EDITORIAL

Your move, South Africa

By Daily Maverick 10 September 2019
Caption
Over R10-million was paid into Mahuna Investments between 2017 and 2018. About the same amount was spent. Of this R10-million, R5,3-million is illegal VBS-money. This shopping list details a few of the items and goods Malema spent his slush fund's money on between 2017 and 2018. Left: Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema addresses the crowds during the party’s 5th birthday celebrations at Sisa Dukashe Stadium, Mdantsane on July 28, 2018 in East London, South Africa. Malema urged the masses to keep supporting the party. (Photo by Gallo Images / City Press / Tebogo Letsie)

For too long now, the state of South Africa has been malfunctioning. It’s time for the choking apparatus to cough back into life. The truth is, South Africa doesn’t have much time left and it had better happen. Now.

The story titled VBS Theft, Money Laundering & Life’s Little Luxuries: Julius Malema’s time of spending dangerously has laid out in excruciating detail how the leader of Parliament’s third-largest party was a willing participant in one of the single-biggest thefts from poor people in South African history.

Daily Maverick Scorpio journalist, Pauli van Wyk, has spent months obtaining, researching, cross-referencing and analysing the data, before delivering a devastating blow to Julius Malema’s self-propelled reputation of being disaffected youth’s selfless champion and defender. Apart from the many laws that were broken, Pauli van Wyk’s exposé has blown to smithereens the myth of a corruption-fighter and exposed a naked hypocrite who’s in it for power and money.

Pauli van Wyk’s exposé has shown that Malema has broken at least four laws:

  • He received fraudulently acquired monies, taken from the poorest of the poor, which he clearly knew about – the provenance of the payments was even spelled out on Mahuna banking statements. (If you want to think of the morality of this act, just think of Robin Hood, but exactly the opposite.)

  • He disguised the fact that he was the recipient of the money by hiding behind his cousin, Matsobane Phaleng, a clear case of money laundering.

  • He used the bank card of the company that was not in his name, which is fraudulent.

  • Every time he made a purchase with the stolen money, he committed a crime (as in Jacob Zuma’s 783 counts).

We say at least four laws because we do not have access to Mr Malema’s tax records, which could dramatically increase that number. (We also could not assess the tax-compliance status of Mahuna Investments.) But we’d be willing to bet large sums that Mr Malema failed to report the millions he received from VBS loot via Mahuna Investments as his (taxable) income. That fact alone should be seriously troublesome for a taxpayer who not long ago barely avoided jail time by entering a compromise with SARS to pay off his debt. Repeat tax offenders are never looked upon with grace and patience by any functioning legal system anywhere in the world. (Functioning being a keyword here.)

According to a retired judge, “theft like this carries a minimum of 15 years in a case where more than R500,000 is involved. Money laundering can carry up to 30 years.  In this case, as a first offender and given that one has to be careful not to have duplication of charges, given his position and the sustained nature of the criminal conduct and the source of the proceeds, ie from poor people, the jail sentence would be at least 10 years.”

It is important at this point to pull back and understand where South Africa is right now.

The twin scourge of horrific violence against women and xenophobia have again reared their ugly heads this September. The country is a stuttering ship about to hit an iceberg.

We’re still nursing the wounds after the mauling that was Jacob Zuma’s presidency. These wounds are deep and by now badly infected; it is not at all certain the patient, South Africa, can recover. Any moment now, it could slip into anaphylactic shock and the entire structure, whose foundation was so expertly eroded over the last decade, may collapse. The economy is in freefall, people are desperately unhappy, the reforms that were expected to happen have yet to materialise, in great part thanks to the vicious fightback that’s been led by the Zuma-aligned forces. (One can’t really expect them to ride quietly into the sunset – should they lose this battle, it will be orange overalls instead of Armani suits and red berets.)

The streets are angry. The streets are dangerous.

It is time for decisive action by the South African state and its government. It is time for it to either put up or shut up.

For way too long, it was parts of civil society, the judiciary and the media who were not only doing their jobs but also covered for a historically, almost comically, absent state and its organs. It was the media who brought into the public domain the truth about the true extent of State Capture corruption. It was civil society, when it was not feeding the hungry, clothing and healing the poor, and educating the insufficiently educated (all of which should be the government’s domain), that took the media exposés and doggedly pursued them all the way to the Constitutional Court. All along, the judges refused to be intimidated and passed the judgments which in any normal country would have changed history.

But we, the media, cannot do it in a vacuum any more. Independent media these days is an impecunious place to be, where journalists are barely surviving, working for publications that soon might be no more.

NGOs are so stretched that they may soon break – and that’s even before they have to endure the ignominy of being branded “foreign agents” by the State Capture players and their attack dogs.

So… here we are. It is time for all, especially the bodies comprising the “security cluster”, to act. It is time for the NPA to take a trip to the nearest court with a bunch of empty folders. All they need is to print the media’s exposés and the accompanying attachments in the print shop across the street from the court. It is time for all ministers and everyone else paid by a public dime to show up for work and take action. Of course, results can’t be achieved in a day, as the problems are so deep and extensive that anyone can understand that it will take time to fix them. But they need to be SEEN as acting in people’s interest and not for their narrow, short-term political gain.

It is also the time for the parts of the opposition which are willing to participate in rebuilding this country, to actually do it. Time to stop shouting at people. Elections are in the future – now we all need to ensure we actually have that future.

AND, it is time for President Ramaphosa to remember he is not only elected to be the head of SA government, but also to be the LEADER of the South African people. That requires compassion, action and true commitment. Whatever the State Capture actors might do to taint his past, the people of South Africa will support him if they see that he is fighting for their present and never stops working for their future.

The independent journalists of this country are tired of shouldering that future, sometimes on their own. Over the many years, we uncovered what really happened in Marikana, we exposed the Guptas, Nkandla and the depths of State Capture. Since the #GuptaLeaks, literally hundreds of people involved in State Capture crimes have been outed, fully exposing the Secretary-General of the ruling party, and the top leadership of the third-biggest party in the country.

How many of them have been arrested, charged and jailed since, say, Marikana? How many?

And you still expect us to consider South Africa a respectable state?

Relying on media and civil society to do these important jobs of government is unsustainable. The media fraternity cannot keep its motivation forever. Or our jobs. Or our lives. Do not think that investigations like VBS Theft, Money Laundering & Life’s Little Luxuries: Julius Malema’s time of spending dangerously will continue to materialise from thin air, over and over again. Journalists in South Africa operate in clear and present danger. It’s time to do something about it.

A good place to start would be to take the investigations brought into the public domain by Scorpio, amaBhungane, News24 and other investigative outfits seriously. The future of our country now depends on you doing your job.

Should you do nothing, just please don’t say again that we did not warn you. Because we have. Because we are warning you, right now.

Your move, South Africa. DM

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