Sunday Times

The ‘reg­u­lar South Africans’ who acted like he­roes when it counted

- South Africa Politics · South Africa News · African Politics · Politics · Thuli Madonsela · Gupta family · Jacob Zuma · Thabo Mbeki · Dubai · United Arab Emirates · Persian Gulf · Ted Nugent · Nhlanhla Nene · David van Rooyen · Stan · Truth and Reconciliation Commission · Michael Masutha

Na­tional he­roes have been in short sup­ply lately as SA’s rep­u­ta­tion swirls around the global plug­hole. Thuli Madon­sela springs to mind, as do a few mem­bers of the ju­di­ciary and a hand­ful of politi­cians who have put the na­tional in­ter­est ahead of their stom­achs. But tes­ti­mony this week at the state cap­ture com­mis­sion gave us two new names for the roll of hon­our: Stan and John. In an age when death threats and text mes­sages con­tain­ing pho­tographs of guns are the com­mon cur­rency of pol­i­tics, we may never know the men’s real names or have the op­por­tu­nity to hon­our them for what they did to save SA from the sewer. But on be­half of mil­lions of hon­est, de­cent cit­i­zens, we can at least thank them for be­ing the source of the Gupta e-mails, which have now been tabled as ev­i­dence be­fore the com­mis­sion chair­man, deputy chief jus­tice Ray­mond Zondo.

Stan and John have emerged only once from self-im­posed ex­ile, their ap­pear­ances, sur­round­ings and voices heav­ily dis­guised dur­ing a video in­ter­view six weeks ago with in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Ste­faans Brüm­mer. De­scrib­ing them­selves as “just reg­u­lar South Africans”, they said they were in pos­ses­sion of the leaked e-mails for a lengthy pe­riod be­fore de­cid­ing to re­lease them to jour­nal­ists.

Stan said watch­ing Ja­cob Zuma chortling in par­lia­ment — he imi­tated the ex­pres­i­dent’s char­ac­ter­is­tic “he-he-he” laugh — helped to seal their re­solve. “I thought to my­self‚ ‘Peo­ple must see what is be­hind this laugh­ter‚’” he said. The men fled the coun­try with their fam­i­lies when the e-mails emerged. “Yes‚ peo­ple like the Gup­tas do­ing harm to us has been fore­most in our think­ing‚” said Stan. “We were very scared.”

Two other names worth men­tion­ing are those of ad­vo­cate Brian Cur­rin, who was put in touch with Stan by a friend, and civil rights ac­tivist Mark Hey­wood, who kept the hard drive safe while he and oth­ers in a small cir­cle of trust de­cided what to do with its ex­plo­sive con­tents.

Cur­rin had dealt with whistle­blow­ers dur­ing the apartheid era and helped to set up the Truth and

Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion. As co-founder of the

Treat­ment Ac­tion Cam­paign, Hey­wood chal­lenged the

Aids de­nial­ism of then-pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki and helped to se­cure the mass roll­out of an­tiretro­vi­rals.

Zondo’s de­ci­sion on Fri­day to re­ceive into ev­i­dence 200‚000 e-mails ex­changed by Gupta fam­ily mem­bers and their as­so­ci­ates means the ac­tions of Stan and John can move be­yond the head­lines into the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. The Hawks will be able to ap­ply for direct ac­cess to the con­tents of the hard drives, in­clud­ing new ma­te­rial re­trieved by an in­ter­na­tional tech­nol­ogy ex­pert.

There was an­other blow this week for the Gupta brothers, Ajay, Atul and Rajesh, who are thought to be holed up in Dubai. On Wed­nes­day, jus­tice min­is­ter Michael Ma­sutha signed treaties on ex­tra­di­tion and mu­tual le­gal as­sis­tance in crim­i­nal matters with the United Arab Emi­rates, which means the Per­sian Gulf is no longer out of reach for the long arm of the South African law.

Mean­while, at judge Robert Nu­gent’s in­quiry into the South African Rev­enue Ser­vice, for­mer en­force­ment boss Hlen­gani Mathe­bula re­vealed on Fri­day that in 2016 sus­pended com­mis­sioner Tom Moy­ane gave him a “hit list” of se­nior of­fi­cials he wanted sus­pended with­out due process, as well as a list of the peo­ple he wanted as their re­place­ments.

Next week is not likely to im­prove matters for the forces of state cap­ture. Fi­nance min­is­ter Nh­lanhla Nene is due to give ev­i­dence to Zondo on Wed­nes­day, and he will no doubt have a lot to say about his re­moval from the Trea­sury in De­cem­ber 2015, when Zuma re­placed him with Des van Rooyen. More power to Stan, John and Nene as they help to over­turn state cap­ture in a lat­ter-day lib­er­a­tion strug­gle.

Watch­ing Ja­cob Zuma chortling in par­lia­ment helped to seal their re­solve

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