There’s a faint drizzle before the coming storm of prosecutions

By Ismail Lagardien 28 August 2019
National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi, left, and Investigative Directorate boss Hermione Cronjé. (Photo: Gallo Images / Phill Magakoe)

We have to acknowledge the drops of rain that are falling, but a storm of litigation is coming before the end of the year to weed out looters and miscreants from political office and offices of state. South Africa has a group of very dedicated professionals in the media and highly competent legal minds in the judiciary.

South Africans, in general, don’t like good news. So it seems anyway. Good news is falling in drips, spits and spots before a storm of litigation will be upon us.

If we ignore the catastrophism and the loud noises of distraction and deflection by populists (not to mention the grief and angst of a new breed of old Afro-pessimists) we may well be able to recognise the progress that has been made in weeding out the looters and miscreants from political office and offices of state.

A word on the Afro-pessimists is required.

The Afro-pessimists, dressed as economics geniuses, “money” experts, classical liberals and freedom warriors and inspired by a creepy “invisible hand” and Donald Trump — driving their shiny Alfa Romeo Giuliettas — may never ease up on their smarmy self-righteousness.

They will not register anything unless the market tells them so. They would insist that “the market” can, necessarily, do better than any black government. This is part of what has held together and inspired Afro-pessimism since the 1800s, when Europeans decided that black Africans were inferior, barbaric and that they could never, possibly, run their own countries. The lack of actual prosecutions is simply par for the course. We should probably ignore them.

The biggest threat to inevitable prosecutions is the South African version of the thuggee; the populists and the political and legal minds that they have employed to subvert the course of justice. This thuggee (they’re like the original bunch of deceivers, but without the murders) are made up of the marauders who dress down against capitalism; Zuma’s wild bunch, with Fuzzy McGee bringing up the rear on behalf of Black First Land First. They need no personal introduction.

Unless either President Cyril Ramaphosa (he, too, may have questions to answer) or the National Prosecuting Authority blink first, we can be sure that prosecutions will come. The dismissal of miscreants whose unprofessionalism, thuggery and subversion have stripped the state of its capabilities and eroded any and all trust in the democratic order has begun. And so let us take stock of where we are with cleaning up the state.

We have diagnosed the problem, now let us solve it

We know that for most of the past decade, at least since Thabo Mbeki was removed in September 2008, there has been an almost complete takeover of the highest offices in the land, in departments of state and in agencies of the state.

It is during this period, in particular, when we witnessed what we now know as State Capture. This State Capture reached into institutions across the country and resulted in institutional capture. For the better part of the past two years, however, there have been important gains in removing some of the more toxic people from positions.

For starters, former president Jacob Zuma was relieved of his duties and is facing a barrage of questions for his role in State Capture. Place that in the win column. Very many people may want Zuma in prison, but we live in a democracy where everyone is equal before the law and must have their day in court, trite as that may seem.

Across state agencies, there has been a clean-up. Brian Molefe was removed from Eskom. Hlaudi Motsoeneng was removed from the state broadcaster. Lucky Montana was removed from the state rail agency, and Tom Moyane has been moved from the South African Revenue Service. These are all victories.

Less-than-best politicians such as Bathabile Dhlamini and Nomvula Mokonyane have been removed. Okay, some of Zuma’s appointees are still in the Cabinet, notwithstanding their incompetence, obsession with meaningless details, lack of vision and actual knowledge of actual political-economic issues in global affairs. We probably have to learn to live with them.

Nevertheless, the political class seems rattled. The irascible Nelson Mandela Bay ANC councillor Andile Lungisa has been found guilty and was sentenced to jail for breaking a glass jar over the head of former Port Elizabeth mayoral committee member for transport Rano Kayser, following a council meeting in October 2016.

Lungisa still babbles on as if someone has hit him over the head with a dictionary, but he will probably be imprisoned soon. Oh, and he has also been sued by the Governor of the South African Reserve Bank, Lesetja Kganyago. In a tweet, Lungisa called Kganyago a “dutiful servant of racialist superiors” and an “exceptional k****r”. He really did. But, the fact that he faces imprisonment is a win.

On Monday news came in that the ANC’s Zandile Gumede, who has been accused of corruption, has officially resigned as mayor of the eThekwini municipality. She walks away with party officials who were on the municipality’s powerful decision-making executive committee. Chalk that one up as a win, too.

Removal of Mkhwebane will set the cat among the pigeons

An important next step will be taken in the coming days that will help stall subversion by the populists. Earlier this week, Parliament sped up a process to remove rogue-lite Public Protector Busisiwe Mhkwebane from office. This was followed by a request by a clutch of civil society organisations to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services to remove Mkhwebane because of recent adverse findings against her by the courts.

We are making this submission as a result of several recent court judgments on the activities of the Public Protector, Ms Busisiwe Mkhwebane, which have demonstrated, beyond any doubt, that she is unfit for office and unable to fulfil the office’s defined functions in a lawful manner… If she is not removed from office, we are gravely concerned at the potential further damage that will be inflicted on South Africa,” a group of 10 civil society organisations said in their submission to Parliament on Tuesday.

When Mkhwebane is removed, the populists will lose an important weapon in their arsenal. This threat to remove her is part of the reason EFF leader, Julius Malema has accused the courts of being “captured”. The other part of the reason may have a lot more to do with Malema’s fascist tendencies. In the first instance, Malema almost never says anything by accident. Most of what he says is a type of trial balloon.

In the second instance, it may be a carefully considered tactic, similar to that used by Benito Mussolini and Donald Trump, to undermine institutions, especially the media. And so when Mkhwebane is relieved of her duties, we can expect a lengthy legal battle while she continues to draw a salary. But gone she will be.

In summing up, a massive problem has been diagnosed with the media’s exposure of the #GuptaLeaks. The media has also played a significant role in uncovering fraud, corruption, maladministration and crime among public servants, elected officials and people who controlled state-owned enterprises. This diagnosis is, of course, incomplete.

The first step was to remove some of the toxic elements from office. Moyane, Molefe, Motsoeneng, Montana, Monkonyane and others have been removed. Lungisa faces jail time. Kingpins remain in place; they are the next ones to be brought to book — this time in the courts.

The next steps would include investigations and prosecutions. Prosecutions are on the way. Cases have to be watertight. Nobody that is charged should be able to walk away on a technicality or because of gaps in the law.

Ace Magashule has a lot of explaining to do about his role in establishing an alleged “criminal enterprise” in the Free State. Julius Malema has several questions to answer about the way he became wealthy while he was in the ANC, for his exhortations to violence, the role and benefits the EFF may have drawn from the collapsed VBS Mutual Bank, for firing off a rifle in public.

We should, also, not imagine that the SABC collapse occurred only under Motsoeneng. The EFF’s National Chairperson, Christopher “Dali” Mpofu, made millions, quite literally, from his time at the SABC — uncomfortably close to the moment of degringolade. In general, Mpofu’s role in the subversion of the democratic process, as part of the EFF leadership, should disqualify him (and any other of the legal minds who have associated themselves publicly with the EFF) from serving as defence counsel. One big problem that the National Prosecuting Authority faces is that the villains have had time to bury evidence, as it were.

Let me try to squeeze that poor analogy I started with again. We have to acknowledge the drops of rain that are falling, but a storm of litigation is coming before the end of the year. South Africa has a group of very dedicated professionals in the media, and highly competent legal minds in the judiciary. Only the Afro-pessimists would disagree, but that is their wont. DM



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