Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It's a South African Soapie....

But unfortunately, it's for real.....

I am referring to the intruiging (and I use the word very consciously) state of SA politics right now. In fact a political columnist in yesterdays paper, quoting from Wiston Churchill, described it as "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma".

This may be so, but one thing is extremely transparent, and that is the corrupt self serving nature of a frighteningly large percentage of our top politicians and civil 'servants' (a phrase which was clearly not fully explained to them in their job descriptions... they are meant to be serving the public, not themselves!!!)

So.... to the script for our home grown South African Soapie in several rivetting installments!

The players:

  • Jackie Selebi, until yesterday, head of Interpol and our National Police Chief. He was arrested yesterday on charges of corruption, fraud, racketeering and defeating the ends of Justice.

  • Gerrie Nel, a senior official of the Scorpions elite crime fighting unit, who has been leading the investigation into Selebi, but was suddenly arrested by a large group of armed Police last week on graft charges, without the knowledge of the National Prosecuting Authority who usually have to sanction such actions. After Selebi's arrest, he was released because the NPA (to whom the Scorpions report) could find no evidence to charge him. (The Scorpions were set up to investigate fraud and corruption, under the NPA, and are an independent body from the Police, their arch rivals.) But it was noticed that the people getting stung the most were, in fact, our top politicians and Parliamentarians. Since then there have been all sorts of manouevers to get the Scorpions back under the control of the police (in the light of Selebi's activities, and the attempts by the Thabo Mbeki faction of Government ...I still need to explain that.... to protect him, and thus themselves, this makes sense!)

OK, detour: before I get to the other players, I need to explain about Zuma and Mbeki. Gee this script writing is harder than I expected, given the fact that I didn't even have to make any of this stuff up!!!

Our State President is Thabo Mbeki. But the President of the ruling party, the ANC , is his arch rival Jacob Zuma. The ANC leads the country, but Mbeki is still President, got it?

Now Zuma is himself due in court later this year on charges of fraud and corruption. This should not worry him too much as he is familiar with the inside of a court room, having faced rape charges last year. (Did I mention that he was the head of the Moral Re-armament Movement at the time?) And since his supporters have already claimed that the courts will run with blood if he is convicted, it is anyone's guess how that little sub-plot will play out.

Mbeki is being accused of using the courts to get his arch rival Zuma out of the picture so that he can stand for another term in office. This is despite the fact that our constitution only allows for a maximum of 2 terms. Ho hum. Anyway, while using the courts against one's rivals, it is problematic when they are also going after one's friends.

Hence we have our Health Minister, who fast tracked herself for an organ donation last year in order to receive a new liver, but was so drunk while in hospital that she created havok with the other patients, and who, it was revealed at this time, was previously convicted of theft from a hospital in Botswana, but who has been protected by Mbeki and remains in office.

By the way, lest you think this business of having convicted criminals 'people who have been framed' as political buddies is limited to the Mbeki camp, let me hasten to re-assure you that we are an equal opportunity nation, and Jacob Zuma has Tony Yengeni, an ex Parliamentarian who is out on parole for fraud, and Winnie Mandela, convicted of being implicated in the murder of a child, on his new ANC leadership committee, so it is a well balanced juggling act.....in fact references to circus acts seems rather apt here!)

And this brings us back to Selebi, another of Mbeki's cronies, because if ever there was an intricate juggling act, it is the one going on right now in an attempt to protect Selebi from prosecution.

So back to the list of players in our little Soapie....

  • Glenn Agliotti, convicted drug smuggler, who has been charged with the murder of billionaire mining magnate Brett Kebble. He also happens to be a 'close associate' of Jackie Selebi, who has stood by their friendship despite the doubt this cast on him as head of the Police. However, as is the way with such 'friendships', Agliotti was not so loyal, and in exchange for spilling the beans on Selebi, he has been offered a plea bargain on the murder charge.

  • Vusi Pikoli... Director of Public prosecutions, (NPA) who was recently suspended by President Mbeki, the only justification given being "an irretrievable breakdown in relations between Pikoli and the Minister of Justice." Pikoli was leading the investigation against Selebi.

