South Africans are not nearly as stupid as this sorry trio think we are

18 March 2018 - 00:00
Dudu Myeni claimed to be sick without explaining her ailment, and then threw a tantrum because committee members were sceptical about her alibi.
Dudu Myeni claimed to be sick without explaining her ailment, and then threw a tantrum because committee members were sceptical about her alibi.

I once asked a former minister who had been caught telling a very tall tale how he thought he would get away with it. "Never underestimate how many stupid people there are in the world," he responded cockily.

I am always reminded of this when I watch people in leadership positions thumb their noses at processes attempting to hold them accountable. They come up with outrageous excuses for their conduct, including claiming to be misled by officials, feigning ignorance or blatantly lying.

They seem to have enduring confidence in other people's foolishness or tolerance for nonsense.

Former SAA board chairwoman Dudu Myeni adopted the excuse schoolchildren use to dodge tests to avoid answering questions before parliament's portfolio committee on public enterprises. She claimed to be sick without explaining her ailment, and then threw a tantrum because committee members were sceptical about her alibi.

In a letter to the committee, she said: "I feel I am discriminated against for reasons I would not comprehend. I feel I am treated like a criminal, which would thus be a violation of my own freedom. Is this done to all South African citizens; that if they are not well, they have no dignity?"

Myeni, who has not yet produced a medical certificate, has previously snubbed the committee via WhatsApp, saying her lawyer required more time to consider the legalities of her attending the inquiry.

Myeni essentially believes she does not owe anybody an explanation for turning the national carrier into a cooked goose and being a central player in the state capture machinery.

Another person who continually displays public disdain is South African Revenue Service commissioner Tom Moyane, who turned one of the most credible institutions in the country into an enabling instrument for corruption networks.

It is laughable how Moyane feels aggrieved by criticism about SARS's underperformance in its key function of revenue collection when he is never able to provide straight answers on anything, including the shortfall.

Moyane also appears to be at a loss for words when he has to explain sloppy tax enforcement and why the criminal underworld is thriving on his watch.

It seems that his fiefdom is now unravelling as his deputy, Jonas Makwakwa, who Moyane went to great lengths to protect, resigned in the face of evidence of tax evasion and suspicious deposits into his personal account.

At a media briefing this week, Moyane tried to convince South Africans that Makwakwa resigned for "personal reasons".

"He regards this as being an opportune moment for him to exit SARS after being cleared of all the allegations of misconduct through a formal disciplinary hearing, and after making the investigation report into allegations of impropriety against him and his personal tax information available to parliament for scrutiny and for public accountability," said Moyane.

In the same breath, he said he had intended to suspend Makwakwa for irregularly participating in a tender adjudication process. "As I understand the allegations, Mr Makwakwa was conflicted as he failed to declare a potential conflict of interest, acted dishonestly, failed to act fairly and failed to recuse himself from the adjudication as the circumstances duly required," Moyane said.

When he put this to Makwakwa, he denied the allegations and informed him that he had decided to resign, Moyane said.

"Due to the resignation being effective immediately, it serves no purpose to proceed with this matter from an employment relations perspective," said Moyane.

He must genuinely believe South Africans are stupid.

On Friday Moyane was hit by a new scandal when the Daily Maverick reported that he had caused an illegal VAT payment of R70-million to be made to the Guptas. The report said that Moyane had forced SARS officials to contravene tax laws by making three VAT refund payments to the Guptas through a third party.

Moyane says he exercised his discretion to authorise the payment to Oakbay through a third party because the banks had cut ties with the company. He apparently believes this is a plausible explanation for the commissioner of SARS flouting South Africa's tax laws.

Another pathetic figure in the public eye this week was Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, who, after also feigning illness, appeared before the public enterprises portfolio committee to explain how he came to install Gupta appointees in key positions in state-owned companies. He claimed to have not known that theywere linked to the family and regretted "any role I inadvertently played" in appointing board members who "abused" their position.

"It has been disheartening and shocking for me to witness some of the appointments that I made years ago, and which were hailed publicly as positive appointments for government, now being impugned."

Gigaba must believe that admitting to being bad at his job and fooled into making appointments makes him look better than owning up to collusion in state capture would.

The parade of people who continue to disrespect the people they serve, as well as those who fail to act against them, need to know that South Africans are not as idiotic as they assume we are.

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