'Mbete channelled her inner Moses'

Many believed that porkers would fly before the speaker allowed a secret ballot

08 August 2017 - 06:00
Baleka Mbete
Baleka Mbete
Image: Esa Alexander

"You don't wish to be me," Baleka Mbete told the Sunday Times. She's right. I don't want to be Baleka Mbete. Because right now, the speaker of parliament is desperately draping plastic sheeting all over her ministerial home, trying to save it from the muddy hoof-prints of the miniature water buffalo she's just been sent by Cyril Ramaphosa.

Nobody saw this coming. I'd already filed an earlier version of this column, based entirely on the decision we all knew she would make: a public vote; the party closing ranks; the Zupta zombies marching in lockstep further down the sewer of infamy.

And then she went and channelled her inner Moses and cried out: "Let my people go!" and now nobody knows anything.

Well, perhaps we know three things.

The first is that the puppet presidency of the Gupta plaything is wobbling like a crème caramel in a typhoon.

Secondly, the ANC has just gone from an outright loss in 2019 to somewhere near a narrow win.

And thirdly, if you go to your window right now, you will see millions of pigs sprouting wings and taking to the skies in huge, oinking squadrons. At least I'm pretty sure they are: when the ANC allows its leaders to vote according to their consciences rather than their criminal affiliations, we've crossed the loony Rubicon and pretty much anything seems possible.

The puppet presidency of the Gupta plaything is wobbling like a crème caramel in a typhoon.

This is a moment full of exciting potential. If the Zuptas are ejected from power sooner rather than later, it will allow us an opportunity to rid ourselves of a thieving band of thugs and replace them with a dithering band of invertebrates whose only distinguishing feature is that it allowed the country to be stolen under its watch and only acted when it was in danger of losing its pension. (Yes, I know Cyril the Human Ball-Gag would be a much better option than Team Zupta right now, but it's also worth remembering at this emotional moment that the enemy of your enemy is almost never your friend.)

So how did we get here? What was Mbete offered? Because, with all due respect to the office of the speaker, you don't spend a decade being nothing but a crutch holding up a rotting cadaver and then one day just say: "Ah screw it" and wander off in search of the soul you sold years ago.

I hope Ramaphosa sent Mbete the tiny water buffalo I've imagined above. I would love to see her riding it into parliament one day, a stately caravan of one making its way up the red carpet. But if it required more than that to sway her, what was it? The promise of a deputy presidency? The possibility of real power for more than just the 30 days she will have in charge should the motion of no confidence succeed?

Of course, there's still a way to go, because a lot of people still have their heads lodged in their butts.

On Friday, a dyspeptic little press release appeared on Facebook, shared by an ANC member of the Western Cape legislature and titled, all in caps: "WE CANNOT VOTE IN FAVOUR OF A MOTION TO COLLAPSE GOVERNMENT."

It was a pretty funny thing for an ANC stalwart to say, given that everyone who has ever voted for the Zuma ANC has voted in favour of a motion to collapse government.

But it also revealed, yet again, the delusion we still maintain in this country: the fantasy that the Zuma administration is a political entity rather than the Southern African office of a Dubai-based company that specialises in wealth extraction.

Millions of South Africans believe that today's vote is a choice between bad government and better government. This is simply not true. It is a choice between bad government and no government. We currently have no government. Bad government would be progress.

"It's a difficult place to be," Mbete told the Sunday Times. "It's what the Sotho people call kgomo ya moshate" - damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Damned either way is a fair verdict.

Anyone who has enabled the Zuptas, even if they've now changed their mind, has damned our already broken country to decades of further wretchedness. And we see them, scrambling over their piles of our money; and we damn them.