Opinion

Fuelling SA's racial tensions is the most heinous of the Gupta crimes

02 July 2017 - 00:00

Never in history has a foreign-born family, with no discernible attributes to write home about, arrived in a country with very little except the clothes on their backs, hoodwinked its pliable leader to gut its institutions, and then helped themselves to its riches with nary a care in the world, like the Guptas have.
It is a stunning achievement, so effortless it's worthy of a Nobel prize - if there is such a prize in this category. What's even more remarkable is that most South Africans, except the conniving few, were ignorant of the full extent of the daring heist. We were completely oblivious as the family silver was being spirited away. It's like the whole country has been robbed in the dead of night.
Thuli Madonsela's State of Capture report shocked us, but little did we know that it was the tip of the iceberg. She had smelt blood and was hot on the trail, but time was not on her side.
The release of the Gupta e-mails has revealed a conspiracy so vast it simply takes your breath away. The country and its treasures are in hock to the Guptas. With their fraudulent citizenships firmly in their back pockets, they are masters of all they survey. The stupidity and malleability of our leaders is mind-boggling. They are at the beck and call of the family.It's more than the family silver that has been stolen; we've lost our prestige. Even the most venal of banana republics can be roused into action when their honour is at stake.
But our overriding feeling right now is one of helplessness. Our leaders, sworn to defend and protect the national interest, are not only enabling this despicable deed, they are willing accomplices. It is treasonous. And they're not even remorseful.
How can these people get away with such a straightforward betrayal? How do they sleep at night? But to ask such a question is to concede that they may have a conscience, which is doubtful.
The institutions which should be straining at the leash to sort out the mess have been quietened. The Hawks, with the thuggish Berning Ntlemeza out on his ear, are sitting on their hands. Shaun Abrahams, keen not so long ago to prosecute the finance minister to prove his mettle, has gone awol.
President Jacob Zuma was in parliament last week, and his message to his critics was simple: do your damnedest. Atul Gupta has got him twisting around his little finger. There doesn't appear to be anything particularly smart or clever about the Guptas - Zuma's insatiable need for money seems to be their only competitive advantage. Their genius was to spot it and take full advantage of it. They make money off him and for him. Corruption is a spider's web, though; once ensnared, it's difficult to untangle yourself.
But stealing money and eviscerating our institutions may not be the worst crime that Zuma and the Guptas have committed. Stolen money can always be recovered; suspects can - and should - be brought to book at a later stage. And of course corruption can become a serious blight on society if it's allowed to fester.It is the message that has been used as a cloak to cover up their nefarious deeds that will prove more damaging, and enduring. Essentially the Guptas and Bell Pottinger, their erstwhile PR company, have cynically exploited racial divisions, thus reopening wounds that were beginning to heal.
Phrases such as "white monopoly capital" and "radical economic transformation" are not as innocent as they sound. It's got nothing to do with any desire to help or uplift the black masses, especially not on the part of a family who have shown no love for black people.
These words have a sinister motive. They are deliberately designed to pull the wool over our eyes, to set us up against each other, to incite racial hatred. And so we fight among ourselves as they get on with the business of looting the country. We have fallen for it. Their plan is working. They have poisoned the well.
Radical economic transformation has now become Zuma's staple diet and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, his putative successor, is trying unconvincingly to parrot it. It will be chanted ad nauseam at the ANC policy conference, and will litter all policy statements.
Nobody is able to explain what it is and how it differs from corrective policies that have been pursued since 1994. These are blunt instruments aimed at putting people on edge, and could ultimately destabilise the economy.
This country has made great strides, but still has a long way to go to create a more inclusive and prosperous society. It should not allow itself to be misled by foreigners who have no clue or appreciation of the sacrifices that have been made to get us this far.

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