprising that, as of November last year, there were 189 parties, including 181 countries, to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, which requires laws criminalising bribery, embezzlement, money laundering and other forms of corrupt conduct.

Yet despite such a seemingly robust convention, looting continues hand over fist, partly because the kleptocrats control the administration of justice in the countries they rule and partly due to the complex, multinational nature of modern graft. Writing in The Times recently, the journalist and security specialist Edward Lucas outlined this hypothetical situation:

“Imagine a bribe. Not a brown envelope crossing a table, but a bank transfer between two anonymously owned shell companies, one registered in the British Virgin Islands and the other in Cyprus. The money comes ultimately from a Chinese construction contractor and is destined for an official in Bosnia who has signed off on a dodgy infrastructure deal. The pay-off is brokered by a Vienna-based lawyer, and will end up paying for a mansion in Surrey. Who should be prosecuted, under what laws and by whom?”

Good question — although, here at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”), the regulars would argue against downplaying the significance of the brown envelope. As humble as they may appear, they are the gateway drugs of graft. Do a few of these and, ere long (as they say in the classics), the corrupt will be freebasing, Saxonwold Shebeen-style, on black garbage bags of cash loaded into the trunks of top-end motor vehicles. If not the Gomma Gomma at Phala Phala. 

But we digress. Where national jurisdictions would struggle in the sort of case outlined by Lucas, an international tribunal would, on the other hand, have the wherewithal to prosecute the matter. This is according to US federal judge Mark Wolf, the man who last year launched the campaign for such a court.

Wolf has an impressive record as a prosecutor which goes back some 40 years. His “scalps” include New England mob boss Raymond Patriarca Jr, jailed for eight years in 1992 on racketeering charges, and former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, jailed for eight years on corruption charges in 2011. 

The proposed anti-corruption court would be a tribunal of last resort, like the ICC, Wolf has written, and is necessary for precisely the same reasons: to deal with the “prosecution and punishment of corrupt leaders of countries that are unwilling or unable to enforce their own laws against powerful offenders”.

Anti-corruption laws are all very well but, he has argued, enforcing them is an entirely different matter: 

“Grand corruption does not thrive because of a lack of laws. International treaties require the good-faith enforcement of criminal laws. However, those laws have been widely ignored. The international community has focused excessively on whether the statutes have been enacted and insufficiently on whether they are actually enforced…

“Impunity exists because corrupt leaders control every element of the administration of justice: the police, the prosecutors and the courts. Kleptocrats are able to prevent the honest, effective investigation and prosecution of their colleagues, their friends, their families, and themselves.”

Our man at Nkandla certainly springs to mind, doesn’t he?

As it happens, there is a South African connection here. Richard Goldstone, the former Supreme Court judge and chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, is a supporter of Wolf’s campaign. In 2016, Wolf and Goldstone co-founded Integrity Initiatives International, an NGO dedicated to strengthening the enforcement of criminal laws to punish and deter political leaders who are corrupt and regularly violate human rights.

In a paper delivered to the International Bar Association in September, Goldstone and anti-corruption attorney Michel Levien González point out that domestic laws in many countries permit the prosecution of individuals and organisations that pay bribes — but not the officials who demand or accept them. They write:

“It is a fundamental premise of criminal law that the prospect of punishment will deter crime and prosecutions against public officials under these laws have been notably lacking. The absence of risk of punishment — particularly imprisonment — contributes greatly to the pervasiveness and persistence of grand corruption.

“Today, no supranational body can sanction kleptocrats who plunder nations. An international anti-corruption court would have the power to do what these nations have been unwilling or unable to do; effectively bring to justice those kleptocrats and their collaborators, make examples out of them and recover grafted funds for their rightful owners.”

Sceptics have admittedly argued that, however compelling the concept of such a court, it is an ideal that would be impossible to realise. Nevertheless, support for such a body is growing, and Goldstone and González do stress that the court is an “evolving concept”. 

But, and whatever the result of such fine-tuning, the court would fundamentally have “the authority to prosecute a head of state or government, anyone appointed by a head of state or government, and anyone who knowingly and intentionally assists one or more of them in the commission of a crime within the [International Anti-Corruption Court’s] jurisdiction. 

“Thus,” Goldstone and González have said, “the IACC would, for example, have the authority to prosecute private parties — including legal persons —who pay bribes or who assist in laundering the proceeds of crimes of corruption committed by public officials that the Court has the authority to prosecute.”

Legal persons? Could this conceivably include an advocate such as Dali Mpofu? Surely not?

Back in 2005, and during the era of Tony Blair’s much-hyped African Commission, I attended a press conference in Sheffield after a meeting of European interior ministers hosted by the then UK home secretary, Charles Clarke. The issue of corruption had been on the agenda, and I’d wanted to know from the French minister what action his government was going to be taking against Thiel, the company at the centre of the arms scandal. 

Sadly, the French minister was not present at the presser. I asked anyway. Clarke, a brutish-looking individual with peculiar ears, clearly felt the question a bit peculiar and regarded me as something he may stepped in on a pavement. I didn’t get a satisfactory answer. 

But would an international anti-corruption court have made a difference back then? I’d like to think it would. 

Given events of the previous decades, such a court would have had its hands full in dealing with our problems. What action would have been taken, let’s just say, in the wake of the notorious appointment of Dudu “Delinquent” Myeni, the Blesser’s high-flying “special friend”, to the South African Airways board? A global grounding order of the entire fleet, perhaps? All those Airbuses mouldering at airports the world over? That would fix things soon enough.


Addressing the usual suspects in Lichtenberg in the North West at the weekend, Cyril Ramaphosa revealed the crucial steps that government would undertake to improve the public sector and reverse the trend of skilled people leaving government: “We are going to be professionalising the civil service so that we get people who are fit for purpose, not Mickey Mouse people who will serve in the municipality, but people with real skills.”

And how many years did it take to work that one out? Put in the Mickey Mouse people and you get the Mickey Mouse results? Squirrel says it was the warnings from the Auditor General that prompted this remedial action. And there we all thought it was the decades of screaming ourselves hoarse about cadre deployment…


The Wellcome Collection, a London museum and library exploring medical history, has shut down its Medicine Man exhibition on the grounds that it is “racist, sexist and ableist”. The exhibition, which has run for 15 years, features many of the artefacts and curiosities collected by the pharmaceutical tycoon, Sir Henry Wellcome, the founder of the Wellcome Trust and the museum’s benefactor. These pieces included Peruvian mummies, the death mask of Benjamin Disraeli and a pair of moccasins owned by Florence Nightingale.

The exhibition was intended to encourage an understanding of healing through the ages. But, according to the museum, it was now felt that it was “problematic” and presented a story in which “disabled people, black people, indigenous peoples and people of colour were exoticised, marginalised and exploited” and had been “silenced, erased and ignored”. It certainly did not tell the story of “colonial structures of violence and control”. Therefore, it had to be shut down.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that, in British maternity wards, some National Health Service trusts are offering patients moxibustion for breech babies. This is a form of Chinese “medicine” where mugwort is burned close to the skin of the fifth toes of both feet, traditional acupuncture points. Speaking of which, acupuncture is also offered, along with hypnosis, aromatherapy and other woo-woo treatments.

Thus the progress of medical science: one step backwards, two steps backwards…