Forget not the crimes of state capture

2018-09-23 09:54
Graphic: Commission of inquiry into state capture. (File)

Graphic: Commission of inquiry into state capture. (File)

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It must be hoped that honour, that essential human attribute, does not eventually suffer the fate of the dinosaur, especially among Homo sapiens of the subspecies “safricans”.

William Shakespeare states that when Julius Caesar saw Brutus, his friend and protégé, in the company of assassins, his shocked reaction was: “Et tu, Brute?” (Even you, Brutus?) Brutus had agreed to participate in the assassination of Caesar, convinced that his continued rule would lead to the ruin of Rome. In the event, Caesar’s death plunged the Roman Republic into a bloody civil war.

Realising the gravity of his error, Brutus decided that as punishment he too must die. He begged his friend Volumnius, whom he offered his sword, to drive home the fatal blow. Volumnius rejected the request, whereupon Brutus grasped the hilt of his naked sword with both hands, fell upon it and died.

Mark Anthony, who had led the army that fought and defeated Brutus and his co-conspirators, was so moved by Brutus’ willingness to pay the supreme sacrifice for betraying Caesar that he called Brutus “the noblest Roman of them all”.

To our eternal relief, today people of honour no longer go around carrying swords in readiness for self-immolation should they believe that they have committed heinous acts deserving of the severest of punishments. Falling on one’s sword now takes the form of a resignation from an important position. This is done to publicly show remorse and to retrieve wounded honour.

A glaring feature of contemporary South African society is the dearth of women and men in institutions that serve the public who choose to fall on their swords when they have irredeemably breached the confidence of the people they serve.

Rather than allow such individuals to continue in office, organisations take measures to remove them to better protect the reputation of institutions.

To this end, for instance, McKinsey & Company released its senior partner, Vikas Sagar, along with several others after the company was found to have corruptly acquired business with Eskom.

Similarly, German software giant SAP suspended its entire senior staff in South Africa while investigating alleged kickbacks to CAD House, a company owned by Duduzane Zuma and the Guptas, for securing business with Transnet.

To deal with its extreme embarrassment in the aftermath of the illegal landing at Waterkloof military base of a plane carrying Gupta wedding guests in 2013 the government suspended Bruce Koloane, then chief of state protocol. He took the fall, but was later rewarded with an ambassadorial posting to Holland. Several military officers who approved the landing later testified they believed the instruction had come from “Number One”, a code name for former president Jacob Zuma.

Did Mark Lamberti fall on his sword by resigning his directorships on the boards of Eskom and Business Leadership SA, and as chief executive of Imperial Holdings? Lamberti had called Adila Chowan, a group financial manager, a “female employment equity” appointment. She brought court action against Lamberti and Imperial on the grounds of race and gender discrimination.

Although the high court found that Chowan’s “inference of racial and gender discrimination” based on facts before the court was justified, Imperial maintained that there were “no findings of gender or race discrimination against AMH [Associated Motor Holdings], Imperial and Mark Lamberti”.

What is to be made of the resignation of the highly regarded Vincent Smith from the parliamentary committees he chaired, pending a probe into allegations that he received R670 000 from Bosasa, a facilities management company? Smith’s resignation is exceptional for a ranking ANC member and for a parliamentarian from any political party. He certainly fell on his sword, although some have argued that he should have recused himself from participation in all parliamentary activities.

The hacking of the Gupta servers resulted in the release of explosive emails that showed the extent of the Gupta family’s control over Cabinet ministers and state-owned companies. This was the pinnacle of state capture. It is significant that none of the people implicated in the #Guptleaks emails has stepped forward with a confession of guilt. On the contrary, Malusi Gigaba, a regular at the Saxonwold Gupta-family residence, preposterously suggested that the emails might be fake.

Unbeknown to the notables who routinely visited and held meetings at the Gupta residence, one John Maseko, a security guard and driver, was keeping a diary of their comings and goings. As Mosebenzi Zwane, Gigaba, Nomvula Mokonyane and several others whom Zuma and the Guptas had anointed to serve in Cabinet and other state institutions filed in and out of the hallowed Saxonwold colony like ants serving their queen, Maseko kept a diligent vigil and took notes.

Might the concept of honour be alien to these notables?

The Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture was told that the Cabinet interministerial committee tried to force Nedbank to step in and take over the accounts belonging to the Guptas and their related entities, which had been closed by Standard Bank, FNB and Absa in 2016.

It was also told that ANC leaders, including Gwede Mantashe, Jesse Duarte, Enoch Godongwana and Faith Muthambi were implicated in attempts to save the Guptas’ bank accounts. Really?

Et tu, Gwede? Et tu, Enoch? Confronted with a similar situation, Brutus fell on his sword and earned himself the accolade "the noblest Roman of them all."

Alexander Pope said: “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.”

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