/ 1 September 2017

Thieves pillaging our democracy

Minister Pravin Gordhan gets a warm greeting from former minister Trevor Manuel after his first budget speech as the new
Minister Pravin Gordhan gets a warm greeting from former minister Trevor Manuel after his first budget speech as the new

There is no greater threat to our democracy than the destruction of institutions that were designed to safeguard it, which is precisely what we are experiencing and it is getting worse each day.

The biggest news story of the week is undoubtedly the reports of the criminal justice system being used yet again for nefarious political ends. Former finance minister Trevor Manuel has been subpoenaed by the Hawks. He has reportedly asked an attorney to find out why they are seeking the pleasure of his company.

His former deputy, Jabu Moleketi, also appears to have been asked to provide an affidavit.

The core issue, it seems, is an investigative unit established in the South African Revenue Service, which was wrongly accused of “spying” on targeted politicians.

What is really going on? It is the work of the insatiable thieves who cannot satisfy their gluttonous desire to carry on feeding at the trough if there are people around willing to stop them. Anyone who is seen as an obstacle to theft, such as tax bosses lawfully asking questions about suspicious money, becomes an enemy of the looters.

These battles are obviously not black and white. Find me a virtuous politician and you would have shown me a miracle. It does not mean, however, that some public servants and elected public officials aren’t more or less trustworthy than others.

Moleketi, for example, as chairperson of the Development Bank of Southern Africa, has been instrumental in getting rid of the chief Gupta enabler at Eskom, Anoj Singh. He is the captured chief financial officer undermining our society for the benefit of the Guptas. This makes Moleketi an enemy of the thieves.

Manuel has been very frank about the rot at the heart of the state and the leadership crisis in the ANC.

By getting the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to try to pressure Moleketi and Manuel to help to build a new case against former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, the captured ones hope to achieve two things.

First, they hope to have a chilling effect on Gordhan and others who are holding their fellow ANC comrades in the government accountable. Second, they are hoping to sow dissent among those who are co-operating with each other to stop the looting.

It is the old apartheid-era practice of abusing the criminal justice system combined with divide-and-rule tactics. The looters of the present have learned a thing or two from those who were looting before democracy’s dawn.

These thieves should not be underestimated. They are very sophisticated. They are meticulous. They have resources within and outside the state. They are also beginning to realise for the first time that their time for stealing might really be coming to an end. Therefore, they will increasingly resort to more brazen forms of thuggery in order to hold on to their loot and to continue feeding from the troughs.

Sadly, the NPA and the criminal investigation units that do its legwork are not apolitical. This means the thieves do not fear being successfully prosecuted for their economic crimes.

Worse than this is the related fact that there are a number of public servants in the criminal justice system who have been captured by the thieves and who are used as pawns to try to silence the few good men and women inside the state and the governing tripartite alliance.

Anyone who thinks renewed attempts to go after Gordhan and others stem from apolitical motives by honest men and women inside the NPA or the Hawks need to have their heads checked. We are seeing the continued abuse of democratic institutions for political ends. The very institutions that are meant to entrench the rule of law are, in fact, undermining it. This in turn means that our democracy itself is being attacked.

These thugs are so sophisticated that they combine the abuse of the criminal justice system with propaganda. That is why it is no laughing matter when the children of the president publicly attack anyone who is prominently campaigning against state capture.

The nexus between the Zumas, the Guptas and those corporates and public servants implicated in the web of looting is so intricate that every lackey in the service of the state-capture project has a role to play in sustaining the thievery.

The lackeys range from men and women in charge of constitutionally designed investigative units, which are loudly silent as the evidence of grand corruption mounts, to digital thugs who spend most of their day tweeting propaganda to try to remove the spotlight from their paymasters.

The single biggest hope for the thieves is that they will continue to get away with this criminality if all of us become so fatigued by their behaviour that we stop paying attention to the mounting evidence.

That would be foolish. The grass is not greener in other parts of the world. We cannot flee. We must fight back and revive the project of building a just and inclusive South Africa.