Se­rial wrong­do­ers get way with it

Mail & Guardian - - Comment & Analysis -

An of­ten cited def­i­ni­tion of insanity, pop­u­larly but wrongly at­trib­uted to Al­bert Ein­stein, is do­ing the same thing over and over and ex­pect­ing a dif­fer­ent re­sult. In the ex­am­ples of for­mer deputy higher ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter Mduduzi Manana and ANC spokesper­son Pule Mabe, we have two peo­ple who con­tinue to do the same things but ex­pect some­thing dif­fer­ent to hap­pen, namely, not to get caught.

In the Mail & Guardian this week, we re­port that Mabe has been fin­gered as be­ing at the cen­tre of what ap­pears to be a highly ir­reg­u­lar ten­der from a paras­tatal as­so­ci­ated with the North West gov­ern­ment. The rushed pay­ment was so pe­cu­liar that the board of the paras­tatal is now em­bark­ing on its own “pay back the money” campaign.

This is not the first time Mabe has been in this kind of trou­ble.

His com­pany, KG Me­dia, made head­lines in 2015 when it was im­pli­cated in wrong­do­ing in the pub­lic pro­tec­tor’s re­port on the Pas­sen­ger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa). KG Me­dia was found to have “im­prop­erly” re­ceived a com­mu­ni­ca­tion con­tract worth R33-mil­lion from Prasa with­out cor­rect ten­der pro­cesses be­ing fol­lowed. Even­tu­ally a parliamentary com­mit­tee re­port­edly rec­om­mended that Mabe be fined for ben­e­fit­ing from a con­tract with the state-owned en­ter­prise.

So Mabe has been rep­ri­manded for this sort of thing be­fore.

We’re not even con­sid­er­ing the time when Mabe was ar­rested amid al­le­ga­tions that he dished out wel­fare money to his buddies and also used it to re­pay his credit card debt. He was ac­quit­ted by a court.

But there’s clearly a prob­lem.

Although Mabe, a for­mer MP — a pub­licly elected rep­re­sen­ta­tive — protests his in­no­cence, any pre­vi­ous at­tempt to en­sure that he did not use his po­si­tion to do busi­ness with the state has failed to pre­vent a re­cur­rence of some­thing sim­i­lar.

Then there’s the case of Manana.

Early this week it emerged he was fac­ing fresh charges of as­sault brought against him by his for­mer house­keeper. It was al­leged that he pushed his 53-year-old do­mes­tic worker, Chris­tine Wiro, down the stairs of his home. The charges were later with­drawn.

This fol­lowed on from an in­ci­dent in Septem­ber last year when Manana was con­victed on three counts of as­sault with in­tent to do griev­ous bod­ily harm, to which he pleaded guilty. The in­ci­dent in­volved the as­sault on three women at Cubana, a night­club in Four­ways, Jo­han­nes­burg, on Au­gust 6 2017, which was filmed and sparked a na­tional outcry.

In a dis­play of ac­count­abil­ity that sur­prised many of us, Manana was forced to re­sign from his min­is­te­rial po­si­tion. But he re­tained his seat in Par­lia­ment and was also elected to the ANC’s na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee in De­cem­ber.

Re­gard­ing the most re­cent in­ci­dent, record­ings emerged of Manana rather gen­er­ously of­fer­ing the fam­ily of his house­keeper R100 000 if they dropped the charges against him.

As with Mabe, it ap­pears the ex­ist­ing reper­cus­sions for wrong­do­ing by pub­lic of­fi­cials do not pre­vent it from hap­pen­ing again.

We need bet­ter checks on power.

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