The Minister of Finance, unlikely hero and protector of the public purse, has slipped precipitously in public affections as he apologised for visiting the Guptas while Deputy Minister and his son appeared to be at the centre of a scandal at the PIC, the institution for which the Deputy Minister of Finance is responsible – here’s the not bad but turgid M&G on the son’s story and the sneering rejections of the apology from a Sunday Times contributor here.
So what we have here is THE hero of the fight against Zuma, the nuclear programme and the pillaging of SAA who was smashed out of the way by Zuma so he (Zuma) could get his hand on the national coffers. The rumpled guard who stood his lonely duty against impossible odds is now grist for the mill of the self-righteous press and the inane twittering of social media. For crimes and misdemeanors he may – or may not – have committed well before he took his vorpal sword in hand and did some snicker-snack, but not enough to kill the beast, he must be sent, besmirched, unworthy, into the outer darkness.
He’s a good metaphor if nothing else. Be careful of questions you ask, because the truth might not be what you want to hear.
We have set up the Zondo and Nugent commissions that will (hopefully) dig and dig until the slaughtered bodies and tortured truths of the Zuma pillage are dragged into the harsh light. I expect many heroes to be exposed to have old blood on their hands.
Zuma’s campaign with the Gupta’s was not the first attempt at state capture, only the best organised and most ambitious. From Sarafina II to the Strategic Defense Package the clay-footed heroes of our revolution are waiting in their serried ranks to be exposed. (Read Anthony Butler’s interesting piece, The Treasury has always been embattled, its ministers always horse traders.)
It looks like Zondo and Nugent will actually do their jobs, unlike the execrable Sereti, either a bumbler or a crook, and that means we have chosen a path entirely unlike the Sereti cover-up.
The Hawks and SAPS will have to follow the evidence. The wrongdoers will have to be punished.
If I had to guess I would say there were very, very few central leaders of the ANC who have not, at least, lifted a finger to help a friend or family member. And even if they are the best of the lot, they too face the inexorable processes that have been begun and will endlessly unwind the complex webs until the many secrets unravel and are visible gossamer in the wind.
Well good luck with that. It’s not as if there is a generation of ANC – or any other political party – leaders waiting in the wings, technocrats and professionals, to fill the hole that will be left in our political and administrative leadership.
If Nene is the standard for the kind of traitor the bright and clever twitterati believes should resign and be punished for his crimes – and they are right, the law says so, the constitution says so, nobody is above judgement and they are all, all honourable tweeters – then we might have a small human resources problem.
In the real world government, the ANC, the legislature, the executive and the judiciary – as well as the 4th, 5th, and 700th estate (which is about where social media lives) will have to find a way to draw a line, either in time of offence or quality of offense. Below the line you get a slap on the wrist, above the line you face fines, prison and banishment from public work. Without such a line – one that might be impossible to draw – the smallanyana skeletons will make everyone ineligible for office of any kind.
I don’t know how to solve this problem. My instincts are to make a “political solution”, which means my instincts are to sacrifice principle for workability. But I don’t know if that might do irreparable damage to our constitutional democracy. It’s either the iron law or its negotiable, I don’t know which is worse.
Nene reminds me of Boromir of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. He’s a great warrior of Gondor, valiant and steadfast, but already corrupted by his temptation to use the One Ring in the war against Sauron and, unforgivably, guilty of trying to wrest it from Frodo. But now he stands facing the Uruk-hai, the sort of Orc spetsnaz. He dies as the hero he was, sprouting thick orc arrows and the bodies of the dead around him as he gives his friends a chance to escape.
Both Nene and Gordhan are plumpish and don’t really fit the image of swords and sorcery heroes gallantly protecting the public coffers from the Zuma Orcs sent in waves against them. But they stood fast and are standing still. South Africa will remember them in myth and song, fractured heroes who held the fragile line.