Opinion

Pauw book-launch blackout is an apt metaphor for the ignorance Zuma would like to keep us in

12 November 2017 - 00:09

For some time I believed that a minister and a national police commissioner trying to convince South Africans that a swimming pool was actually a fire-fighting mechanism was the most ridiculous thing that could happen in our country.
I was wrong.
The "fire-pool" pales into insignificance when you consider that Jacob Zuma might simultaneously have been our president and a glorified security guard, being paid a million rand a month by a security company owned by shady Durban businessman Roy Moodley.This week, an entertainer called Skolopad wore a dress made of boerewors and we learnt that the entire national budget is being revised to introduce free education, without it actually being adopted as policy.
"Ridiculous" is now a tiny spot in the rear-view mirror as we hurtle towards the ANC's 54th elective conference and brace for whatever convulsing monster the organisation will turn into at the Nasrec events centre in mid-December.
When the electricity went out at the Hyde Park shopping centre at the launch of Jacques Pauw's book The President's Keepers on Wednesday, I could not help but think that this was a metaphor of sorts for the political moment we are in.
The centre plunged into darkness as Pauw was delving into the activities of a parallel intelligence network and its possible involvement in break-ins at a number of state facilities, including the office of the chief justice and the NPA.There could be an innocent explanation for the blackout, or perhaps the event was sabotaged.
Negotiating through the darkness among hundreds of people who were unsure of what was happening was not as difficult as you would imagine. It is what we have been doing for years.
But this year has been a momentous period for journalists and storytellers as we tried to shine light on the dark places of the state and the ANC, where skulduggery has thrived and perversion of the law was plotted.
There was a deliberate effort to deceive people and keep them ignorant of the nexus between a corrupt underworld and high-ranking people in the state.
Just like the Gupta leaks, Pauw's book has unleashed panic among those who thought they had got away with swindling the country.Reportage on the Gupta e-mails has shone the spotlight on how multibillion-rand government contracts were manipulated and how state-owned enterprises such as Eskom and Transnet were milked by Gupta-linked intermediaries.
It has also exposed the collusion of multinational companies such as KPMG, McKinsey and SAP in the Guptas' nefarious activities, and seen the spectacular collapse of British PR agency Bell Pottinger, which played a key role in plotting the deception.
The fallout from Pauw's book will be similarly extensive, which is why the State Security Agency and the South African Revenue Service are tripping over themselves trying to put the genie back in the bottle. In doing so, they are attempting to trample on the constitutional imperatives of government transparency, the right to know and freedom of expression, by invoking legislation relating to national security and the leak of taxpayer information.Whatever ham-fisted methods they might employ to suppress the book are bound to backfire, as they have already.
The book is a runaway success and information from it is being disseminated through various means, including social media.
Zuma laughed off the damning allegations against him and his clique when he was questioned about the book in the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces.
As with all the scandals that have haunted his presidency, including Nkandla, the social grants fiasco and state capture, Zuma's default position is to insult ordinary people's intelligence and pretend these have nothing to do with him. It is too much to expect that Zuma will suddenly realise the game is up and admit his misdeeds. Whatever happens next politically, Zuma will remain unrepentant and contemptuous of the people he vowed to serve.
But this is also an indictment of the ANC, which has managed to keep silent on the latest round of allegations against its leader. Even the ANC's presidential candidates, who belatedly discovered their backbones to condemn state capture, have not spoken out on the stunning revelations about the SSA and SARS.
A few years ago a friend who is a business consultant in London began laughing uproariously as he read that former state security minister Siyabonga Cwele had "no comment" on the conviction of his wife for drug trafficking. "Do you people realise that this is not an acceptable response?" he asked. "A government minister, especially one charged with intelligence, cannot have no comment, let alone merrily remain in his job."

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