Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Another One Bites the Dust

We always knew Public Protector Busisiwe Mkwebane was a Gupta appointee despite her rather pathetic efforts to appear nonpartisan, but finally she has flown her colours out in the open. Of course what I am referring to is her findings released last week regarding Absa and the Reserve Bank. The subject of Mkwebane's investigation was an apartheid era bailout of now Absa-owned Bankorp, but her findings ventured many miles from that mandate.

The core finding is that Absa should pay back the R1.125 billion it benefited from the 1985 bailout of Bankorp. I am all for holding accountable those who have unduly benefited from situations like this, but the shareholders who would be punished today are not the same shareholders who benefited during the apartheid era bailout and takeover. Thus it would be unfair to punish the current shareholders and by now, 3 decades later, it is impossible to track down the actual benefactors, rendering Mkwebane's investigation a waste of time, as the likes of Mbeki, Manuel, Gordhan and Madonsela already knew.

It is not, however, just the wasting of time and resources by our state institutions that we are worried about. The major problem is the capture of yet another chapter 9 institution, especially one so symbolically named the Public Protector. Mkwebane had already revealed her Gupta allegiance by having the office's televisions switched to ANN7 and insinuating that the leaked Gupta emails were fake, but now she is chasing after the first bank that closed the Gupta accounts. Also note that this is in light of a questionable relationship with Gupta-associated, Bell-Pottinger-linked Andile Mngxitama and the Black First Land First movement as well as the fact that Gupta-linked figures have condemned, or even talked publicly about the report, especially the other, more controversial part we are yet to discuss.

Before we get to the climax of this story we need to ask why the public protector is chasing a controversial, almost irrecoverable R1 billion and ignoring the R700 billion stolen by the ANC in the last 20 years. To be short, this simply reeks of favouring special interests.

Finally, we get to the crux of the matter. The public protector has no right to recommend changes to the constitution. Simple as that. Mkwebane completely overstepped the mark when she recommended parliament amend the constitution to change the mandate of the Reserve Bank. First, this is nowhere close to what she was asked to investigate, and second, she would not have the mandate to make the those recommendations even if she was asked. Yet we have these ridiculous findings playing right into the vague, unintepretable radical economic transformation rhetoric, designed purely to draw attention away from state capture.

So in the end, what we have, amongst other things, is another ploy to draw attention away from the Guptas and state capture. But it has, in fact, drawn a whole lot of attention to the capture of yet another state institution, the office of the public protector.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Smoke and Mirrors

South Africa is sitting on a precipice. Not since at least the early 90's, more probably the 1950's have we been so close to falling to a certain doom (noting that in the 50's we did fall.) It seems the ordinary folk of our beloved nation fail to comprehend the precariousness of our position. State capture is far more serious than most believe, in fact, academics have described the related events as a 'soft coup'. We are becoming more and more a dictatorship, a monarchy disguised as a democracy. Yet despite the dire situation we find ourselves in, with a moral-less ruling party, rampant corruption and one family slowly taking control of all our supposedly democratic institutions, far too much of our time, attention and media coverage is devoted to a non-issue: race.

Do not mistake me, I do not refute that this is a sensitive issue, nor seek to undermine the gross injustices of our past, but today's racial issues are but squabbles among siblings compared to the world war of apartheid. Take for example the Helen Zille Twitter row. I can only imagine that great struggle icons like Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu, who fought real racism and oppression, would be turning in their graves to see the reaction of their once great organisation to a couple of vague remarks that at a push could branded insensitive. It is frankly ridiculous that Zille's tweets have received exponentially more attention than situations that are actually going to have a real impact on the lives of ordinary South Africans, like the appointment of Gupta-servant Brian Molefe to parliament, or the Gupta take over of the SABC, or Eskom, or who knows how many other state institutions. It's simply a matter of priorities, and ours are all mixed up.

So why do we harp on about race then? Why does every unsavoury interaction between individuals with racial differences become a racist event? Why are hours of conversation time on 702 and other radio stations devoted to discussing this, the least of our worries as a nation? First, like I said, race is a sensitive topic, so racialised news is sensationalist. It grabs our attention and makes us angry. For some reason we want to be angry. It is an unhealthy fetish. The second reason is far more dangerous and builds on the sensationalism of the first: that is that it is a powerful distraction. It is a powerful distraction for Zuma, while he plunges the country into crisis. It is a powerful distraction for the Guptas whilst they systematically take control of our state institutions. It is a powerful distraction for the ANC while it buys time to find a solution to it's lack of moral leadership. It is a powerful tool in diverting our attention from the real dangers we face as a country.

What is most worrying is that people still buy this narrative, despite it having been exposed, most notably through the Bell Pottinger revelations. It reveals a great flaw in our human nature, that we are more likely to believe what we want to be true than what is actually true. It lays bare our inability to think critically and illustrates the lack of access many have to opposing view points. The crisis we need to solve as a country is not a race crisis. It is an education crisis. It is an unemployment crisis. It is a state-capture crisis. It is a governmental over-reach crisis. And ultimately, it is a freedom crisis.