TONGUE IN CHEEK
Forfeit and forget – suddenly no cadres can remember currying favour with the Guptas
Those were the Guptas’ heyday – when they could summon and be serviced by the feckless ANC cabal that flocked to their Joburg mansion. Yet now it’s hard to find a single party member who even remembers them.
Time really flies. And with its passing, we forget what should, in reality, be unforgettable. Well, perhaps there’s just too much going on in this republic of Mzansi for us to have enough time to digest it all.
Take the case of the Guptas, for instance. It was only because of revelations this past week that Gupta crony Mosebenzi Zwane has been slapped with some form of punishment for his links to their corrupt deeds that some of us remembered we once had a problem with that family.
Remember a time, not so long ago, when the Guptas were the subject of every news bulletin? Even kids playing football in the streets, buoyed by the constant mention of this name in the media, nicknamed themselves Guptas.
That was a time when ANC politicians, their consciences temporarily restored by the possibility of ending up on the wrong side of prison bars, crept out of all manner of dodgy places to disclose their encounters with the Guptas.
A bemused public was entertained by tales of how senior and not-so-senior ANC cadres had been summoned like scholars to the infamous Gupta mansion in Johannesburg’s leafy Saxonwold suburb to be wined, dined and curried by the enterprising family.
It seemed like a competition of sorts – comrades scrambling to outdo one another with stories of their encounters with the brothers from Mumbai.
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Bollywood scriptwriters would no doubt have found compelling material for a hit film with How We Stole an African Country as the working title.
It was all just too much. Some spoke about the tasty curry dishes served during such encounters. Others spoke of being offered positions in Cabinet or state-owned enterprises, right there in that mansion.
One visitor, who was at the time the longest-serving premier in the country, was even reported to have made a dashing 400km drive from Bloemfontein after being summoned to Saxonwold by the Guptas. By then, we were told, they were some sort of super-Cabinet structure that made key state decisions and appointments.
It came to a point where even I, a stylish child of the soil with no links to the ruling party elite, had a recurring nightmare in which I was serenaded by sari-clad maidens in a sensual Oriental dance while being hosted at Saxonwold.
One of the Gupta brothers, I can’t remember which one, then offered me the position of chairperson of the Anti-Stylish People’s Organisation. Just imagine that…
Well, being a patriotic citizen deeply committed to the stylish agenda of this Mzansihood, I turned down the offer.
The best we can hope for… is to gather the country’s best brains in witchcraft circles and cast deadly spells on them.
We are now in a very strange period in which not any of these ANC cadres dare speak about these wonderful hosts, who served them some of the finest cuisine Mumbai had to offer while threatening them with dire action if they didn’t follow their orders.
It’s like they are now all suffering from a high degree of collective memory loss. Nobody even seems to remember that the Mumbai trio ever lived here.
It’s even more startling how it appears that no one knows exactly where the Guptas are. One moment they were living it up in a Gulf state that’s got no extradition treaties with South Africa, the next they were in jail awaiting extradition. Or not.
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Believing that the Guptas will ever be brought to justice in this country they allegedly looted and semi-controlled with the aid of high-ranking ANC cadres is like harbouring hopes that we could one day see Steve Hofmeyr as EFF president.
Bringing the Guptas back to face justice for their alleged role in State Capture would not be in the best interests of the ruling party. It would be like the convicted fraudster, rapist and murderer Thabo Bester forcing his corrupt prison warden buddies to testify for the prosecution in his latest case.
The best we can hope for if we are really serious about meting out some form of punishment to them is to gather the country’s best brains in witchcraft circles and cast deadly spells on them. But jail time or trial in Mzansi, hayi khona…
The reality is that we are people with such short memories that we have almost forgotten about the Guptas and the assistant thieves who paved the way for their looting of state resources and coffers.
We have even forgotten that, not so long ago, we were ruled by a man who now threatens to make his way into the Guinness World Records for the highest number of court appearances by a septuagenarian in the history of court systems.
Those were the days, man, when ANC deployees went to bed with one eye open to keep tabs on the news for a possible Cabinet reshuffle.
The man really kept his comrades on their toes with his midnight Cabinet reshuffle announcements. That was rather cruel. Imagine being fired in the dead of night. You go to bed a minister with all the wonderful benefits – a driver, bodyguards, a shiny state vehicle fuelled by the taxpayer.
The next morning you wake to find that you have to hail a taxi to buy the morning papers reporting about your late-night dismissal, with all the privileges of being a minister suddenly withdrawn.
Even the security guards who you used to force to lick your boots each time you made your way into your state property no longer care to salute or even greet you, because you have now become just another ordinary redeployed cadre.
We have even forgotten that the man who ruled over us and is now in line for a possible entry into the Guinness World Records did some jail time for defying a commission of inquiry that he himself had set up. Ai… DM168
Mr Styles is the former president of the Organisation for Stylish People of South Africa (Osposa). He is against anything and anyone unstylish.
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.