Noses and telephone wires

Anybody who watched the fascinating live interview of Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba on national television on Sunday could be forgiven for experiencing an intense sensation of déjà vu.

On February 14, an equally jaw-dropping interview unfolded on national television which had the nation agog.

The ANC NEC had just announced its decision to recall then President Jacob Zuma, who took the opportunity to tell the nation “I have done nothing wrong” and “I won’t resign” on the very TV channel which he and his Gupta confederates are alleged to have captured.

The parallels between Messrs Zuma and Gigaba in their respective interviews eight months apart, are quite remarkable.

Despite manifest evidence to the contrary, both insisted they have done nothing wrong, and that they are the victims of political conspiracies.

Mr Gigaba added that the hacking of his mobile handset and distribution of a sex video apparently titled Onan the Barbarian, (the mind boggles) made, according to him, for the private consumption of him and his wife, is apparently a further attempt by these unnamed political forces to discredit him and drive him out of government.

This, of course, has all come about because his long-running battle with Fireblade Aviation, owned by the Oppenheimer family, over its application to operate a VVIP (very very important persons) private international air terminal at OR Tambo International Airport has finally come to an end, and the score is Oppenheimers 1, Malusi 0.

Despite a North Gauteng High Court ruling that he had lied under oath being upheld by a full bench of the Supreme Court of Appeals (SCA), he insisted on petitioning the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal.

The apex court “concluded that the application for condonation should be granted but that the application for leave to appeal should be dismissed as it bears no prospects of success.”

As an aside, this is yet another example of members of the executive pursuing futile legal remedies at taxpayer expense, making the ANC’s constant criticism of the opposition’s waging of “lawfare” – resorting to the courts to enforce executive compliance – laughable.

The problem with lying, is that you have to remember everything that you have said in order to perpetuate the lie and not contradict yourself, and as the matter grows in complexity, that becomes ever more difficult.

Mr Gigaba was at pains to point out that, in terms of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), he is forbidden, as a member of the executive, from involving himself in supply chain matters, insisting that is the preserve of directors-general in the various departments which have jurisdiction over the matter at hand. Ergo, he could not have given permission to Fireblade to operate its terminal.

But hang on a moment. Why then did Mr Gigaba, later in the interview, pose the following question. “If I had given approval at the meeting (with Fireblade) on January 28 (2016) to operate (the terminal), why did Mr Oppenheimer write to me on April 1 asking for a letter of approval?”.

That evidence led thus far in the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture makes it clear that the precepts of the PFMA have not in the least hindered multiple others from involving themselves in supply chain matters did not come up for discussion, but that aside, why even pose the question, if there was no possibility of it – approval being granted to Fireblade – happening in the first place?

Surely Occam’s Razor suggests that the April 1 letter simply sought written confirmation of the approval granted verbally – and minuted according to Mr Oppenheimer – at the January 28 meeting?

Mr Gigaba also insists that, contrary to numerous press reports, his petition to the Constitutional Court had nothing to do with the lower courts’ judgments that he had lied under oath. Rather, it had to do with the appropriateness of Fireblade operating a private terminal and the fact that “Home Affairs had not granted approval”.

For the record, the High Court judgment overturned Mr Gigaba’s decision to backtrack and deny Fireblade the right to operate its VVIP terminal, on the grounds that he had lied under oath.

The SCA upheld that judgment, and the Constitutional Court dismissed his application for leave to appeal, “as it bears no prospects of success”.

Asked whether he believed it was Nicky Oppenheimer who had lied, he responded that Mr Oppenheimer had rendered “his version of the events” that unfolded at the January 28 meeting.

Mr Gigaba seems to forget that his counsel would have rendered Mr Gigaba’s account of the events that unfolded at that meeting, in the various court proceedings, to support his decision to play flip-flop.

So, it all comes down to whose version of events the courts believed: Mr Oppenheimer’s or Mr Gigaba’s.

Both judgments make it clear that the respective benches believed Mr Oppenheimer’s version of events, not because of who he is, but because of the evidence that was led.

No matter how mightily Mr Gigaba labours to try and separate the matter of the lie under oath, from the matter of whether or not Fireblade should be allowed to operate a private air terminal, at each level through the court system, the entire judgment was considered. It always ever has been about the lie.

Ergo, the inescapable conclusion is that Mr Gigaba lied under oath.