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PEOPLE OF THE YEAR 2023

SA Villain of the Year runners-up: Mamokgethi Phakeng, Mashatile’s blue-light brigade and Zunaid Moti

SA Villain of the Year runners-up: Mamokgethi Phakeng, Mashatile’s blue-light brigade and Zunaid Moti
University of Cape Town former Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Esa Alexander)

From academics who threaten people and businessmen who intimidate journalists to violent goons acting on behalf of politicians, SA has a wondrous variety of rogues.

Mamokgethi Phakeng

The former vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town (UCT) won her place on this list after a chaotic tenure heading Africa’s best university that directly led to a swathe of talented administrators leaving the institution. Mamokgethi Phakeng’s management style was excoriated in an independent report released in November, which found that she routinely used “threats, intimidation, ethnic slurs, personal insults”. She was allowed to walk away from UCT in March with a R12-million payout after the council concluded that this was a reasonable price to pay to be rid of her. Phakeng can now be found online in her influencer era, touting a Cyprus-based crypto trading service.

Paul Mashatile’s blue-light brigade

South Africa‘s second-in-command, Paul Mashatile, has a podium finish in this category thanks to the abhorrent behaviour of his so-called blue-light brigade: the police protection unit which drives him up and down highways at reckless speeds, bullying other motorists out of the way. In July, a video went viral of Mashatile’s goons punching and kicking three civilians on the side of the highway. It was a vivid metaphor for the way many ordinary South Africans feel they are being treated by their leaders. Mashatile called the incident “unfortunate”.

Zunaid Moti

This was the year when local businessman Zunaid Moti went to war with amaBhungane, after the investigative journalism unit gained access to documents suggesting that the Moti Group may be involved in elaborate money-moving schemes between South Africa and Zimbabwe, with our neighbour’s political elite among the beneficiaries. Moti responded by launching a crusade against amaBhungane on two fronts: through the courts and his public relations poodles. Some would suggest that the businessman doth protest too much? DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

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