Tjatjarag: How my free SA was corrupted

2013-09-08 10:00

For the longest time, I opined we were at a tipping point of being corrupt if we didn’t do something about it. Well, now we’ve tipped. We are well and truly corrupt, and I have won my long battle against the politeness gene.

I have mulled over my book title. It will simply be The Corruption of Free SA. Why “free”? I’m only interested in what has happened in the past 20 years.

I’m not interested in apartheid’s era because administrators (and later their homeland imitators) were venal and corrupt, but were not my representatives.

I don’t know about you, but I had no expectations of that order because it wasn’t mine: I didn’t vote, felt no particular citizenship or love for it. So my book isn’t even going to touch on that time.

I love free South Africa because of its founding dream, because I’ve been able to achieve my dreams when the democratic state extended employment equity laws that gave me a hand up.

I love South Africa because it’s mad and layered, and complex and bursting with potential – human, mineral, political, you name it, we’ve got it.

So it breaks my heart when heroes fall like skittles bowled over by the charms of mammon and in the process harm that potential. And as they fall, they take our dreams with them, because corruption is cancerous.

It spreads from the private into the public sector, and breaks things and people. Like a fish, it rots from the head.

Our headman, President Jacob Zuma, is our fish. Via his lawyer, Michael Hulley, our president is engaged in a game of snakes and ladders with the courts as he slides down a snake and up a ladder to prevent us from hearing the taped conversations of former Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy, which allegedly revealed bias and saw the National Prosecuting Authority throw out an aquarium of charges against our president.

McCarthy is now the anticorruption boss at the World Bank in Washington, DC. Yet his actions went against the grain of his oath to act without fear, favour or prejudice – a corruption of purpose.

That the president will not let us hear the McCarthy tapes is fishy and it’s also corrupt if you use the definition of corruption as being lacking in integrity. Let it be aired before the courts and let presidential innocence be determined. Or not.

Equally fishy is the Gold Fields black economic empowerment (BEE) deal, one of the examples I will use in my book to illustrate the moments we fell from grace.

In that deal, my heroes fell like skittles at the hand of a master bowler. First, former Gold Fields chairperson Mamphela Ramphele was at the helm when that tainted R2 billion deal was struck after pressure from the state.

To taint and to corrupt are the same thing. She now says she raised the alarm and ordered the investigation that came to light in the Mail & Guardian this week. But the lady with the megaphone was mighty quiet at the time it was sealed and I’ve often wondered why she did not raise hell and quit?

It is an awful deal – the worst of BEE – and it was put together by ex-convict and hustler Gayton McKenzie. Alarm bells should have rung the moment the company’s CEO, Nick Holland, signed him on. Holland also engaged in corruption if you accept the definition of corrupt as putrid and rotten, for that is what it was.

I can’t understand why new Gold Fields chairperson Cheryl Carolus did not immediately ask for Holland’s resignation when she was put in receipt of the inquiry into the BEE deal by New York law firm Paul, Weiss.

Instead, Carolus (yes, another hero) appears to have engaged in sleight of hand, consigning the report to the ether, according to Friday’s Mail & Guardian.

Eye-poppingly, the report also finds Gold Fields bribed ANC chairperson Baleka Mbete and upped her stake by R25 million after her bagman threatened to scupper the deal if she didn’t get more. Skittles. Mammon.

This week, gold miners went on strike for a decent wage. The ANC is in alliance with the striking workers. The party’s founding manifesto for freedom is “a better life for all”. Mbete is the ANC chairperson.

To corrupt is also to make an idea, a text or manuscript meaningless or different from the original. Did Ms Mbete corrupt the manifesto of a better life for all to make it mean a better life for some?

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