First published in Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper
Like every year in South Africa, 2020 has seen its share of miscreants and moegoes. And yet it somehow feels as if there were more of them this year. Our heaving beast of a country is overrun with people merrily going about their business violating every law in the statute books, every commandment etched in stone, every tenet of basic human decency. Then there are those who might stay on the right side of the law but cannot help from straying across the border between common sense and sheer idiocy. Here, then, is this year’s roll of dishonour, in no particular order.
Top of the log, in pole position and defending champion for several years running, Zuma is simultaneously a national treasure to some and a national embarrassment to others. Wants his day in court and yet very much doesn’t. Schrödinger’s ex-president. Russia’s five-month defence of Stalingrad pales in comparison to Zuma’s years-long defence of… well, where does one start. Prosecutors in the Arms Deal case will once again try to get this wily old skabenga into the dock next year. Good luck with that.
Running a close second to Zuma in the untouchable stakes, the ANC’s secretary-general behaves more like a general than a secretary. He is what journalists call a permanently breaking story. There are journalists who have other names for him, none of which are printable. By the time you read this, Ace could be well on his way to becoming president or the inmate in charge of the kitchen at Kgosi Mampuru II.
An Eastern Cape philanthropist and one of South Africa’s best-loved white collar criminals. His company, Bosasa, captured the prisons. That’s what you call panache. Under the impression he was bulletproof because his pockets were bulging with politicians, he made it his life’s work to help needy ANC members with Christmas hampers, home security upgrades and bags of cash in return for nothing. Well, nothing more than lucrative tenders, anyway. Sold down the river by a large Italian man weirdly unfamiliar with the concept of Omertà. Committed suicide/died in a car accident/snorkelling in Mexico.
A Public Protector from whom the public needs protecting. Shares Donald Trump’s pathological aversion to admitting defeat. Along with pet remoras like Piet Rampedi and Floyd Shivambu, she is obsessed with a ‘rogue unit’ that never existed. Mkhwebane has been described as dishonest, incompetent, irrational, biased… and that’s just by her fellow law practitioners. Judges, mostly. Known to have the skin of a rhino and the survival instincts of a lemming.
The Durban boykie who got his matric and went on to lead South Africa’s official opposition into the backwoods of irrelevance. Resigned as DA leader in KZN in 2010 to devote more time to Terry Beaumont, DA provincial spokesperson and then wife of the party’s provincial director, Michael Beaumont. Rewards ambition within party ranks by sending members on sabbatical against their will.
Professor Alfred Nevhutanda
The archetypical scatterbrained professor. This prof is so scatterbrained that, in his 10 years as chair of the board of the National Lotteries Commission, he never once noticed his organisation was throwing buckets of money at projects that never existed. From delivering a plagiarised speech at a conference in 2007 to claiming that journalists were paid to write stories alleging corruption at the commission, the prof is finally no longer at the helm. It’s likely law enforcement might want a word at some point.
Who? Exactly. He’s the leader of the Cape Party. The what? Precisely. Never managing to crack more than 5,000 votes in any election in 13 years, Jack and his middle-class separatist rebel bros want the Western Cape to become an independent country. To the outsider, this creates the impression that lysergic acid diethylamide has somehow leached into Cape Town’s water supply.
While many of us have dreamed of destroying the SA Revenue Service, it was only Moyane who had the courage to actually go out there and do it. For all the wrong reasons, sadly. SARS was hollowed out to benefit people who weren’t us, and that was no good at all. Perhaps he just didn’t have a head for figures. Let’s see what the Zondo report says.
South Africa’s unofficial court jester in camo. Always good entertainment value whenever the ANC’s anti-honesty splinter group comes out for its song and dance routine. Armed with a steady supply of mothers who die at convenient moments, Niehaus is proof that in this country it’s still possible to earn a living through making a public spectacle of yourself.
Having chewed his own arm off to escape from an ANC military camp in Uganda when he was younger (he found the conditions disagreeable), it makes perfect sense that comrade Kebby would go on to become deputy defence minister. It’s a well-known fact that retreating is the best tactic in any war. President of the uMkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association, he was hauled before the ANC’s top six recently to explain why he was inciting his members. He described the meeting as “fruitful”. If Kebby were a fruit, he would be a paw-paw. Yellow, soft and full of pips.
McKinsey & Co
Tapping Transnet and SAA on the shoulder, McKinsey said: “Excuse me, I think you dropped this,” then handed them R650-million before hurriedly backing away. Not so fast, McKinsey. There’s a man with a dog who’d like a word with you. By dog we obviously mean a polygraph machine. And maybe handcuffs.
