Last week, this lowly newspaperman bemoaned the departure of Bathabile Dlamini from public office, a catastrophic occurrence that was driving South Africa’s famously sober journalist community to drown their sorrows at pubs.
But the gods are good. They answer prayers.
This week, as we sat in mourning, we learnt that Tina Joemat-Pettersson was returning to the political limelight as the chair of Parliament’s committee on police.
Joemat-Pettersson was among a host of dodgy individuals who will be leading the efforts to hold ministers to account.
Here was the ANC, which keeps telling South Africa that it has shed the dirty clothes of the Jacob Zuma era and is committed to renewing itself, busy restarting the “nine wasted years”.
One could be forgiven for believing that the party’s leadership had gone to Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo to ask him for a list of those who had been the most implicated during the state capture commission.
Only once that list had been exhausted did the ANC then consider other MPs to fill the chairperson posts.
This is what the ANC had to say about those that it selected to chair the committees: “These deployments are a culmination of a rigorous and careful process of putting together a capable and competent leadership that will bolster the constitutional role of Parliament to conduct effective oversight over the executive in the interests of the people of South Africa … We are expressly confident that the men and women we are announcing today for the positions of chairpersons and whips will steer Parliament on the correct path to fully achieve this gigantic task.”
So, dear South Africans, have faith. Mosebenzi Zwane, Supra Mahumapelo and Faith Muthambi et al will “bolster the constitutional role of Parliament” and steer the institution on the correct path.
Joemat-Pettersson will do an excellent job. In her previous life as minister of energy, she had this crazed look on her face that made her look like a mannequin that had come to life, smashed the shop window and joined pedestrians on the street.
She still has that look. On Thursday night, she was wearing a mustard number and a scarily sharp pair of high heels.
Joemat-Pettersson, you may recall, is the person who oversaw the illegal sale – for a song – of our strategic fuel reserves.
She is the person who nearly sold our future to the Russians by trying to force through Zuma’s corruption-infested nuclear power deal. She is the cause of much of the pain we feel today.
One does not want to be cynical, but, with each passing day, this “new dawn” thing is looking more and more like a fairy tale.
Remember how we all cheered when, in his state of the nation address last year, Cyril Ramaphosa said it was “critical that the structure and size of the state is optimally suited to meet the needs of the people and ensure the most efficient allocation of public resources”, and that he would “initiate a process to review the configuration, number and size of national government departments”?
We watched for a decade as Zuma turned government into an employment agency for whomever could further his interests and whomever could introduce him to his next carnal conquest.
So the promise of a leaner administration at the very top was the most exciting news.
What happened last month? Ramaphosa tinkered here and there, and thought we would all be bamboozled into believing he had made a radical reduction.
What actually happened was that he lost the battle to reform the state and rid it of the excesses of the Zuma era.
The employment agency ethos remained largely undisturbed and little will happen in the next five years to change that.
This past week was more of the same. It showed that the Zuma zombies are alive and still very much in charge. Renewal is a myth.
When the work of democratic South Africa’s sixth Parliament begins in earnest, we will have, as the cliché goes, the wolves guarding the chicken coop.
Mahumapelo and Zwane, Muthambi and Joemat-Pettersson – the stars of the Zuma era – will be there to make sure that there is clean governance in the state.
Ministers and senior public servants are surely quivering right now.
In the past few elections, the ANC has felt the wrath of the people’s anger as voters punished it by either staying away from the voting booths or seeking new political homes.
But the brand of the party and umbilical cord that many South Africans have with the former liberation movement prevented them from turning their backs on it.
Before last month’s elections, the ANC was fearful that the people would severely punish it for the wrongs of the Zuma era.
Punishment did come, but it was not as severe as the party’s own internal polling had initially predicted.
So this was taken as a sign that the people do not really care about clean governance. Things can continue as normal.
Hence the return of the Zuma zombies.