Zweli Mkhize and the art of money recycling

​​Wednesday.

Like many of my fellow South Africans, I’m thinking about boxes.

Not the ones next to the politicians’ heads on the ballot papers for the 1 November local government elections, but the ones filled with money stolen from the department of health, which were collected at the Dawnside Service Station in Stanger by former health minister Zweli Mkhize’s associates and his son, Dedani.

Boxes.

Not envelopes, or bags of money, but boxes of cash that were laundered through a Cash & Carry organised by Mkhize’s “close associate” (the terminology of the Special Investigating Unit, not mine) Tahera Mather from the R150-million tender that was rigged by Mkhize and senior departmental officials in favour of Digital Vibes.

Boxes.

I wonder why they used boxes.

Were Mather, Mkhize and Associates being environmentally conscious, choosing to go the cardboard route, rather than using shopping bags, or the bin bag, an old favourite, we are told, in South African political circles?

Reuse.

Repurpose.

Recycle.

Or were they just too cheap to pay the 80 cents a bag being charged by the supermarkets these days, for packaging for their ill gotten gains?

Boxes.

How much stolen money does it take to fill a box? 

R100 000?

R500 000? 

R1-million? 

My guess — and I have to guess because I’ve never seen a box of money — is that it depends on the size of the box.

I suppose it also depends on the denomination of the notes packed in the boxes by the owners of the Cash & Carry, who, according to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), would hand them over “clandestinely” at the garage in exchange for EFTs made by Mather.

We do know from the SIU report released by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday that a total of R3.4-million of the R150-million was laundered this way. The rest was moved from account to account among Mather’s family and associates, for third party payments, rather than being used for crucial communications aimed at saving lives as the Covid-19 pandemic first swept South Africa.

From the amount of gushing about the presence of Thabo Mbeki at the ANC manifesto launch earlier this week — and about the subsequent opening of the presidential library and heritage precinct named after him — it would appear the rehabilitation of the former president by the governing party is now pretty much complete.

Who would have thought?

Comrades who spent almost 10 years ignoring Mbeki — pretending he never existed to avoid being thoroughly dealt with by his successor — are now all over the former head of state. 

Zizi this.

Zizi that.

If this love fest goes on much longer the comrades will be smoking pipes and quoting dead white men again — wearing those pinstriped shirts with white collars.

It’s as if Mbeki’s recall in 2008 never happened — along with the attempts to airbrush him from the party’s contemporary history by Jacob Zuma and his supporters during Nxamalala’s two terms — well one and a bit — in office.

For nine years Mbeki was invisible at ANC gatherings such as Monday’s manifesto launch — partly by choice, partly by because he was no longer welcome.

Mbeki was yesterday’s man, stuck at home with his Yeates, Coelho and Chivas while uBaba and his comrades sang, danced and stole the party — and the country — into the ground.

At Luthuli House, the portraits of Mbeki were replaced with ones bearing Nxamalala’s grinning visage within minutes of his recall and binned, as they were in ANC and government offices all over the country.

It was as if Mbeki didn’t exist — except in songs deriding Nxamalala’s vanquished enemies — within the governing party for nearly a decade.

The portraits — like Mbeki — are back, albeit in the former presidents’ galleries at the ANC’s provincial and national offices.

The process of rehabilitating Mbeki started after Zuma was recalled by the party and gained momentum with Zizi being roped in for the optics during the ANC’s campaign for the 2019 general elections.

It’s now Zuma whose portraits ended up in the wheelie bin in the alleyway behind Luthuli House, and uBaba who is sitting at home, recalled and forgotten, a name not to be mentioned until his next court appearance.

From Mbeki’s comments at the precinct launch, it would also appear that Zizi used his time in internal exile — and his data — to reinvent himself as a tourism expert, rather than the country’s leading — and deadliest — HIV/Aids denialist.

I, for one, am grateful.

We already have too many Google professors — and looters — out there undermining attempts to save lives from being lost to Covid-19.

Keep the powerful accountable

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

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