The dignity of the state capture commission has been held up by Zondo's personal approach. Even the most reluctant witness could not gather the rudeness to withdraw.
Advocate Busisiwe Mkhebane, the Public Protector, at her office in Pretoria. (Photo: TEBOGO LETSIE)
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The popular readings of the Mkhwebane situation fail to remember the Marxist lesson that in a capitalist society hegemonic views represent the interests of the ruling class. And in South Africa the ruling class is unmistakably white, writes Mcebo Dlamini.
The purpose of lynching was not only to punish a slave who has erred or
only for the satisfaction of white people. Lynching also played an important
role in instilling terror and fear in other slaves. It was a demonstration to
other slaves on what could happen to them if they did not follow the
instructions of the master.
The strategy has outlived the Willie Lynch period
because it's still used by many groups around the world to suppress dissenting
voices. I suspect that this strategy might also be at play in the continuing debate
and controversies around the Public Protector Advocate Busi Mkhwebane who has
been occupying the headlines for weeks now.
A number of political analysts have had much to say on this issue but
what seems to be problematic with most of the opinions that are propounded is
that they seem to be devoid of history. As if what is happening is novel and
there are no people who have written and perhaps predicted that in a country
that is still laden with vestiges of colonialism something like this would
happen. That those who have economic power control the narrative and determine
the terms under which society understands transgressions and punishes those who
The popular readings of the Mkhwebane situation fail to remember the
Marxist lesson that in a capitalist society views that will become hegemonic
are views that represent the interests of the ruling class. And as I always
say, in South Africa the ruling class is unmistakably white and we must never
at any point forget that.
In 2017 Mkhwebane released a report that recommended that Absa bank must
pay R1.1bn from the apartheid deal it had with the SA Reserve Bank. This
finding was one of the first post-1994 findings that sought to make white
people and the institutions they run accountable and liable for what they did
during apartheid. This is to say there have been very few investigations that
have recommended remedial action for the transgressions and irregularities that
took place during the apartheid era.
The trend in this country is that those who committed crimes and took
advantage of apartheid have gotten away with impunity. If this was not the case
the inequalities that exist today where whites are in control of the economy
and blacks are in squalor would have long been reversed.
Anyways, Absa did not receive this decision very well; they therefore
made an application to the High Court where they argued that the Public Protector
acted in bad faith and "egregiously fell short of what is required"
of her office. Absa continued to state that her report on the matter was
flawed. The Constitutional Court found that indeed the report was flawed, that "she
put forward a number of falsehoods including misrepresenting under oath". The
court then ordered her to pay personally for the legal costs which amount to
around R900 000.
This is not shocking. Marx and Engels in their theory do quite often
mention the fact that in a capitalist economy the law becomes nothing but an
instrument that in many ways favours those who control the means of production.
But the big lesson here is that when one steps on the toes of those who control
the means of production (in the case of South Africa white people) there is bound
to be consequences and Mkhwebane is currently facing those consequences.
Maybe it is coincidence and maybe it is not, but this judgment is handed
just when the Public Protector has ruffled the feathers of Minister Pravin
Jamnandas Gordhan. In a report on an investigation into the establishment of
the "rogue unit", Mkhwebane found that the setting up of the unit,
approved by Gordhan when he was finance minister, was in violation of the Constitution.
Her remedial action was to give the president of country 30 days to discipline
him. Of course the discipline has not taken place. The report on the “rogue
unit” is also currently challenged through the courts. Gordhan is a stakeholder
in many of the multi-corportions and has had relations with many people who
control big business and consequently enjoys their support while the Public Protector
is slammed and her capacity questioned.
Without wanting to draw parallels between how allegations of corruption
that concern white people are dealt with differently from allegations that
concern blacks one cannot help but see the stark differences. Not so long ago
Jacob Zuma was found to have misused public funds by the Public Protector and
to have been instrumental in what became popular as the state capture. A commission
was formed. The then Public Protector was heralded as the defender of the
people. Of course maybe she was but the other truth is that the cases she
pursued concerned irregularities that mostly concerned black people.
Mkhwebane decides to do the opposite and her capabilities are questioned
to an extent of even questioning her capacity to be on the advocates' roll.
This is quite problematic because to me it gives the impression that blacks are
the only people who are capable of being corrupt. Hell, even when white people
are found guilty it is called irregularities or collusion and never corruption.
This trend ought to be stopped, this narrative ought to be challenged.
For me the question of Busi Mkhwebane is not just a question of
processes, procedures and constitutionality. To me it illuminates the truth
that is already there. It says that there is a group of people in this country
whose actions are not supposed to be questioned and challenged for if they are
challenged there will be consequences. Mkhwebane seems to be facing those
consequences. Perhaps her report was flawed but is it not true that whites
benefited arbitrarily from apartheid and they still continue to benefit?
Is it not true that there is always a whip looming when blacks err and
that whip is found wanting when it is white people? The case studies of are
numerous but the big and most important question is what do we do as black
people about this sad state of affairs?
- Dlamini is a former SRC president and student activist. He writes in his personal capacity.
Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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