WHEN Malusi Gigaba presents the 2018 Budget Speech - now that it seems unlikely that someone with more integrity will be brought in to do so - some of us will be half listening to the content of his presentation and half watching the man, looking at his facial expression for possible signs of nervousness, remorse, or any other betrayal of possible storms brewing inside.
A friend of mine used to say that God created man (and woman, of course), and then went on to create conscience. It is, naturally, possible that the latter was not allocated to every man and woman created – assuming that that is how we were created.
How else does one explain the straight face with which Gigaba has been walking about, suddenly saying all the right things as if he played no role in the Zupta-led state capture that ended up with South Africa on the brink of a dark precipice?
One would probably have had more sympathy and given in to the growing call for patience had Gigaba stood up like a man with a conscience, faced the nation and told us exactly what had happened; how he was caught up in it; what, exactly, he did – or was made to do; who was issuing instructions and whom he reported to.
It is inconceivable that former president Jacob Zuma would have fought so hard – for he did fight very hard, even in the face of massive protests by civil society movements, opposition parties, and the unblinking glare of the media - to get rid of, first of all, former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene and later Pravin Gordhan, just for the fun of it.
It is on record that he appointed little-known, Gupta-inducted Des van Rooyen into the finance ministry because he knew Van Rooyen would be easy to remote control from, presumably, the notorious Saxonwold compound.
When too much pressure was brought to bear on Zuma to remove Van Rooyen, he relented and called Gordhan back against his will. Gordhan’s life would be turned into a living hell when he proved too values-driven and ethical for the Zuptas’ aims.
He - together with his deputy Mcebisi Jonas, who oversaw the Public Investment Corporation - would not be the malleable candidates they needed to facilitate easy access into the National Treasury for Zuma, his family and his many shady friends.
When desperate Zuma finally managed to get rid of Gordhan and Jonas despite the glare of the media, opposition parties, civil society movements and the broad investor markets, he didn’t waste time replacing them with Malusi Gigaba and Sfiso Buthelezi; men he could trust to be reliable members of the state capture roll-out team.
Zuma would not have gone through all that pain for nothing.
Gigaba 'simply did as he was told'
Now, I have seen many comments and newspaper articles making excuses for Malusi Gigaba, some penned by columnists I used to respect. They describe him as a poor child who was simply following orders, who did as he was told without, presumably, understanding the big picture implications of what he was being made to do.
The same could be said for Nazi and apartheid soldiers - they were simply following orders.
One Sunday newspaper columnist even dared suggest that it is not fair (yet) to place Gigaba in the same league as Mosebenzi Zwane and Bathabile Dlamini. Gigaba, presumably, is a better, royal category thief; he should be sat down politely so that it can be explained to him, probably in hushed tones, that his name would not feature in the next Cabinet list.
Instead of being tried for his crimes, he should be sent to the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and placed under the academic wing of a Professor Ricardo Hausmann, the best development economist in the world.
There are countless young South Africans who are uncorrupted and hungry to be sent to Harvard University and other institutions in South Africa and around the world, for an education that will mould them into good contributors to South Africa’s developmental trajectory.
There are also hundreds of thieves languishing in prison for relatively minor crimes, compared to those committed by the likes of Gigaba against the interests of our country. Why are they less deserving of government-sponsored overseas education?
Why should a grown man, who is a well-paid political player, be compensated with a state-sponsored Harvard education instead of being made an example of, while poor South Africans, whose material conditions would have forced them into a life of crime, deserve punitive prison sentences?
Ramaphosa charm offensive not enough
President Ramaphosa has a second, and probably final, chance to demonstrate that the Cyril Ramaphosa of the 1980s and early 1990s - the man who walked alongside Nelson Mandela as he left Victor Verster Prison and held the microphone for him when he later addressed excited crowds outside Cape Town City Hall, went on to lead the historic constitutional assembly and became the one to deliver our new Constitution to president Mandela, who duly signed it into law - can still live up to his carefully crafted image, despite his fence-sitting while he was deputy president.
The speeches are great; the friendly, sociable early morning walks and jogs offer a welcome breath of fresh air; and the statesmanship is just what South Africa has been hungry for all these years. But the honeymoon will not last forever if political criminals will be allowed to carry on as if the crimes they committed against the interests of our country can simply be swept under the carpet for political expediency.
South Africa has enough unused talent waiting to be called to make this country great again. They’re all crying out, “please send me; thuma mina”. No criminals should be deployed to our country’s foreign missions, sent to expensive overseas universities and simply moved laterally before they get processed and cleared through transparent legal processes.
It would be wrong, very wrong, to let impunity prevail by allowing people who either stole or facilitated the theft of much-needed public funds to benefit a criminal network walk free.
To fully regain its stature and attractiveness, South Africa Inc relies on its new CEO to show that all the sacrifices, energy, and resources that went into the creation of its democratic institutions were not wasted.
So, let Gigaba deliver the Budget Speech if it cannot be avoided, but please let it be his last public act before he comes clean on the role he played in the elaborate state capture programme.
- Solly Moeng is brand reputation management adviser and CEO of strategic corporate communications consultancy DonValley Reputation Managers. Views expressed are his own.