Sexwale's decline into silliness, saddens Brendan Seery much less than the fact that he once saw him as one of SA's brightest lights.
When the 419 scam industry first began building up a head of steam – and seemingly steady and cautious people were losing bundles of money – I was contacted by a Nigerian, promising that untold wealth in my name had been discovered in a bank account belonging to a deceased, long lost relative of mine.
Perhaps I was bored at the time and so I strung him along with various e-mails… until he finally asked for my phone number. So I supplied one – for an 087 premium charge sex line. Eventually, he gave up. But the scam was
so obvious that I had then, and still have now, very little sympathy for anyone gullible enough – OK, call it what it is: stupid enough – to fall for it.
I have little sympathy for Tokyo Sexwale, who is the clear patsy in the tale of trillions of dollars allegedly “stolen” from a Reserve Bank account before it could be put to use to save the country, the original intention of the fabulously wealthy donor of the money.
What made me even more angry, given the pat acceptance by all and sundry in the media that Sexwale is a “businessman”, was the fact that, clearly, he has no idea of finance. If he did, he would not have repeatedly confused “borrow” with “lend” – saying that institutions would “borrow” South Africa money.
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It’s the sort of mistake my wife’s maths literacy pupils make – not the sort of thing you do if you’re a successful businessman who is on the boards of huge companies and important global institutions – as Sexwale repeatedly told us in his rambling press briefing on Thursday.
It was a reminder that ANC heavyweights like Sexwale – and President Cyril Ramaphosa – were the recipients, after 1994, of untold largesse from the existing white-run economy, through BEE deals which were just insurance
that the ANC leadership would continue to do as Big Business wanted.
In the process of instant teleportation to the Range Rover driving class, it could be expected that the beneficiaries would get permanent memory loss when it came to adhering to the tenets of Marxism and Leninism.
Bottom line: self-made business megastars they are not.
I was saddened, though, not by the apparent decline of Tokyo into silliness – it was that, back in the ’90s, I could see him as one of the people to lead this country to the promised Rainbow Nation land.
I was introduced to Tokyo and Chris Hani by a reporter colleague, the late Sefako Nyaka, not long after all ANC exiles returned to the country in the wake of Nelson Mandela’s release.
At the ANC’s then headquarters in Simmonds Street in Joburg, Tokyo it was who grabbed my hand in a big, powerful shake and guffawed: “I hope you’re not expecting anything fancy” as Chris offered us coffee – but with no milk or no sugar. Chris laughed: ”Our comrades won’t get us sugar and won’t pay for a fridge!”
Both men were ex-combatants, so that small discomfort didn’t bother them. I was surprised at their warmth toward me, the white boy – and the fact they spoke in level-headed, but optimistic terms about building a country where all
would be equal … where children would have food and education, where skin colour didn’t count.
As we head towards Freedom Day tomorrow, Tokyo is a sad, but accurate, metaphor of a country, and a political organisation which lost its way.