Economic Freedom Fighters President Julius Malema on Tuesday attacked the Zondo Commission of Inquiry’s evidence leader and head of legal, Paul Pretorius, calling him a ‘bastard’.
Malema was speaking at the end of two days of protests outside the commission’s offices in Hillbrow, Johannesburg by the EFF. The party initially said its protests were against Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, but this has now morphed into a general attack on the Commission.
Gordhan is giving testimony into his experience of State Capture and into how he was once redeployed and once fired by former president Jacob Zuma; he is also pulling the cloth off the capture of state-owned enterprises and shedding light on how insistently the former leader pushed for a budget-busting, R1-trillion nuclear deal as well as an inflated effort to buy Engen from the Malaysian energy giant Petronas for R6-billion more than its market value.
Pretorius was first attacked by the little-known Academic and Professional Staff Association on Friday when it put out a statement saying that because Pretorius had acted pro bono for Adrian Lackay, who is Gordhan’s spokesperson, he should recuse himself.
Pretorius told Zondo about the campaign by the union and it was made public before testimony started on Monday.
“This bastard doesn’t ask questions,” said Malema on Tuesday, in reference to Pretorius whom he said was allowing Gordhan to lead evidence unimpeded by questions. He repeated the word “bastard” a few times to describe Pretorius.
There has been no change in Pretorius’ style of questioning with Gordhan. He is firm but not abrasive as the method of the commission is inquisitorial (that is, inquiring) rather than accusatorial.
Comment has been sought from both the EFF and Pretorius on Malema’s comments but both are yet to respond.
“Our trust in this Commission is getting tested,” said Malema, who also aligned himself to the set-up of the Commission as he reminded the gathered protesters that he had fought to stop former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report into State Capture from being interdicted by the former president.
But then he immediately launched into another attack on the Commission, saying it risked becoming a “Mickey Mouse commission” and a waste of money because it is being held at Hill on Empire, a building owned by the Tiso Blackstar media group. The EFF has attempted to impute a connection between this rental agreement and how the title’s various groups are reporting on the Commission.
In fact, Hill on Empire was one of the more reasonably priced buildings around the area and it is symbolically and practically close to the Constitutional Court where Zondo is also deputy chief justice.
The EFF and its massive online trolling army are laying into the Zondo Commission of Inquiry online generally and specifically into Gordhan. In two days in the past week it sent out 17 tweets on the topic to a follower base of 657,000. Whether organised or organic, the EFF trolling army then picks up their tweets and makes them viral, building up a digital narrative that can harm the credibility of the state capture inquiry.
Meanwhile President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday praised the commission of inquiry.
“The state capture issue is an opportunity… to see the extent to which we’re able to correct our ways [and] to get rid of tendencies and practices that were completely against the normal type of clean governance that they would have expected.
“So this commission is almost a cleansing process of all the bad things that have happened in our country,” Ramaphosa said in Cape Town on Tuesday at a meeting with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier who is on a state visit to South Africa, as quoted on TimesLive.
Steinmeier said that the world is watching the commission of inquiry into state capture with great interest. DM
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