  • Moketedi Mpshe, deputy head of NPA, who replaced the suspended Pikoli. A decision was taken by the NPA on December 16th as to whether or not there was enough evidence to prosecute Selebi, but it was not announced because "The Minister of Justice needs to read the report first."

CUE MUSIC: "the Theme from the Pink Panther".... because from this point the whole Selebi investigation becomes a total farce!!!

  • Brigitte Mbandla, the aforementioned Justice Minister (she of irretrievable breakdown in relations fame, and, you guessed it, a close confidant of Thabo Mbeki!!) Clearly a VERY slow reader, because by the end of the first week in January not a word had been uttered, and South Africa waited with bated breath the hear THE DECISION. Then her spokesperson issued a report, saying that all the NPA had to do was inform her, but she was not responsible for announcing the decision, thus putting the hot potato back in the trembling hands of the NPA's stand-in head.

The Plot:

Well it is hard to know where to start, but for this episode, let's start with the fact that in September, Gerri Nel obtained an arrest warrant for Jackie Selebi, and also a search warrant was obtained on September 14th from the Johannesburg High Court. However, as soon as news of this leaked, Pikoli was fired by Mbeki.

Mpshe took over from him and cancelled the arrest warrant against Selebi, but the deputy judge president who issued the search warrant was not prepared to withdraw it, so Mpshe announced they would not be acting on it. This was obviously turned around between then, and the decision being made on 16th December to go ahead and prosecute Selebi, despite the fact that we had to wait until this week to be informed of the decision.

In the meantime, Jacob Juma was also charged with multiple counts of fraud and corruption, a day or so after he was elected as the new leader of the ANC. Despite being the de-facto leader of the country (the president must take his leadership cues from the ruling party, which actually rules the country) he will be going to court on 14th August. Note that when Juma was under investigation and first charged last year, Mbeki fired him from his post as Deputy president without hesitation. Now that Selebi has been charged, Mbeki has put him on "extended leave" which means that he still holds the position of top cop, and us taxpayers will be paying handsomely for his R&R until he is tried and convicted!

Stay tuned for the next thrilling installment......... I'm amazed that Hollywood hasn't picked up on this, here is a ready made story they could have used during the screen-writer's strike!

And think of the potential for sequels, as it is slowly revealed what Selebi and the Health Minister have on Mbeki which would make him willing to jump through such improbable hoops to protect them, making a complete mockery of the image he has worked so hard to build in the international community.

However, all sarcasm and lightheartedness aside, one has to spare a thought for the thousands who died in this country in the struggle for a free and fair democracy, and wonder what they must be thinking of these leaders who are abusing their hard won positions of power to play their own little political self-enrichment games. It saddens me to think of the sacrifes made by Nelson Mandela and so many others being trampled on in this way!


Jenty said...

I really like the way you've summarised the chaos that has been happening here lately!
It's just getting more and more corrupt and it frustrates me so much!

NatzG said...

Hi! Jenty pointed me to your blog. I am a South African living in the USA and it is great to get news from home, however crazy it is. Keep up the good work.

quin[tarantino] said...

Gosh... are they nuts or trying to destroy the country?

Old Wom Tigley said...

I have a friend who lived there many years and she still calls it home. She gets very upset by this subject.

On a lighter note... as I thought Peter is thrill by your request.. I'm trying to get him to show off some of his dog pictures.. hopefully I'll get him to do a post on them..
All the best to you both

CJ said...

Hey Sue,
Ahhh...Africa! What can I say? From the "Thorn Trees of Thika" to the "Dark Star Safari" (and everything in between) there are somethings that just remain the same. But I agree whole heartedly...what's going to happen when the older statesmen (Mandela et al) are gone and their "voices of reason" with them...

sam said...

hey guys, Glad you enjoyed the soapie, they are a bit addictive so watch out... luckily there is obviously no shortage of twists and turns for future episodes!
Natzg... welcome!

sam said...

Tom, thanks for that, am busy painting sinking ships at the moment (!!!) but I'm sure I'll get to it soon.