At the Court of the Lords of Misrule.

The Public Protector is a kind of ombudsman. The idea is that you have a problem of any kind and you take it to the Public Protector and the PuProt will protect you from your problem. Not a problem — except that, firstly, the Public Protector has little or no capacity to investigate your problem, and, secondly, in order to get to the Public Protector you have to fight your way through a maze of lawyers. So, in effect, the Public Protector is the Rich Folks’ Poodle. Obviously, a really good, diligent Public Protector could make a little difference in a few cases — but equally obviously, you can’t expect miracles.
Recently, the Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, made a little coup. To be precise, she investigated a newspaper report that the Police Commissioner, a Zulu sleazeball named Bheki Cele, had done a sleazy deal with a sleazeball property developer named Roux Shabangu. Invasion of the sleazeballs? Obviously yes. Not even the Public Protector could ignore it, although she found nothing which could actually show that any crime had been committed, because of her lack of any actual investigative capacity (or, possibly, will). What the media and the white ruling class prefers is that nothing be actually investigated, because investigation would lead to prosecution and, perish the thought, possible acquittal — whereas on the basis of constantly-refuelled smear campaigns, mere accusations can be kept in the public eye indefinitely.
Fair enough; that’s South African politics.
More recently, Madonsela has been in the firing-line, in a very interesting way. The newspapers suddenly burst into life with the allegation that Madonsela was about to be arrested. Thereafter, it was slowly revealed that she was actually under investigation for fraud. She had previously been working as an overpaid do-nothing for the do-nothing Law Reform Commission, and had been using her position, allegedly, to channel business in the direction of her private law company. Madonsela denied everything, especially the two million rand in business allegedly thus channelled, and said that she personally had pocketed only forty thousand rand from the deals — plus everybody had known that she was running a private business while she was working for the state, so what was the big deal?
Of course, such a denial raises a lot of questions — because Madonsela unmistakeably looks like a sleazeball. Anyone working for a private law firm while working for a state law organisation has an obvious conflict of interest even if she is as lazy as Madonsela seems to have been and if the organisation was as useless as the Law Reform Commission seems to be. Forty thousand rand is peanuts to an advocate, but it’s not small change to most of us. And Madonsela’s whole blustering and whining attitude is more or less guaranteed to suggest that she is guilty.
Fair enough; it’s always wise to suspect that an accusation against a person in power holds water.
What is, therefore, fascinating about this affair is not the actual issues or events, but the way it has been handled.The media treated Madonsela’s slapdash investigation of Cele and Shabangu as if it were Watergate. Then, when she was faced with evidence of her own sleaze, the media first pretended, falsely, that she was going to be arrested (the Star leading this particular propaganda), then proclaimed that she was innocent, then proclaimed that the fact that she was being investigated by the police as well as the Justice Department proved that there was a gigantic conspiracy against her and that everybody was against her and she was a brave little girl, blah blah blah. We have seen this kind of rubbish before with Nosizwe Routledge-Madlala. Obviously there’s a conspiracy to cover up for Madonsela; the interesting question is what this conspiracy could consist of.
One of the very interesting current things being investigated by Madonsela — or rather, of course, not investigated — is an episode known as “Oilgate”. This episode was extremely bizarre. The South African government was a bit of a thorn in the international flesh of the United States in the mid-2000s, because it opposed the invasions of Iraq and Haiti and the attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea. Suddenly in 2005 the Mail and Guardian ran a story about how South Africa had supposedly been bribing the pre-invasion Iraqi government to supply it with oil.
The story could only have come from people with considerable access to the records of the Iraqi government before 2003 — that is, the United States government and the British government. The Mail and Guardian was thus, rather obviously, running Western imperialist propaganda in order to embarrass South Africa. The story, however, fizzled — there was very little to it in reality (the oil had been purchased under the notoriously corrupt “oil-for-food” programme which was essentially run by the US government under the figleaf of the UN). However, all attention suddenly shifted to another piece of information which suddenly emerged from nowhere (nobody thought to ask whether it had come from the same source from which the original “Oilgate” allegations had emerged). This news was that a corrupt businessman named Sandi Majali had bunged the ANC millions of rand before its election campaign in 2004.
There is no law against accepting campaign contributions, so the ANC did nothing wrong here, even if the ANC had solicited the money (which is unlikely, for by 2004 the party was actually flush with cash). However, Majali himself was clearly a crook, since the money wasn’t his — he had filched it from PetroSA, for whom he was working. The ANC had to pay the money back to PetroSA, while Majali went on with a life of corporate crime until he died in mysterious circumstances (possibly murder, more probably suicide) earlier this year.
So, why is the Mail and Guardian demanding that this long-dead and completely unimportant story be reopened by the Public Protector? Presumably, because by wasting money on taking her to court and bitterly complaining that the previous Public Protector very properly wasted no time on this trivial matter, they can keep a dead issue alive. And, as with the arms deal, this simultaneously provides a facile veneer of sleaze against the government (which can be controlled so as to protect the ruling class’s puppets in the government, while doing no harm to the ruling class itself) and serves the interests of Western imperialists in the background. Hurrah for our free press!
Madonsela, to be fair, has pointed out that she doesn’t really want to reopen an “Oilgate” inquiry, partly because no crime was committed of any public significance and partly because the only person who knows anything about the issues or could conceivably be prosecuted is dead. (This is also true of the arms deal, where the late Joe Modise is the only important person other than Jacob Zuma who appears to have been seriously at fault.) However, she hasn’t refused to do this — because the courts are commanding her to do it, having taken, for no sane reason, the part of the Mail and Guardian. (Presumably the Mail and Guardian is not wasting its own money in this matter, but has been slipped a few quid from someone in the Northern Hemisphere.) In short, predictably, she has shown no guts when facing down the ruling class, though she raises a hullabaloo when attacking someone whom the ruling class wants smeared. Well, she’s a South African lawyer — ’nuff said.
Meanwhile, it would be awfully nice if someone actually serious and well-trained and well-equipped could investigate the sleazy deals around leased police headquarters in Pretoria and Durban, where, if reports are remotely accurate, some property tycoon — Shabangu, or a white guy for whom he is fronting? — is pumping billions of rands out of the public purse with the cooperation of the Police Commissioner. In other words, the current Police Commissioner has been shown to be involved in corruption at least ten thousand times greater than the corruption attributed without actual proof to the previous Police Commissioner (who was sentenced to prison anyhow, as part of the huge coverup surrounding the Kebble murder and the installation of Zuma into the Presidency).
There’s a web of crooks enclosing us. Unfortunately, they call themselves the government, civil society and the guardians of the truth. So long as we don’t call them by their real names, we can look forward only to a pile of catastrophe, about which everybody will proceed to repeat the lies which they are instructed to repeat.


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