Endless chaos

2016-10-18 06:00

AVIBRANT news cycle is what keeps journalists gainfully employed. But there are some weeks when there is simply too much news and checking into a monastery in the Himalayas seems an attractive option.

On Monday, as the protests over university fees intensified, I was distressed to learn that a Catholic priest I know, Father Graham Pugin, was shot in the face by a rubber bullet.

He had been standing at the gate of his church in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, to stop a police Nyala from entering the premises. Students have used the church yard, which adjoins the University of Witwatersrand, as a refuge whenever there are violent clashes with police on the campus.

Police fired rubber bullets randomly and several times into the church yard.

Pugin was hit in the leg first and later in the mouth. The images of Pugin in his blood-spattered vestments went around the world as a stark depiction of South Africa again in turmoil.

When I went to interview Pugin on Tuesday, he was sore and traumatised, but recovering from his injuries.

On my way to the interview, my phone beeped with a message that brought more distressing news.

A colleague got wind that a summons had been issued for Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and former South African Revenue Service (SARS) officials Oupa Magashula and Ivan Pillay.

I had a feeling of dread as I knew what would follow: shock across the country, panic in the markets, a plunge in the value of the currency and major financial losses for the country.

Later that morning, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head Shaun Abrahams announced the news to the world. As expected, mayhem ensued.

After being pursued by the Hawks for months in relation to the operation of a special investigating unit at SARS, Gordhan is now being charged for fraud over an administrative and human-resource matter. The charges relate to the signing off of Pillay’s retirement package and him being rehired on contract.

The agenda behind the move is transparent and brazen. It is now widely known that a group in the state and ANC, egged on by a certain well-connected family, want Gordhan out of his job so that they can have control of the national Treasury.

Because they were unable to piece together a case on the SARS unit that could stand up in court, the NPA opted to scrounge around for another way to prosecute Gordhan.

The NPA certainly had a busy week.

On Thursday, it served Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema with two summonses for contravention of the 1956 Riotous Assemblies Act. Malema is being charged for comments he made in 2014 and in June this year, inciting the occupation of land.

Malema has said many inflammatory things during his eventful career in politics. It would be interesting to find out why the NPA opted to bring the charges now, when the country feels under political, economic and social siege.

It also emerged on Thursday that President Jacob Zuma and Co-operative Governance Minister Des van Rooyen have applied for interdicts to stop Public Protector Thuli Madonsela from releasing her preliminary report on the involvement of the Gupta family in state affairs.

The country needs to know the truth whether this family has undue political influence and has used this for financial benefit.

Zuma failed to comply with Madonsela’s request for information from March, and at the last minute decided to prevent her from releasing her report.

He does not seem to care about the dire state of our nation.

He has made no effort to intervene to calm violent clashes between police and students.

The financial turbulence of this week spells trouble for our economy as a ratings downgrade looms. Yet the president is concerned with his own issues.

We need to find a way to stop the ground constantly moving below us.

And some downtime from endless chaos would be welcome.

• Ranjeni Munusamy is a political journalist and commentator for the Daily Maverick. ranjeni.munusamy@gmail.com

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