Fred Khumalo | Thuma mina, now hamba. Tsamaya. Famba. Go, your office now stinks of cow dung

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When he got into office, many believed Ramaphosa would never have to dip his hand into the public coffers, given the fact that he was already a rich man. Photo: Jeffrey Abrahams, Gallo Images
When he got into office, many believed Ramaphosa would never have to dip his hand into the public coffers, given the fact that he was already a rich man. Photo: Jeffrey Abrahams, Gallo Images

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Even the most pedestrian reading of the Phala Phala stories showed some laws had been broken.

In my mother tongue, isiZulu, the word “isiphalaphala” means a woman of unparalleled beauty. Sometimes, we use the words isikwibhisi. Isingqazu. Ipatshazi. There are many others, but isiphalaphala is one that almost sums it all up so elegantly.

Having said that, it is clear to me that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala saga is far from beautiful. It is not only ugly, but embarrassing and disappointing that a man who was heralded as a breath of fresh air when he moved into the office of this republic’s president, which was smelling to high heavens of corruption, graft and general malfeasance.

When he got into office, many believed Ramaphosa would never have to dip his hand into the public coffers, given the fact that he was already a rich man. A naïve proposition, I must admit, but this belief came from a good heart. In the moment of euphoria, we forgot that the rich are greedy. The richer they are, the more they want.

When he got into office, Ramaphosa invoked Hugh Masekela’s popular song Thuma Mina – please send me, I am your servant.

It was a moving message, a promise that we took to heart.

Wherever you want me to go, I will go – that was the message from this man who vowed to fight corruption and graft to the ground. Thuma mina.

Wherever you want me to go, I will – said the man when he vowed to make sure service delivery became a reality. Thuma mina.

Wherever you want me to go, I will – said the man as he promised to uphold the constitution, and entrench the independence of the judiciary. Thuma mina.

Wherever you want me to go, I will – said the man as he vowed to work hard to ensure that our economy did not just register a recovery from the theft that lay at the core, but that we would actually experience economic growth.

Wherever you want me to go, I will – said the man who told us he was coming to us with a New Dawn.

Again, a fitting promise considering the fact that for the past nine years, the presidential office had been overcome by a malodorous stench of graft and arrogance. A mephitis of death cloaked the president’s office, as the country’s spirit and hope got bulldozed to the ground by the incumbent who was in the pockets of those hyenas whose goal and mission was to milk the public coffer dry.

We sang songs and shouted slogans about this New Dawn that would exorcise our political landscape of those vampires that were sucking the blood out of our economy.

When the man declared his business interests in McDonald's, we laughed heartily that a person within proximity to food was surely not going to eat from the collective cupboards of the country. His stomach was full.

That the man also dealt in breeding and selling buffaloes and a rare breed of cattle, Ankole, assured us that we had the right man in the highest office in the land. His stomach was full.

We were positive he had professionally trained people running his side hustles, and that everything was above board.

Imagine the shock, then, when the Phala Phala story broke. To be sure, when the story broke, there were no insinuations that he had messed up with public funds.

But when it was revealed that he had kept millions of US dollars on his farm, a stench of a different odour suddenly assailed our nostrils.

Even the most pedestrian reading of the Phala Phala stories showed that some laws had been broken. A person of his standing should have known that it was against the law to be in possession of so much foreign currency – undeclared to the authorities.

When it was reported that state resources – policemen in the employ of the state – had been used to deal with the person/s who had stolen money from the president’s Phala Phala game farm, the stench of impropriety intensified.

For a long time, the president refused to address the nation on this subject. He assumed the ostrich position – thinking by burying his head in the sand the problem would go away. Maybe the president should start breeding ostriches as well, so he can study them at close quarters. The longer the ostrich buries its head in the sand, the more intractable the problem at hand becomes.

When he did finally address the nation on this matter, the president again engaged in subterfuge: he would not commit himself to any detailed and illuminating explanation about the amount of dollars that were on the farm; and if he had broken any law by keeping so much money on his property.

All he told us was to allow him to let the law and the investigation into the matter run its course. He never was transparent on the matter, taking aegis behind his “let’s allow the investigation to run its course” mantra.

Well, look where that short-term smart move landed him. Deep in the dwang, as the Americans say.

READ: Presidency cancels events following release of Phala Phala report

His credibility is gone. He is facing impeachment. He might even lose his presidency. My smart colleagues will explain this in detail, over the next few hours as to what is likely to happen to him. Maybe by the time you read this, Ramaphosa would be  gone, roasted like a steak of Ankole beef.

The president was supposed to engage the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) in a question-and-answer session on issues such as load shedding, rural development and township economies. It would have been inevitable for him to be drawn into the Phala Phala saga. It is the topic of the week, after all. The session, which was supposed to happen on Thursday, was cancelled.

NCOP chief whip Seiso Mohai informed delegates the council received a request from Ramaphosa to defer the session to give him time to process the report of the Section 89 committee on the Phala Phala saga.

On Wednesday, a panel of legal experts, headed by retired Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo, found that Ramaphosa may have committed a serious violation of the law and serious misconduct in terms of the Constitution. 

READ: Ramaphosa's political future uncertain after panel finds he may have violated the Constitution

This related to his failure to report a burglary at his Phala Phala farm two years ago. The panel also pondered the issue of the president’s side hustle.

You don’t run a spaza shop on the side when you are a member of the Cabinet. An even big no-no if you work in the highest office in the land. If you run a spaza shop on the side, you might end up treating your office, and the country at large, as yet another spaza shop. The previous president treated this country as just another spaza shop - in addition to his wife MaKhumalo's spaza shop.

No, no. Mr President. We did not thuma you to run spaza shops. We did not thuma you to keep chasing after Ankole cattle. Now, your office smells of cow dung. Hhhm, the stink! Hhhm, it is a mess!

We are thumaring you to tsamaya. Go. Famba. Vamos! Hasta la vista. Hamba. Bhashina, tsotsi. Gaan goed into the sunset and go eat your Ankole steaks and McDonald's burgers. 



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