FOL­LOW THE MONEY

Why Shivambu and the EFF sprang to the de­fence of VBS bank and why Trump wants to prop up the Saudi regime

Financial Mail - - AT HOME & ABROAD - @jus­tice­malala

Isee it’s open sea­son on pub­lic en­ter­prises min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han. Again. When is it never open sea­son on Gord­han, I won­der? He is a bit like Thuli Madon­sela when she was in the pub­lic pro­tec­tor’s chair. She was al­ways un­der at­tack. When was the only time she wasn’t be­ing called names? When is the only time Gord­han isn’t be­ing called names? Oh, I know: when no-one is steal­ing money.

So right now there is a whole lot of squeal­ing and yelp­ing and schaden­freude about Gord­han. EFF deputy pres­i­dent Floyd Shivambu stayed up all night last week­end and graced us with a very long es­say (he called it a polemic to sound like he had con­cen­trated dur­ing univer­sity lec­tures). It was about how Gord­han is the Machi­avel­lian force be­hind Shivambu’s brother re­ceiv­ing R16m from the scan­dal-racked VBS Mu­tual Bank — and pass­ing some of that moolah on to po­lit­i­cally con­nected broth­ers and other rel­a­tives and to cer­tain po­lit­i­cal par­ties as well.

The ques­tion Shivambu is not an­swer­ing is this: did you re­ceive money (in your per­sonal ac­count, or oth­ers with which you are as­so­ci­ated) from your brother who, just a sec­ond af­ter leav­ing ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion, could charge R16m to con­sult for a bank for a year? Or bet­ter still: com­rade, is your brother your bag man the way Duduzane Zuma is the bag man of his fa­ther, for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma? Be­cause what we know is clear: Shivambu and the EFF were vo­cal in de­fend­ing VBS as it was looted.

Why? Let’s for­get spades and call a bribe a bribe: in time we will get to learn that money that flowed to ANC politi­cians and the Venda roy­als also flowed to the EFF.

We know this be­cause ev­ery­where in the world politi­cians who stand on soap­boxes bang­ing on about “the peo­ple” are all about them­selves. We have seen them all over: Shivambu’s he­roes in Venezuela, for ex­am­ple. We also see it in US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Many have won­dered why the pres­i­dent of the US has been so ea­ger to prop up the Saudi regime even af­ter it con­fessed to send­ing a 15-mem­ber team of agents — armed with a bone saw among other weapons — to mur­der jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi in broad day­light. The an­swer is right be­fore us. Fol­low the money.

Last week, just as Trump’s sec­re­tary of state, Mike Pom­peo, sat down with Saudi lead­ers, the Saudis made good on a pledge made long ago of $100m to help US aid ef­forts in Syr­ian ar­eas. They de­posited the cash into US ac­counts. That shows you that the Saudis know the price of a politi­cian.

As The Wash­ing­ton Post has re­ported, there is more to Trump’s sup­port for the Saudis than al­tru­ism: “Trump’s busi­ness re­la­tion­ships with the Saudi govern­ment — and rich Saudi busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives — go back to at least the 1990s. In Trump’s hard times, a Saudi prince bought a su­per-yacht and ho­tel from him. The Saudi govern­ment paid him $4.5m for an apart­ment near the UN.

“Busi­ness from Saudi-con­nected cus­tomers con­tin­ued to be im­por­tant af­ter Trump won the pres­i­dency. Saudi lob­by­ists spent $270,000 last year to re­serve rooms at Trump’s ho­tel in Wash­ing­ton. Just this year, Trump’s ho­tels in New York and Chicago re­ported sig­nif­i­cant upticks in book­ings from Saudi vis­i­tors.”

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kush­ner, is the best for­eign friend of Saudi strong­man Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man. Trump’s first for­eign trip af­ter be­ing elected was to Saudi Ara­bia. Last week, even with the over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence that Khashoggi had been mur­dered, Trump still re­buked an As­so­ci­ated Press re­porter about the killing, say­ing: “Here we go again with ‘you’re guilty un­til proven in­no­cent’.” Why? Again: fol­low the money. First, the Saudis have pledged to buy arms worth $110bn from the US. Plus, there’s Trump’s own fi­nan­cial en­tan­gle­ments.

And so per­haps the truest thing that Trump has said about Saudi Ara­bia was back in 2015, when he told a rally in Alabama: “Saudi Ara­bia, I get along with all of them. They buy apart­ments from me. They spend $40m, $50m ... Am I sup­posed to dis­like them? I like them very much.”

Politi­cians who stand on soap­boxes bang­ing on about ‘the peo­ple’ are all about them­selves

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