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Sitting targets and lame ducks


It’s been 203 days since president Cyril Ramaphosa first locked us down in terms of the state of national disaster — or was it a national state of disaster? Told us to #Ratherstaypozi. Handed the country over to Zweli Mkhize, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Bheki Cele to run while he paid some attention — finally but remotely — to the goings-on in the ANC in general and Luthuli House in particular.

For the first time since 26 March, I’m wearing matching socks. My dress code is still somewhere between level five and level four, so they’re still paired with flip flops and shorts. It won’t change soon. 

The overnight extension of the lockdown until 15 November was a reminder that the Covid-19 virus is very much still with us. The daily infection rate is climbing again, and if events around the rest of the planet are an indicator of what awaits us, more monthly extensions are coming our way.

I’ve resigned myself to a move back to level two — or further — before the end of the year because of the increase in infections. A masked Christmas. Boxing Day at the pozi, rather than at the beach. New Year’s Eve under curfew. 

No fireworks. 

No happy happy.

It’s not going to be a lot of fun, but it appears to be where we’re heading.

Leaving Cele, Mkhize and Dlamini-Zuma to run the shop while he practised his dance moves and played some virtual chess at the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) seems to be paying off for Ramaphosa. Arrests aren’t convictions, but they’re piling up. So are the raids by the Special Investigating Unit and the Asset Forfeiture Unit. Some of Ramaphosa’s backers are going to go down in the process, but the head of state seems to have prepared himself for that and is standing back and allowing the wheels of justice to turn, no matter who they grind.

Fair enough.

The Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority’s Investigating Directorate must be loving the lockdown. It must be so much easier to execute warrants when everybody’s at home, rather than Cubana or Zimbali, or Dubai. Cheaper too. No extradition hearings. No requests for mutual assistance from foreign states to get looters to court.

Former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi would, it appears, have fled the country, passport or not, were it not for the lockdown. “The Canary” wasn’t siphoning the millions out to Italy for when he gets out of jail in 15 years’ time. Agrizzi, it appears, had had his fill of singing, and was getting ready to flee the coop before it became a cage.

Perhaps Agrizzi should have taken his chances. Hit a hole in the fence at Beitbridge before it gets fixed. It would have taken him longer to get to Italy, but he wouldn’t be sitting in the awaiting trial section this morning.

Things appear to be working out for Ramaphosa on the party front. Since the lockdown started, the NEC has shifted, meeting by meeting, in his favour. Lifestyle audits; stand aside orders; bans on accused persons contesting office: the shift is there.

Ramaphosa and not secretary general Ace Magashule has become the public face of the party. Ace no longer addresses the post-NEC meetings or press briefings. ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe now issues statements on Ace’s behalf, rather than on behalf of the party.

Things are bad.

They appear to be getting worse.

On Tuesday, Ace had to travel all the way to Durban to get his head on TV, courtesy of a street protest by a combination of youthful alleged Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association members; unemployed graduates; street hawkers and either truck or taxi drivers. 

Not exactly the tripartite alliance, but one works with what one has. It was still pretty embarrassing, even on the TV screen. The unemployed graduates looked older than some of the military veterans who gathered in the street in support of the Free State’s finest. So did the handful of cats who turned up in ANC Youth League T-shirts. 

Yster was less than convincing with his “Unity, comrades” what-what over the bullhorn, but a crowd is a crowd, after all. Truth is, Ace was looking worried.

Nervous, like a man who knows what’s coming but can’t do anything about it.

All of a sudden Ace’s “five years, comrades” is looking more like a prediction of the amount of jail time pending, rather than a call to arms for a run at the ANC presidency come December 2022.

I stayed away from Ace’s gig outside the ANC office.

It wasn’t just the fear that the comrades might mistake me for Carl Niehaus — again — and that one of them would ask me for the money Carl borrowed a couple years ago and never paid back. 

There’s still a deadly virus out there and I really don’t want to get it.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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