Editorial: The wheel turns and cronies burn

It is becoming a classic South African cautionary tale: a top official or politician manipulates a vital state institution for the current Number One, believing he or she is untouchable. A few years later the wheel of fortune turns and the manipulator is out in the frozen wilderness.

This appears to be the fate of the former deputy commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (Sars), Ivan Pillay, forced out by followers of the same politician whose interests he allegedly served eight years ago.

Last week amaBhungane reported well-sourced claims that Pillay received transcripts of communications intercepted at the Scorpions headquarters in Pretoria in 2007, including sensitive information about the corruption probe into Jacob Zuma, and passed them on to police crime intelligence.

Later, the so-called spy tapes – the recorded conversations of senior National Prosecuting Authority officials – were leaked to Zuma’s lawyer and led to the dropping of charges.

In recent months Pillay has been at the sharp end of a determined assault by Tom Moyane, the new Sars commissioner and a perceived Zuma intimate, amid whispers that Zuma’s tax affairs had come under scrutiny. And guess what? The 2007 surveillance exercise at the Scorpions HQ is the prosecution’s Exhibit A. Pillay, who stepped down a fortnight ago after a politically brokered settlement, has declined to comment.


It is a deeply ironic development that has had numerous precedents since the days of the Thabo Mbeki presidency, when the pernicious use of government agencies for political reasons became entrenched.

An obvious instance is Bulelani Ngcuka, who, as Mbeki’s national director of public prosecutions, insulated Zuma from prosecution and was later accused of manipulating the timing of the charges against him – in both cases for political reasons. Voted 89th in the Top 100 Great South Africans in 2004, when Ngcuka stepped down as prosecutions chief, he has vanished from the political stage.

Also accused of being “part of a broader collective of Mbeki supporters who viewed the NPA as a tool to fight Mbeki’s political battles” – to quote senior NPA official Willie Hofmeyr – was former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils, who has denied the allegation. Seeing the writing on the wall, Kasrils resigned in 2008 after Mbeki was forced out of office.

Given the faction-ridden nature of South African politics and the deep divisions in the ANC, a further turn of the wheel during the remaining three years of Zuma’s presidency is quite conceivable. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that his successor may move to purge the public service of partisan elements. Moyane and acting Hawks boss Berning Ntlemeza had better beware.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

How graft arrests came together

Learning from its failure to turn the Schabir Shaik conviction into one for Jacob Zuma, the state is now building an effective system for catching thieves. Khaya Koko, Sabelo Skiti and Paddy Harper take a look behind the scenes at how law enforcement agencies have started creating consequences for the corrupt

Richard Calland: South Africa needs a Roosevelt style of leadership

President Cyril Ramaphosa needs to hold ‘fireside chats’ and have more power and institutional muscle around him, writes Richard Calland

This beef smells like manure

What’s that animal sound? Is it a Hawk swooping? A chicken roosting? No, it’s Zuma remembering a beef

Editorial: Arrests expose the rot in the ANC

The ANC has used its power to create networks of patronage. And this means going after corruption will cost the party financially

eThekwini’s everlasting security contract

An invalid contract worth R85-million a month is still being paid — three years after a court order to stop

Zuma vs Ramaphosa? Neither is the leader South Africans deserve

Neither statesman could command sufficient authority in an ANC that remains mired in corruption and infighting and at the behest of big capital
Advertising

Subscribers only

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

More top stories

Hawks swoop down with more arrests in R1.4-billion corruption blitz

The spate of arrests for corruption continues apace in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.

Catholic NGO boss accused of racism and abuse in Sudan

The aid worker allegedly called his security guard a ‘slave’

Agrizzi too ill to be treated at Bara?

The alleged crook’s “health emergency” — if that is what it is — shows up the flaws, either in our health system or in our leadership as a whole

SANDF hid R200m expenditure on ‘Covid’ drug it can’t use

Military health officials are puzzled by the defence department importing a drug that has not been approved for treating coronavirus symptoms from Cuba
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday