First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
In September 2019, a day after we published Pauli van Wyk’s seminal investigative piece, VBS Theft, Money Laundering & Life’s Little Luxuries: Julius Malema’s time of spending dangerously, Daily Maverick penned an editorial titled Your move, South Africa.
In it, we laid out the lay of the land in that fraught moment. We warned President Cyril Ramaphosa and his government that it was about time they did something about the levels of corruption and incompetence in South Africa, or it would come back to bite them and the whole country in the same meal. We also warned that the free media can only do so much – and it cannot do anything in the vacuum created by the non-functioning state.
Fifteen months later, where are we, as a country, society and the economy? While the Covid-19 pandemic has placed an existential threat in front of South Africa, and so many of us individually, it could have been an opportunity for a reset. And while so many indeed have heard the call of better angels, the bad-faith actors took a step towards hell.
From every corner, from every hole, there seems to be an opportunist lurking, plotting to cause more harm for personal gain.
In the 15 months since our editorial, Ramaphosa’s government not only hasn’t done much to act against the countless crooks we exposed, but in many ways things have got even worse. Openly corrupt Geoff Makhubo is now the mayor of Joburg,
Dr Iqbal Survé repeatedly publishes fake news stories and thumbs the PIC’s nose even as it was proven that he stole billions. Andile Lungisa left jail soon after he got in. The ANC’s provincial bodies are openly defying their own party’s national structures.
(This is only what one can recall in five seconds – the full list would take an entire newspaper.)
Under Ramaphosa’s watch, the most horrific abuse and theft from South Africa’s waning response to Covid-19 has happened, with billions siphoned to politically connected crooks. In another editorial, we argued these should be declared crimes against humanity.
The Guptas are still comfortable in Dubai.
RET forces still shout without stopping.
Fifteen months after our exposés, Julius Malema, Floyd Shivambu and Co are louder, and more vicious than ever, clearly looking to foment racial conflict and hatred in a country that is already teetering on the edge. Despite Daily Maverick clearly proving their guilt in the VBS scandal, they are allowed to attack the media and call for violence against the police, and generally behave like the bunch of depraved politicians they are.
All these people’s horrific crimes of stealing from their own were exposed in our publications – and not a single one of them has sued us; should it have not been true, it would have been an insult of gigantic proportions. They have not and they will never sue us – because they know everything we published is true.
And you know who else knows that what we published is true? The NPA, the ANC, and President Ramaphosa. And yet, almost nothing is happening. How should we all interpret this silence?
Obviously, the past 15 months were not good to South Africa, nor for Ramaphosa.
His predecessor, Jacob Zuma, now openly ignores the legal system and the Zondo Commission he himself instituted. In a new insane subsegment, he is moving into dynastic mode, displaying his son Duduzane as his successor and the future president of SA. Yes, really. And where the legal action finally happened, it mostly affected minor players like VBS miscreants.
Ace Magashule’s arrest warrant, while welcome and necessary, would take years to end in actionable conviction. The Secretary-General of the ruling party will drive it all the way on the highway to Stalingrad that had already been built and signposted by Jacob Zuma.
He has ample space to emulate Zuma’s 2007 Polokwane conference success path and emerge victorious in the 2021 NGC and 2022 Elective conference. So he does not need to fight against his corruption charges in court, as it was always about politics first anyway. All he needs to do is delay for long enough and win the inner-ANC battle. Everything else will sort itself out.
If you are a betting person, there’s every chance that Ace Magashule will be the next president of SA, that all NPA and court action against him will be squashed, that the media, while most likely not officially sanctioned, will be brutalised, together with all who dared cross him.
So, 15 months later, we still need to remind this President, his government and this country: should strong, principled and lawful action not be taken soon, South Africa will be a failed democracy in a heartbeat. It is genuinely that fragile, this current situation. Looking for consensus with people whose only wish is to destroy you is truly a bad idea. Knife, gunfight. DM168
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