Boiled down from its sheer incoherence (no easy task!), Jessie Duarte’s 1,618-word opus in Daily Maverick (“Testimony at Zondo Commission is an onslaught against the People themselves”, 9 February 2021) is simply a lie in the service of national looting.
Yet, for the deputy secretary-general of the African National Congress, a lie is not enough. So the intrepid Duarte drags acclaimed writer Ben Okri into her service (without his approval, we would guess), and invokes the memory of Nelson Mandela, Albertina Sisulu, and Ray Alexander. This approach alone would have been sufficient to leave most readers retching, but she persisted for good effect.
For two years, the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture has lifted the veil on the rottenness of the ANC. It must make the ruling party squirm, but some of the brave comrades – and evidently this includes Duarte – will not flinch.
Packing her pipe with a quote from Okri, like Lewis Carroll’s hookah-smoking caterpillar, she becomes Jessie in Wonderland. In this version, there was no grand theft orchestrated by her comrades. Zondo is parading a series of sorcerers with overactive imaginations who are feeding tales to an unsuspecting nation. In doing so she manages to insult 57 million South Africans.
In the same book that Duarte misrepresents (A Way of Being Free), Okri writes that “The worst realities of our age are manufactured realities.” How apt.
In Duarte’s twisted world, former leaders of the ANC like Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu would agree that “democratic centralism” not only justifies the ANC’s failure to hold Jacob Zuma accountable for grand theft but demands the need for it to be covered up.
Without a hint of irony, Duarte would have us believe that the notorious Guptas arrived in South Africa as the “interrupters of the status quo”. In other words, they came to disrupt “white monopoly capital”. And the criminality at the Gupta compound “may, at times, have been innocent friends visiting each other, but now it has become an undressing of the state machinery.”
Here we would agree. The emperor has no clothes.
Duarte can wrap herself in the Madiba magic all she wants. She mentions him seven times. History tells us that she was among the first cadres to dress up the state machinery to her liking. Back in 1998, as Gauteng MEC of safety and security, she lied about having a driver’s licence, took a companion on an overseas trip without authorisation, and appointed an unqualified person to a senior position. The Moerane Commission on the saga found against her. Mandela was embarrassed enough given that Duarte was his former personal assistant.
Duarte’s piece has all the marks of a hatchet job intended to mobilise political support to collapse the Zondo Commission. She has positioned Zondo as an opponent of “democratic centralism” (read: the party’s decision-making method, which is evidently above the law), arguing that the practice is “now the subject of a commission led by a judge who, with respect, practices his craft based on the narrow parameters of existing laws. One can only hope that the Zondo Commission is not going to turn our democracy into more of a neo-liberal concoction than it already is; where we all sound the same and do nothing real to transform our society.”
In other words, the Zondo Commission is an anti-majoritarian counterrevolutionary project. We’ve heard it before, and we know where it will go.
Beware of Jessie Duarte. DM