Of VBS and the EFF, old white guys and the ANC
This time, in this scandal, let’s do something different. All of us. Together. Let’s not rush into judgment. Yes, a devastating report into the robbery of VBS Mutual Bank in Limpopo shows that it transferred R16.1m to Brian Shivambu, brother of Floyd, deputy leader of the EFF. My initial response in a column was to assume this would be party financing, as parties of the Left always struggle for funds.
But I take it back. What if I was wrong? What if there’s a perfectly innocent explanation for a guy who left university just last year securing R16.1m from a bank? It is a stretch, I know. It sounds dodgy as hell but the VBS bank robbery has been so graphically spelt out by its author, advocate Terry Motau, that even the SAPS should be able to spot the crimes and write up the charges. There’ll be a queue of people to help them if they need explanations.
Still, the Shivambu thing nags at me. Thursday was the worst day for the EFF in years. The normally impeccable Dali Mpofu fluffed his lines so badly at one stage that he tweeted, in response to a friendly inquiry about whether Floyd could be charged for his brother's crimes: “Ja! In the Ignorant Republic of the Mob [the ‘mob’ being EFF critics] you can be charged for the deeds of your relatives …”
To which someone, brilliantly, replied to the normally silver-tongued advocate: “But you support the State penalising people whose relatives stole the land …”
When I stopped laughing I reminded myself of my new resolve not to judge. It’s not that easy, but there’s a line in a John le Carré novel that I’ve never forgotten because it is so often true: “When you are accused of monstrous things, nothing sounds so feeble as the truth.”
I will wait and watch for more truth. I hope we all will. The VBS report will form the basis of a Hawks investigation. It will shape what they do. It is a new and easy case and the new Hawks management, eager for a victory, will leap upon it with vigour.
Julius Malema was missing in action when the EFF were taking a hammering on Thursday but he’s called a press conference for Tuesday, so expect something dramatic from him. He has to restore rattled confidence in the party and he has to do it quickly.
He knows the EFF is close to making a real breakthrough in next year’s elections but that our politics are fragile. He wants to double the EFF’s last general election outing of just over 6%. To get just over 12% he needs more than one million new votes. It’s a big stretch and VBS is an unexpected clear and present danger to that.
How he handles the next few weeks will also, strangely, affect the way I’m beginning to detect a lot of voters in my demographic (white, male 55plus) are thinking. There are quite a lot of us. We hang out in bars, are bewildered by almost anyone under 40, can’t finish articles about replacing gross domestic product as a measure of growth and we aren’t leaving the country. We like Rassie Erasmus and are blown away by Aphiwe Dyantyi, even though we have to google his name to spell it. It’s nice here and our kids are big enough to look after themselves.
But we do worry about the EFF. That’s not unreasonable given the blood-curdling racial rhetoric. I’ve had quite a few guys my age say to me in just the past few weeks that they’re going to break the habit of a lifetime next election and vote ANC. The way they see it, the DA is not making headway but the EFF is.
What they don’t want is the EFF dragging the ANC vote below 50% and then being able to dictate from the sidelines, as is their method now in some metros where the DA struggles in minority government with the EFF’s constantly conditional and prickly support.
It leads to the quite remarkable situation in which, as Cyril Ramaphosa pushes for the expropriation of land without compensation, a growing number of whites see voting for him as the only way of avoiding something worse, which would be the EFF nationalising the land. The DA would get their provincial votes.
That’s why the VBS scandal is so important. If Julius cannot get the EFF out of the corner it is in and goes into the 2019 election visibly damaged, those wavering white voters might relax and stick with the DA. But my gut feeling is that, this time, they’ll play safe and go with Cyril anyway. Who’re we playing in November, boys?