Citizen power will save us

It’s worth taking stock of the latest episodes in the Gupta email leaks. They reveal the extent of the cancer that has ravaged our democracy. The prognosis looks grim and we must take some urgent decisions before the death of our society becomes an irreversible reality.

South African Revenue Service (Sars) boss Tom Moyane is choosing to not take us into his confidence about an ominously timed trip to Dubai at the end of 2015.

We know that all of the Gupta brothers were in Dubai at the time, as well as other key players in the state capture story such as Eskom’s disgraced chief financial officer Anoj Singh, who has been a key enabler for looting from our state-owned enterprises. Duduzane Zuma was also in town.

So too were Gift and Thato Magushule, the sons of Free State Premier Ace Magashule. We already know these names as part of the Gupta grooming technique. The Guptas know how to throw crumbs to the children of political principals. It’s an unsubtle tactic used to induce the loyalty of their parents in charge of provincial and national troughs.

Moyane himself has previously assisted in softening the blow for the Guptas over the Waterkloof landing scandal when he was part of a ministerial team that showed little appetite for holding this family accountable.

Moyane being coy about what he was doing in Dubai is important. We still do not have a proper explanation for a R70-million VAT refund from Sars in favour of the Guptas.

There is a scary truth emerging here with every new piece of information that comes out of the Gupta emails. We are seeing evidence of the total onslaught of the Guptas against the entire state.

They capture entire state departments. They clearly have been trying to capture the revenue services too. They captured the presidency. They understand the state structure intimately and know that you have to attack it at all levels if you do not want to be stopped.

What is the use of stealing if the criminal justice system will come after you? Well, then you ensure that your captured enablers who appoint men and women to key institutions meant to fight economic crimes do not appoint men and women with integrity. President Atul Gupta is no doubt very chuffed that someone as useless as Shaun the Sheep is in charge of the National Prosecuting Authority.

President Gupta must also be very chuffed that the Hawks are less scary than a noisy bunch of hadedas.

An ethical revenue services agency may yet be your undoing if you’re a thief. Sars has been a “proudly South African” outfit for a long time. You cannot be comfortable with your loot knowing that one Tom Moyane might be able to send his staff to audit your wealth. So you damn well try to capture him too. If you can capture the president and his family, and if you can capture Cabinet members and provincial premiers, then who the hell does the boss of Sars think he is not to be capable of being captured? If a minister of finance can be groomed then what makes a little taxman special?

That is the total onslaught strategy of the Guptas. They are fearlessly waging a war against our democracy and we are simply standing by as the governing ANC does nothing but mumble about how bad the situation now is.

The Guptas are so thorough that they even understand the gatekeeping role of a personal assistant, which is why they even captured the PA to Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brownose.

Now Minister Lynne Brownose comically wants to prove her commitment to fighting corruption by saying to the public: “The buck stops with my PA!” That is patronising bull. Your PA is not the one with the power to make board appointments inside the state. Your PA can only be in Dubai because she is being rewarded for her silence and administrative assistance in enabling the Gupta predators to steal from us.

The constitutional buck stops with the minister and the president. You are the ones who should resign. Sacrificing the PA is tragicomic in the bigger narrative of the state’s grand moral and political failure. Sacrificing a PA is as laughable as a soapie director deciding to inform the public that an extra on the set of Generations has been fired.

President Gupta must have laughed his behind off when he saw Brownose throwing the PA under the bus knowing that she herself might have to be thrown under the bus soon. Once they have no use for you, when your integrity is shredded and capacity for enabling looting neutralised, they abandon you.

Frankly, it might even be too late for the likes of Moyane, Minister Malusi Gigaba or Brownose to take us into their confidence about their appearances in the story of grand state capture.

What we now know is that Zuma isn’t the only one who is beyond the pale. A critical mass of public servants and senior ANC politicians is captured. And the capture narrative extends to the private sector too, with companies such as McKinsey and KPMG proving that unethical and illegal business practices are not the exclusive preserve of the state.

That means the Gupta onslaught against our democracy has not only attacked the state but also nonstate actors such as big business. That is why we dare not be complacent or get corruption fatigue when we read newspapers, watch television or listen to the radio.

Too many white South Africans during the apartheid years claimed they “did not know”. Ignorance in a time of open societies, openness facilitated by fearless investigative journalism and contemporary media, enhanced by technological innovations such as social media, is no longer an excuse reasonably open to any citizen.

We know. We know the extent of the rot in the state and we know the nonstate actors who help the corrupted public officials and elected politicians.

What we now need is mass public pushback in a visible demonstration of cross-class solidarity against the thieves. The Save SA marches need to look like a little picnic compared with much larger demonstrations demanding Zuma’s resignation and forcing the ANC to begin the slow process of much promised organisational renewal. In 2019 this must be bolstered with a more competitive election outcome. That is the only remedy left to stop the death of our society.

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. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

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Eusebius Mckaiser
Eusebius McKaiser
Eusebius McKaiser is a political and social analyst at the Wits Centre for Ethics. He is also a popular radio talk show host, a top international debate coach, a master of ceremonies and a public speaker of note. He loves nothing more than a good argument, having been both former National South African Debate Champion and the 2011 World Masters Debate Champion. His analytic articles and columns have been widely published in South African newspapers and the New York Times. McKaiser has studied law and philosophy. He taught philosophy in South Africa and England.

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