Knowledge is the new black.
21 August 2017 23:38 (South Africa)
Opinionista Andrew Ihsaan Gasnolar

Unravelling the scrambled mess

  • Andrew Ihsaan Gasnolar
    Andrew-Gasnolar.jpg
    Andrew Ihsaan Gasnolar

    Andrew Ihsaan Gasnolar was born in Cape Town and raised by his determined mother, grandparents, aunt and the rest of his maternal family. He is an admitted attorney (formerly of the corporate hue), with recent exposure in the public sector, and is currently working on transport and infrastructure projects. He is a Mandela Washington Fellow, a Mandela Rhodes Scholar, and a WEF Global Shaper. He had a brief stint in the contemporary party politic environment working for Mamphela Ramphele as Agang CEO and chief-of-staff; he found the experience a deeply educational one.

There is much talk of commissions of inquiry to investigate and unravel the scrambled mess of state capture. But commissions have a confined scope and require far more nuance and dedication to justice than we have witnessed in some commissions.

One would have hoped that the penny would have dropped already in the minds of our elected leaders especially after all these months of scandal, which has exposed the true scale of state capture under the guise of the Zuma presidency and his favourite confidants. Yet, we have people like Gwede Mantashe, who many believe aspires for national office on some compromised ANC ticket, happy to act with obfuscation when he dismisses the inaction by the State simply to say “the ANC is not a law enforcement agency”.

We should no longer question why the National Prosecuting Authority or law enforcement agencies have not acted on the #GuptaLeaks (or numerous criminal cases that have been opened by the Democratic Alliance, Economic Freedom Fighters or other interested South Africans). The simple truth is that they have all been captured and their inaction is the only response we will receive.

The scandal is no longer bubbling below the surface but instead has been reflected in our news every single day on a constant loop thanks to the #GuptaLeaks and the thorough efforts of investigative journalists from amaBhungane, Daily Maverick’s Scorpio and other media houses. The scale of theft is of such a grand scale that it is almost unthinkable that a sovereign nation and its developmental agenda can be hijacked and redirected simply because smallanyana skeletons are essentially exercising public power for corrupt, selfish and ulterior motives.

We are no longer talking about the Eiffel Tower lights of the Arms Deal scandal (another scandal that we have not yet truly uncovered) as the extent of the rot and corruption exposed in the #GuptaLeaks is staggering. We are not simply talking about fixers paying sums of money to secure government tenders but instead are witnessing the prima facie evidence that outlines the complete subversion of our fragile democracy. Staggering to think that this reality has not woken up more members of the African National Congress to speak out and seize the opportunity to hold those culpable of this subversion responsible and to treat them without fear, favour or prejudice. Instead we are faced with the reality that our elected leaders have been unable to respond meaningfully to the unravelling mess that has been thrust into the spotlight.

The phrase “I see the Eiffel Tower lights are shining today”, synonymous with the Arms Deal scandal and the man who holds the highest office in the land, together with evidence and a string of other documentation was considered by the Seriti Commission and the outcomes of that process was pretty much a farce; a whitewash offered in the hope that South Africa would hold on to the idea that it is exceptional. A false belief peddled that our democracy can survive any scandal, any catastrophe or misstep because South Africans were able to overcome the apartheid regime and able to embrace constitutional democracy. Today, we are witnessing how that false narrative is being challenged with every leak and the inaction by our state authorities.

There is much talk of commissions of inquiry to investigate and unravel the scrambled mess of state capture. However, the nature of commissions is that they have a confined scope and in many instances require far more nuance and dedication to justice than what we have witnessed in some of these commissions. For instance, the findings of the Farlam Commission, like the Seriti Commission, may have been issued yet justice remains elusive.

The families in Marikana still wait for justice. The issues of inequality and exploitative labour practices as well as lending practices remain the lived reality of far too many. In fact, South Africans are doing very little to confront the issues of inequality and poverty, which is especially true when we consider the lack of effort by our political parties, trade unions and civil society. Inequality is not some esoteric subject but rather it should be the crucial issue that South Africans wrestle with. It should be the yardstick by which we assess all potential and future leaders that wish to encourage us all to shift our vote in the national and provincial elections of 2019 and beyond.

In this climate of obfuscation and diffidence can we really expect that a commission of inquiry will unravel the full extent of rot, corruption and state capture? If we reflect carefully on how far we have strayed from our true purpose then we will come to realise that the rot extends far beyond the names that are splashed on our TV screens and the front pages of our daily newspapers and screens. We will continue to be plagued by the remnants of state capture regardless of the outcome of the December Elective Conference of the African National Congress. Come December, and as South Africans approach 2019, we will need to confront these issues if we want real solutions.

The truth has never really been presented even though South Africa was able to orchestrate the cathartic tears (and the fake tears), handwringing and the confessions through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We must also not forget that commissions can be used in order to fulfil particular political objectives too. Perhaps if it was not for one particular TRC session, South Africans would not today be wondering about Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma but rather we would be reflecting on the electoral success of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela to the post of Deputy President at the 1997 ANC Elective Conference.

South Africans must dismiss the idea that we are exceptional during the weeks ahead but also as we approach 2019. The notion of exceptionalism will not save us from the rot that must be purged, which will require both a deep commitment but also many years in order to correct. The solutions available to South Africans must be reflected in our very different lived experiences, our own perceptions, our own value system. We must remember that we cannot allow ourselves to suffer from the notion of exceptionalism. Instead, we must adopt a pragmatic approach and avoid imbibing the Kool-Aid that the answers reside somewhere else (or in someone else). We cannot rely on ideologically swathed saviours like the rest of the world. We must be led and the unravelling milieu of state capture confirms that we will need to do it ourselves. DM

  • Andrew Ihsaan Gasnolar
    Andrew-Gasnolar.jpg
    Andrew Ihsaan Gasnolar

    Andrew Ihsaan Gasnolar was born in Cape Town and raised by his determined mother, grandparents, aunt and the rest of his maternal family. He is an admitted attorney (formerly of the corporate hue), with recent exposure in the public sector, and is currently working on transport and infrastructure projects. He is a Mandela Washington Fellow, a Mandela Rhodes Scholar, and a WEF Global Shaper. He had a brief stint in the contemporary party politic environment working for Mamphela Ramphele as Agang CEO and chief-of-staff; he found the experience a deeply educational one.

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