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