Tuesday, 24 January 2012

South Africa – A Gangster State

19 July 2011

SA is fast becoming a gangster state. The big cover-ups around the Arms Deal, Travelgate and Oilgate were a sign of things to come and the current onslaught against the Public Protector (PP) and the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is a continuation of the country’s rapid slide into its Zanufication. Add to this the Protection of Information Bill and the proposal for a Media Tribunal then the KGB looks amateurish in comparison. Now is the time for eternal vigilance and this column is a call to the public to do its utmost to support Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, and Special Investigator, Willie Hofmeyer.

With political pedigrees such as theirs, they are eminently qualified for their jobs. They have performed their duties without fear or favour and have remained uncontaminated by power and the glitz and glamour of public life. Madonsela is a highly trained human and constitutional rights lawyer with a CV that belies her experience. Prior to 1994, she carved a niche for herself as a young lawyer who shone a lamp with her feminist research on making a case for women’s legal and human rights, the rights of victims, equality legislation and much more. Similarly, Hofmeyer has always been impeccably honest and ‘clean’, a loyal citizen, carrying out his investigations with dedicated rigour.

If you are white and courageous as Hofmeyer, exposing corruption in both the public and private sphere, you are bound to become Enemy No 1. As for Madonsela, an insider and a black woman to boot, she refuses to know her place so she must be capped at the knees. Killing the messenger that brings the good news is what our criminal justice cluster does best - KGB-style. Casting aspersions on the integrity of both Madonsela and Hofmeyer before the release of her report investigating the irregular R500 million-tender between Bheki Cele’s office and Roux Shabangu concerning Police headquarters, is typical of what gangster states do. Intimidating and threatening our constitution’s guardians, they do exactly what Vladimir Putin’s gangsters did to Anna Politkovskaya, the Russian journalist and human rights activist, who tracked the conflict in Chechnya and Putin’s role in fuelling it. 

She met her fate on 7th October 2006, in the lift of her block of flats, where she was mercilessly gunned down after enduring years of death threats and constant surveillance.
The Big Three - Bheki Cele, Nathi Mtetwa and Siyabonga Cwele – are creepy. As scary as the apartheid’s state security council, they have followed faithfully in the steps of their predecessor, Jackie Selebi. When guns are put to the heads of journalists who investigate high level crime; and when surveillance follows them wherever they go, then the nation needs to sit up and listen.

The Human Rights Commission, at last, has ruled in favour of Chumane Maxwele, the jogger who showed the finger at President’s Zuma’s cavalcade. The Minister of Police’s refusal to cooperate in this investigation is an indication of the contempt this office has for the rule of law. The same goes for the police’s treatment of Sunday Times reporter, Mzilikazi W’Afrika. Hounded like a common criminal for doing what he is paid to do, he now needs security guards to allow him to live as freely as any other citizen.

I would like to believe that President Zuma, unlike Putin, does not approve of these tactics, but increasingly under his reign, lawlessness, corruption, and entitlement to the state’s resources have become a way of life. The recent report on Executive salaries and the bonuses our useless cadre-deployed officials vote for themselves, paints a picture of a vampire state that takes our hard-earned taxes with ruthless abandon, giving nothing in return.

When I was a Human Rights Commissioner with Helen Suzman, she repeatedly prophesied that the day will come when the ANC will regret ever having drafted our wonderful Constitution. Her bugbear – that the Chapter 9 institutions and the socio-economic rights clause – will require the utmost integrity from the ANC, when she knew implicitly that they lacked the political will to do so, has regrettably been proven right. If President Zuma wants to win our favour, then he should act swiftly and excise, with ruthless precision, the gangrene of wanton lawlessness that is infecting SA’s body politic, and reverse the slide into authoritarianism for which Africa has become renowned. 

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