Columns 10.9.2016 07:20 am

Liar, liar, pants on fire

Minister of Mineral Affairs Mosebenzi Joseph Zwane at the Africa Mining Indaba on February 8, 2016 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in Cape Town. Picture: Gallo Images

Minister of Mineral Affairs Mosebenzi Joseph Zwane at the Africa Mining Indaba on February 8, 2016 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in Cape Town. Picture: Gallo Images

if Mosebenzi Zwane lied about a judicial inquiry into SA banking, why hasn’t he been fired? The answer must surely be that he did not lie. It’s the presidency that did.

Elevation to the upper echelons of government isn’t all caviar and champagne, Cuban cigars and blowjobs from interns. Or, in the SA context, Johnny Walker Blue and sushi nibbled from the tummies of swimsuit models.

Nor, as is with Britain’s Tories, a chilled Chablis and an underage poppet. Or preferably poppers and rent boys, if you are a working class hero, Labourite leader.

Truth is, all around the world, behind the dazzle of pomp and privilege, high office can be a dangerous business. Sometimes deadly North Korea is particularly prone to giving short shrift to those who fall from favour. A fortnight ago, education vice-premier Kim Yong Jin was executed by firing squad after being caught “sitting with a bad attitude” in the national assembly.

Last year the defence chief, who had dozed off in an interminable meeting, was obliterated before a crowd of spectators, using an anti-aircraft battery. But while it is not all beer and skittles for the leadership elite of the Western democracies, the punishments are at least pedestrian.

British home affairs select committee chair, the Labour’s Keith Vaz – affectionately known as Vazeline – who was last week exposed as having a penchant for Eastern European male prostitutes and cocaine, merely had to resign his chairmanship. The committee was investigating – you guessed it – drugs and prostitution.

To South Africans, it is incomprehensible that snoozing in parliament or snogging in a brothel could be grounds for sanction. For in comparison with much of the world, this is a happy haven of tolerance.

For example, Blade Nzimande has been snoozing unperturbed as minister of higher education and training for seven years. As long as President Jacob Zuma has need of SACP representation in his Cabinet, our dull Blade will continue to pass the buck on university funding. Zuma himself is no paragon of propriety.

Like Silvio Berlusconi, who survived for years as Italy’s prime minister, despite numerous sexual and corruption scandals, our president is a survivor. So it’s not surprising that Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane is still there despite being caught telling perhaps the biggest, baldfaced lie by a serving ANC politician.

Last week Zwane announced “a Cabinet resolution” for a judicial inquiry into the SA banking system. This followed April’s establishment of an interministerial commission (IMC), under Zwane’s chairmanship, to “consider allegations that banks and financial institutions acted unilaterally and allegedly in collusion” in terminating services to Oakbay, the company owned by Zuma’s controversial influential cronies, the Guptas.

Upon release of the IMC statement, the business and investment world, predictably to all but the Zuma-Gupta inner circle, was aghast. In response, the presidency soon distanced itself from Zwane, saying that he had issued that statement in his personal capacity and that its contents were not the government’s position.

The conundrum is: If Zwane lied, why hasn’t he been fired? The answer must surely be that Zwane did not lie. It’s the presidency that did. Perhaps one can resolve the quandary by drawing from the example of the NC’s old tjommie, North Korea. Does our military have a spare anti-aircraft battery? Just kidding, of course.

William Saunderson-Meyer

William Saunderson-Meyer.

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