Ranjeni Munusamy

How Malema will try to dodge VBS scan­dal

Sunday Times - - Insight - RANJENI MUNUSAMY

On Tues­day, EFF leader Julius Malema will ad­dress a me­dia brief­ing in Johannesburg and tell you what to think. Malema will claim that it was the EFF that de­liv­ered for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter Nh­lanhla Nene’s head on a plat­ter and there­fore con­tin­ues to dic­tate the na­tional agenda. He will not be wrong. The EFF was in­te­grally in­volved in the cam­paign to pres­sure Nene into of­fer­ing his res­ig­na­tion and Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa into ac­cept­ing it.

Nene had no strat­egy what­so­ever to man­age his dis­clo­sures about meet­ing the Gup­tas at their Sax­on­wold home and to ex­plain why he failed to dis­close this un­til now.

It seems that part of the rea­son Nene fell on his sword was to pro­tect his chil­dren from the EFF. This fol­lowed the cir­cu­la­tion of vi­cious sto­ries tar­get­ing the chil­dren — un­re­lated to the al­le­ga­tion that Siyabonga Nene had so­licited fund­ing from the Pub­lic In­vest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (PIC) while his fa­ther chaired the state-owned fund man­ager.

The pres­i­dency was caught off-guard by the sud­den con­tro­versy en­gulf­ing the fi­nance min­is­ter and had no con­trol over the fall­out from his tes­ti­mony.

Ramaphosa was dragged along by the out­rage ma­chin­ery and es­sen­tially al­lowed the EFF to dic­tate what ought to hap­pen. Even though Nene had to go, the pres­i­dent was un­able to seize the mo­ment to de­fine the line on the state cap­ture in­quiry.

Con­sid­er­ing that a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of his cabi­net and se­nior ANC lead­ers had re­la­tion­ships with the Gup­tas, what was the mes­sage stem­ming from Nene’s un­cer­e­mo­ni­ous de­par­ture? Should other peo­ple con­tinue to hide their dirty laun­dry, or should they come for­ward to ad­mit their dal­liances with the Gup­tas and face the axe?

It is pos­si­ble that Ramaphosa did not pro­nounce the line on state cap­ture and has not yet filled the cabi­net va­cancy fol­low­ing the death of en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs min­is­ter Edna Molewa be­cause he has not yet worked out what to do with the duds and com­pro­mised peo­ple in his cabi­net.

Ramaphosa is lucky that for­mer Re­serve Bank gov­er­nor Tito Mboweni yielded to the pres­i­dent’s re­quest to take the fi­nance min­is­ter po­si­tion. Had he stuck to his guns and de­clined, as the other two peo­ple Ramaphosa ap­proached had done, the pres­i­dent might have con­tin­ued to dither.

As with the land is­sue, some­body else is de­ter­min­ing the course of ac­tion, and Ramaphosa is try­ing to play catch-up.

Strangely, even when the EFF has been im­pli­cated in cor­rup­tion, its lead­ers still have the space and abil­ity to ma­nip­u­late pub­lic opin­ion.

The EFF has de­layed re­act­ing to the ex­plo­sive foren­sic re­port into VBS Mu­tual Bank by al­most a week, al­low­ing the out­rage to die down and pres­sure to sub­side.

In truth, the EFF has been pre­par­ing the ground for the ex­po­sure of its links to mas­sive cor­rup­tion at VBS since June. It was ap­par­ent through pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tions that as part of the whole­sale pil­lag­ing of VBS bank, funds had been paid to the EFF and chan­nelled in par­tic­u­lar to its deputy pres­i­dent, Floyd Shivambu. There were also al­le­ga­tions that Shivambu acted as a fa­cil­i­ta­tor of PIC deals, re­ceiv­ing hefty pay­ments for his time.

The EFF went on the of­fen­sive, at­tack­ing peo­ple in the Na­tional Trea­sury, com­men­ta­tors and jour­nal­ists for sug­gest­ing these al­le­ga­tions should be in­ves­ti­gated and that Shivambu should sub­ject him­self to a life­style au­dit.

Malema claimed that these calls em­anated from a “mob” of racists and paid “Strat­com” agents.

For his al­le­ga­tions to be true, a group of politi­cians, govern­ment of­fi­cials, com­men­ta­tors and jour­nal­ists, united in a racist agenda, would have con­cocted the al­le­ga­tions or en­sured pay­ments were made to peo­ple linked to the EFF in or­der to frame the party.

In the ab­sence of ra­tio­nal dis­course and strong lead­er­ship in so­ci­ety to nav­i­gate such ob­fus­ca­tion, it was best to await the re­lease of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­port into what caused the crash of VBS.

The 148-page re­port by ad­vo­cate Terry Mo­tau paints a fright­en­ing pic­ture of col­lab­o­ra­tion to source funds from mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and state-owned com­pa­nies, and laun­der­ing schemes to con­ceal large pay­ments to con­nected in­di­vid­u­als and com­pa­nies.

The EFF ac­knowl­edged Mo­tau’s find­ings in a state­ment and said those in­volved in loot­ing close to R2bn from VBS should be pros­e­cuted and black­listed. Apart from the EFF’s na­tional chair­man Dali Mpofu’s le­gal and bib­li­cal gym­nas­tics to ex­cul­pate Floyd from the pay­ment of R16.1m to his brother, Brian Shivambu, the party has yet to com­ment on the link to its deputy pres­i­dent and state whether it re­ceived pay­ments from VBS.

Malema tweeted this week that his mem­bers should re­main vig­i­lant and fo­cused as “the en­emy is at­tack­ing”. Who would that be ex­actly? Surely the en­emy of the coun­try and the con­stituency the EFF rep­re­sents are the loot­ers, not those who ex­pose them?

At his me­dia brief­ing on Tues­day, Malema will pre­scribe what peo­ple should think about the VBS saga.

Be­cause of the dearth of lead­er­ship, many peo­ple will take his cue and chase af­ter whomever he de­fines as the en­emy. Even though the EFF’s hypocrisy is ex­posed, Malema will con­tinue to dic­tate the na­tional agenda for as long as no­body else does.

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