What a lot of bull, Bule­lani

Fe­rial Haf­fa­jee

CityPress - - Voices -

Gosh, I can’t re­mem­ber the last time I read such a piece of bom­bas­tic bull. Writ­ten in the high­fa­lutin jar­gon of a le­gal mem­o­ran­dum, it failed mis­er­ably. This is the let­ter by for­mer na­tional di­rec­tor of pub­lic pros­e­cu­tions Bule­lani Ngcuka, writ­ten last week after the re­lease of the tran­scripts of taped in­tel­li­gence con­ver­sa­tions that got Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma off the cor­rup­tion hook. They are called the “spy tapes” and Ngcuka is a key character in the script.

He re­sponded last week in a three-page, 16-point let­ter crit­i­cis­ing his suc­ces­sor, Mokotedi Mpshe, for drop­ping the charges.

Mpshe was ei­ther lily-liv­ered or am­bi­tious (he has sub­se­quently been gifted with an act­ing po­si­tion on the Bench) and our pres­i­dent should have faced the charges, but Ngcuka’s be­hav­iour was atro­cious.

Al­ready out of state ser­vice, he par­layed his po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence with the elite of the day to at­tempt to cor­rupt the in­ves­tiga­tive and pros­e­cu­to­rial ser­vice of the in­sti­tu­tion he had been priv­i­leged to pre­vi­ously lead. He did so by at­tempt­ing to rule from the grave and di­rect the course of the cor­rup­tion case.

By the time the tapes were recorded, he was three years out of ser­vice and was part of a po­lit­i­cal corps as­sem­bled to keep then pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki in po­lit­i­cal power. ANC deputy pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma was fight­ing a win­ning bat­tle and to­wards the end of 2007, when the tapes were recorded, the fat lady was singing Umshini wami.

Ngcuka was thus en­gaged in a cor­rupt­ing ex­er­cise by at­tempt­ing to sway the di­rec­tion and tim­ing of a pros­e­cu­tion that was re­ally none of his business.

The tran­scripts put him left and cen­tre in the de­lib­er­a­tions of for­mer Scor­pi­ons boss Leonard McCarthy who had to make the case.

Now Ngcuka comes snort­ing in like a big bull to lam­bast the hap­less Mpshe in a hubris­tic goring.

As far as I can see, his de­fence is a highly tech­ni­cal one. Ngcuka says he and McCarthy’s par­ti­san dis­cus­sions to pro­tect Mbeki were recorded after the decision to pros­e­cute had been made and there­fore did not mat­ter.

His sec­ond point is that noth­ing has hap­pened to in­tel­li­gence agent Arthur Fraser, who handed the state in­ter­cepts to Pres­i­dent Zuma’s lawyer, Michael Hul­ley.

It all hap­pened so long ago and so much wa­ter has flowed un­der the bridge that the cor­rup­tion at the heart of the tapes – a bribe of­fer and al­leged re­ceipt of R500 000 a year – is small by our cur­rent gi­gan­tism. (For ex­am­ple, this week I found my­self de­bat­ing with a col­league whether a loss of R1 bil­lion in another in­stance of loot­ing was “that” big.)

But that mo­ment is im­por­tant be­cause we track it as the time of the loss of our in­no­cence.

The re­view of the drop­ping of the cor­rup­tion charges must go ahead if we are to find our path to a common good again.

But Ngcuka should not kid him­self and be­lieve his slate is clean – his legacy as anti-cor­rup­tion slayer is not in­tact. He and McCarthy hold a great re­spon­si­bil­ity for the taint­ing of pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions, no­tably the prose­cut­ing ser­vice.

By fail­ing to build a non­par­ti­san and in­de­pen­dent in­sti­tu­tion as the in­au­gu­ral demo­cratic cadreship, we now suf­fer.

The Na­tional Prose­cut­ing Au­thor­ity has never re­cov­ered and the Scor­pi­ons are dead.

For Ngcuka to fail to see his role in this is a great ab­ro­ga­tion of lead­er­ship.

To un­der­stand how a de­ployed cadre can do the true work of democ­racy with­out fear, favour or prej­u­dice, look at Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela. Of ANC stock, she pro­vides the tem­plate of how to serve a sin­gle master – our Con­sti­tu­tion. Ngcuka may try to in­sin­u­ate him­self into this company, but he can­not.

McCarthy ap­pears to have gone to ground. The vice-pres­i­dent for in­tegrity at the World Bank has not re­sponded to sev­eral re­quests for in­ter­views. He was taped talk­ing about City Press and about my time as ed­i­tor of the Mail & Guardian. I would re­ally like to talk to him, but in­tegrity is a com­mod­ity in short sup­ply, so per­haps he is busy.

In the pe­riod just be­fore the in­ter­cepts, tal­ented Mail & Guardian writer Vicki Robin­son called the vic­tory of then ANC deputy pres­i­dent Zuma over then pres­i­dent Mbeki six months be­fore it hap­pened in Polok­wane.

She was able to do so be­cause a key labour law amend­ment spon­sored by Mbeki failed at nu­mer­ous provin­cial con­gresses.

We read the writ­ing on the wall by watch­ing for the small losses that in­di­cated a big loss.

I’m won­der­ing what the writ­ing on the wall will be this time round. Will it be Nkandla? The gov­ern­ing ANC is un­able to put a cork in the scan­dal de­spite its best ef­forts. Or will it be e-tolls? The big­gest party bosses and the most per­sua­sive ar­gu­ments are un­able to stem the in­ter­nal ANC op­po­si­tion to them.

Watch the writ­ing – it will be clar­i­fy­ing.

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