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
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