A sickening case of liesteriosis

Tuesday. For a man who was too sick to make it to his own department’s parliamentary committee hearing last week, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba doesn’t look that bad. Conventional wisdom has it that Gigaba — or Giggs, as his former ANC Youth League comrades call him — fell victim to a bout of lie-sterosis. Went home and hid rather than face another day of lying himself into a corner. Lay low instead of taking responsibility for his role in the Guptarisation of South Africa’s state-owned entities. Crawled, sobbing, under his duvet while waiting for a WhatsApp from Daddy. Or a long-distance call from Sojidaddy Atul in Dubai.

Perhaps.

Gigaba’s putting on a brave — if cosmetic — front for the parliamentary inquiry into state capture. Top-notch suit. Dazzlingly white shirt. Just enough shirt cuff showing to catch the camera. Bold but decorous tie. Overpaid celebrity spin doctor seated just far enough to the rear to catch the camera. Nice.

Gigaba starts talking. Thanks the state enterprises committee for its investigation. Launches into his rap.

I never met the Guptas. Diwali and weddings only. I was only there for ambiance. To add character. I’ve never been to Dubai to meet the Guptas. It wasn’t me. I did it all for transformation. For the masses. Played snakes and ladders with the boards. Loaded them with Gupta lackeys. Empowered the predominantly black poor by taking evergreen coal contracts away from white monopoly capital. Gave them to thieves from India instead.

Amandla!

Part of me is enraged by Gigaba’s lies. Outraged by his bullshit. Inflamed by his arrogance. Gigaba’s delivery is fluid, thick with jargon and plausibilities, but it’s hollow. Empty. Devoid of honesty. Lots of use of the royal “we”. Lashings of delusion. Dollops of drivel.

Another part of me understands, and almost feels sorry for Gigaba. Almost. Then the moment passes.

But I do understand. What else can Gigaba do? Confess before a parliamentary inquiry? Break down and beg for forgiveness on national TV? Resign in front of millions of viewers? Do the right thing and fall on his sword? Man up and take responsibility for his actions?

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

My mind starts wandering. Back to November 2012. Back in the day. Daddy was still commander-in-thief. The fire pool was still being tiled. Zuma wasn’t a four-letter word. Cyril Ramaphosa hadn’t become the Jesus of Nasrec. Polony was safe.

It’s a Saturday. I should be at the beach. Or watching the footie. Instead, me and the Croc, photographer Khaya Ngwenya, are stuck on the side of a mountain waiting for Gigaba and Daddy to arrive. We’re slaving for a Sunday paper, so we don’t have a choice. It’s not going to be more than a deep caption. I’m there in case there’s any drama. It’s highly unlikely.

Daddy’s on a site visit to Eskom’s Ingula hydroelectric power scheme. Ingula’s allegedly near Ladysmith. In reality, it’s in the mountains between KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State.

All the members are there. Zola Tsotsi. Ace Magashule. Dipuo Peters. Gigaba. I’m not sure whether the Guptas came themselves or whether one of their minions represented them. In those days I didn’t know Atul from Ajay, so who knows?

Daddy eventually arrives. Late. Those were the days when 9am meant lunchtime. Give Daddy time to count the money in the bunker before going to work. Line up the looting for the day before leaving the pozi.

The Eskom cats start handing out helmets. Blue overalls. Industrial boots. For some unknown reason, there’s a police band. A couple of choirs. None of their members get boots, overalls, helmets.

Daddy’s delegation heads off to inspect the pumping scheme. Gigaba’s in his element. Fiddling with the headlamp on his helmet.

Gigaba’s all teeth and glasses. Cheesy grins for the camera. A quick gumboot dance. He’s clearly pleased by the opportunity to dress up. Impersonate a member of the working class while handing their future to the Guptas.

The tour wraps up. The Cabinet cats arrive in the tented green- room next to the main marquee. Start shedding the overalls. Boots. Helmets. Head for the main table. Get ready for Daddy’s address and lunch. They’re clearly as hungry as the rest of us. It’s nearly suppertime.

Gigaba’s clearly not finished playing mineworker. Heads for the main table. Sits down, still in helmet and overalls, grinningly. Looks around for the cameras as though he’s done something clever. Something that’s worth noting. Look Daddy, no skaam cells.

Daddy’s clearly not impressed with Gigaba’s poor table manners. He leans over. Casually drapes his arm over Gigaba’s shoulder. I can feel Daddy’s fingers digging into Gigaba’s overalls from four tables away.

Daddy whispers something in Gigaba’s ear. Gigaba’s face turns ashen. He leaps to his feet. Rushes to the greenroom. Bodyguard and spin doctor in tow. Returns sans overalls, boots and helmet. Dusting off his suit. Straightening his tie. Looking rather sheepish. Like a spoilt child with no idea of boundaries who’s been publicly corrected by an adult. Sits down. Waits to be told what to do next.

My mind returns to the present.

Gigaba’s before the microphone. Lying to the committee.

An empty suit. Mouthing nothings.

Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller and blag artist.
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