Houston, we have a problem.” So said Tom Hanks’ character, Jack Swigert, in the movie Apollo 13, when he wanted to alert NASA mission control to a life-threatening situation which meant they would likely not make it home.
As the evidence at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into state capture unfolds, it begins to look as if the thieves and miscreants who have all but brought our country to its knees, might, after all, be brought to book.
Listening to Cheryl Carolus explicitly implicating Malusi Gigaba in the destruction of SAA for the benefit of the Gupta family, one could be forgiven for experiencing a surge of hope that finally, there was a smoking gun, and somebody would stand accountable.
But contrasted with that is the prior, self-serving testimony by Mzwanele “Jimmy” Manyi, who laboured mightily – but failed miserably – to sanitise his destructive reign at the helm of the Government Communication and Information Service (GCIS), warbling as he did about hearing people who testified before him “delivering poetry” instead of hard evidence. That evidence leader Vincent Maleka patiently, and with surgical precision, demolished his every argument is academic in the face of his steadfast refusal to acknowledge the hard facts of his misdemeanours, highlighted as they were, by the very evidence he submitted to the commission.
Gwede Mantashe’s testimony, which followed that of Mr Manyi and preceded that of Ms Carolus, was crafted to exonerate the ANC from culpability for state capture, despite the overwhelming evidence led thus far at the commission, and that which is in the public domain as a result of the damning Gupta Leaks emails. Like head of presidency, Zizi Kodwa, and that other wannabe spin doctor, ANC spokesperson, Pule Mabe, Mr Mantashe tried to bolster the narrative that “the ANC is not on trial at the state capture commission”. He failed miserably.
Despite a series of court rulings culminating in a Constitutional Court judgment that he had lied under oath, along with the public protector’s finding that he had breached the Executive Ethics Code, Mr Gigaba engaged in a last ditch attempt to sanitise himself on national television, followed shortly thereafter by his resignation from the executive and Parliament. He is gone, but not forgotten, but more important, he is utterly unrepentant.
Bathabile Dlamini, now Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (only the likes of Jacob Zuma could come up with a ministerial portfolio so misbegotten), was found by the Constitutional Court to have lied in her testimony about the SASSA debacle, yet she is utterly unrepentant, insisting she has done no wrong. And she too, remains a member of the executive.
Nomvula “Pick it up” Mokonyane, who oversaw the wholesale destruction of the Department of Water and Sanitation – the department is technically insolvent – was handily moved to the Ministry of Communications when President Cyril Ramaphosa executed his first tentative cabinet reshuffle, and – heaven forbid – ended up at Environmental Affairs in the last “moving the deck chairs on the Titanic” executive shuffle. The well-substantiated allegations that she had a hand in illegally awarding a R2.7 billion tender to a Limpopo engineering firm are the subject of an SIU investigation that seems to have inexplicably stalled.
Disgraced SARS commissioner, Tom Moyane, despite overwhelming damning evidence in the Nugent Commission of Inquiry into SARS, persists in challenging everybody and everything in repeated court actions – most of which he loses – in the facile belief that he is innocent of any wrongdoing.
But perhaps this all flows from alleged thief-in-chief, past president Jacob Zuma, who has steadfastly maintained that he has done nothing wrong, from the original arms deal indictment to the Nkandla disgrace, to the Waterkloof debacle, to the damning evidence at the Zondo commission. He pleads, according the Ngoako Ramatlhodi’s testimony, that all he did was “help the Guptas because they helped my son. What’s wrong with that?”
And the final insult from this man was his protestation outside the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Friday that “The Constitution must protect me like it does everybody else”.
Aside from the fact that constitutional protection does not imply aiding one in avoiding prosecution, Mr Zuma needs to answer a simple question: “Is this the same Constitution that you spat on at every opportunity, throughout your presidency, Mr Zuma? That one?”
His sanctimonious protestations of victimhood and disingenuous insistence of innocence, are enough to make one want to vomit copiously, as is the adulation with which his followers lap up his self-serving distortions of the truth.
Although he is the ultimate Teflon President, Mr Zuma’s efforts to avoid accountability have infected the entire organisation that he has dragged into the slime, with a culture of impunity.
All their protestations to the contrary, every member of the executive, the ANC Parliamentary caucus, and the ANC NEC and NWC, knew exactly what was going down during Mr Zuma’s ruinous nine years in office. None of them deserve a shred of sympathy for allowing him to continue with his grand project of self-enrichment, no matter what their justifications.
For those who swore an oath of office, there is no leeway. They had a constitutional duty to put a stop to Mr Zuma’s pillaging of the public purse, and by ignoring it, they too spat on the Constitution.
The only member of the ANC executive who had the courage to tell all, admit to his indiscretions and then to fall on his sword, is Nhlanhla Nene, which makes him the only person in the ANC with a shred of integrity. He is the only hero of the piece.
The decline which commenced early in Mr Zuma’s rule, will continue, and the slope will get ever steeper and more slippery, until the time comes for the last person who leaves to switch off the lights upon departing. Until our leadership stands accountable and is held accountable, we have no future.
Houston, we really do have a problem.