The Jughead of South African politics. Lungisa’s idea of democratic debate is to break glassware over his political opponent’s head. Sentenced to two years, he tried appealing to the Constitutional Court on the grounds that he was unsuited to prison life. After serving 10 weeks he was released on the grounds of… oh, what does it matter. If Magashule ever becomes president, Lungisa will be appointed Public Protector and given a tungsten steel baseball bat to assist in the extraction of confessions.
Nobody knows why Jooste has never been prosecuted. This includes Jooste himself. Sure, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority fined the former Steinhoff boss R162-million – roughly the same amount he loses under his couch cushions every year – but that was punishment for advising his mates to sell their shares just days before Steinhoff tanked. Investors who weren’t his friends lost around R200-billion. It’s safe to say that Jooste plays golf alone these days. Then again, he does live in Hermanus and kindred spirits in those parts are never in short supply.
Major-General Solomon Lazarus
In conduct which could be described as unbefitting of an officer, even by South African standards, Lazarus is going to jail for 10 years for corruption. It seems unfair to single him out when there are so many others who have done far worse than buy their kids a couple of cars with stolen money, but it’s not the kind of behaviour one might expect from the former chief financial officer of Crime Intelligence. Or maybe it is. Devilishly hard to say anymore.
Jan du Preez
Not a familiar name unless you’re being pressured to move out of your home to make way for a coal mine. CEO of Tendele Mining, Du Preez suggested that 65-year-old Fikile Ntshangase was gunned down in October because the community was angry with her for standing in the way of the mine’s expansion in Somkhele, KZN. Because of Ntshangase’s intransigence, the mine had threatened retrenchments. Attorney Kirsten Youens, representing families adversely affected by Tendele’s mine, said: “Mines dangle incentives to impoverished community members with the inevitable consequences of stirring deep community divisions, which almost always lead to violence and deaths.” Fill up your filthy hole and go home, Du Preez.
Judge John Hlophe
Mad, bad and dangerous to know. The most misunderstood man on the bench. He doesn’t mean what he says and rarely says what he means. Translators had to be brought in to explain what he meant when he used a two-word isiZulu phrase – sesithembele kinina – 12 years ago in an alleged attempt to influence another judge hearing a matter involving Jacob Zuma. Speaking of words, there are 1,103 of them in the “Controversies” section of Hlophe’s Wikipedia page, starting with a case in 2004 and ending in early 2020 with Western Cape Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath lodging a complaint against Hlophe with the Judicial Services Commission. No doubt the page will soon be updated to include his latest appearance before the Judicial Conduct Tribunal.
FW de Klerk
Responding to the Economic Freedom Front’s recent protest action outside Brackenfell High School, De Klerk urged the SA Human Rights Commission to “condemn the dangerous path of racism”. Racism by the school? Ha ha, no. By the EFF. A statement from De Klerk’s foundation said: “We simply cannot afford the racial conflict that the EFF is clearly intent on fomenting. The boil must be lanced once and for all.” Boil? How about the gargantuan goitre that was apartheid? It was only in 1990 that FW was forced to haul out the lance after having been a loyal member of the National Party from 1972 until Comrade Kortbroek collapsed that particular dirty house of cards some 30 years later. This is the same foundation that, earlier in 2020, said apartheid was not a crime against humanity. You live in a glass house, FW. We see you.
Things must be awfully quiet on Mahogany Row there by that big old colonial City Hall. There have been so many arrests lately that the Hawks have been given their own parking space right out front on Dr Pixley ka Seme Street. A string of executives, including the former mayor, the city manager and the deputy director of supply chain management, are up on corruption charges. In September, more than a dozen homes belonging to junior officials were raided. Because of the sub-tropical humidity, everything eventually rots in Durban. Apparently this includes civil servants.
One of Jacob Zuma’s favourite people and the only person to appear before the Zondo Commission who said both too little and too much. Best known for her catchphrase, “May I not respond, chairperson, in case I incriminate myself?” The only information she did divulge was the name of a protected witness. Charges loading. Credit where it’s due, though. Not everyone can single-handedly cripple an entire national airline. That takes delinquency to a whole new level and it’s likely she expects some sort of award. The Order of the Hadeda, perhaps, named after an unpredictable, self-important bird that is liked by no one but is hard to ignore.
Shows his appreciation for having been demoted from minister of police to minister of arts and culture by doing as little as is humanly possible. Considers his salary compensation for having to serve a second term in a portfolio he clearly considers not worthy of his attention. On the other hand, Mthethwa has gone out of his way to make apathy an art all of its own. His latest effort on the culture front is a project to locate all the statues and monuments reflecting the apartheid era and have them removed. DM168
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