After all, ANC politicians giving the tearful Pule a hug after she had been condemned is not quite the same as carrying Tony Yengeni on their shoulders, like a triumphant sportsperson, to prison, as they did after he finally lost all appeals against his 2003 fraud conviction.
Still, both cases look like a refusal to acknowledge wrongdoing in the first place. And, as we report in this edition, the pats of comfort given to Pule echoed attempts by her sympathisers to contest the findings of the ethics panel.
All sorts of spurious objections were made, including that, for “cultural” reasons, Pule was not able to be honest about the status of her relationship with Phosane Mngqibisa, who not only travelled extensively (and expensively) as Pule’s companion when she was minister but also, it is claimed, benefited financially from his involvement in the communication ministry’s business. (A figure of R6-million has been mentioned.)
To argue that too much was made of her personal life in the report is to miss the point that it is precisely in the space between public service and private relationships that so much corruption takes place.
Is the ANC serious about fighting corruption, or isn’t it? Is it serious about MPs being honest and adhering to Parliament’s code of conduct, or isn’t it?
The key issue here is that Pule lied. Furthermore, interrogating her lies makes it look very much as though she corruptly sent money and other benefits Mngqibisa’s way, and/or that he took a commanding role in the ministry, where he had no official position, entirely in his own interests.
This should be fully investigated by the police, as recommended by the report. We hope that the recommendation was not just a gesture on the panel’s part and that the police take the charges seriously. We had also hoped Pule herself might take the charges seriously but it appears that she is still unsure whether she did anything wrong: “if” she had made “mistakes”, she was sorry.
Pule has been waging a war of misdirection and disinformation ever since she was first accused of malfeasance and her tactics have often been of the lowest kind. Should she be comforted for being found out? The sins for which Parliament has rapped her on the knuckles may, in fact, turn out to be the least of her worries.