Malusi Gigaba and the perils of Instagram


Hold the presses: we have a philandering minister on our hands. Allegedly.

You’d think by now we’d be accustomed to this sort of thing. After all, it isn’t the first time Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has been accused of infidelity. So why were we so interested this week in the exhaustive – and exhausting – nearly 3 600-word essay from the woman claiming to be his mistress?

Maybe it’s because it was the first time the mechanics of a (purported) affair with a South African politician was outlined in such painstaking detail.

And after all that reading, one was left with the distinct impression that the whole business was a good deal less fun and more work than one would imagine an affair should be.

If New York-based stylist Buhle Mkhize is to be believed, what seems like thousands of private messages – on Instagram, of all places – an affair does make.

She’s right, of course. Forget cheating sites like Ashley Madison: social media has long been a fair hunting ground for those with a wandering eye, whether or not the couple spend time together – as Mkhize claims they did.

But Mkhize’s letter barely touched on their alleged fleeting times together, preferring to focus on a confusing and protracted year-long engagement via Instagram and text message. Mkhize has a particular penchant for listing every tiny detail, down to her travel logistics and phone problems, to describe the affair.

In case you’re wondering, she does not have international roaming, and did not think to turn off message previews, despite being married herself. One is compelled to believe her based on the sheer tedium of the account: one wouldn’t even want to make up this stuff.

The most interesting part of the claim, and one with real implications for South Africans, is the brief allegation that an official from South Africa’s intelligence agency offered Mkhize R500 000 to sign a nondisclosure agreement after she started going public with the affair, but the deal fell apart when Gigaba’s wife started responding publicly too.

But alas, Mkhize’s talent for detail fails her at this point.

She doesn’t even get the name of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) right, and we are given no proof of what is a very serious allegation against the minister and could amount to defamation.

She did not respond to requests for further details and both the NIA and Gigaba’s office declined to respond to the allegation. On the one hand, that’s understandable, as it would be untenable for a politician to respond to every unsubstantiated rumour flung their way.

But then Gigaba should have kept quiet entirely.

Instead, he responded selectively just to the affair allegations on, you guessed it, Instagram. Even his response to that was puzzling.

He regretted “befriending” Mkhize, he said in a post on the social network.

At the same time, however, he told the New Age that he did not know Mkhize and had never communicated with her.

So what are we left with? There is the usual political doublespeak and the realisation for us less adventurous types that one can actually conduct an affair over Instagram. But, even more concerning, there is a deep disquiet over the allegations of an abuse of public resources.

The minister referred only obliquely to general “defamation” and fabrications. But an allegation that serious deserves a lot more attention than a thoroughly boring account of a mundane cyber affair.

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