The slow, steady suicide of the South African state continues.
A minor, but highly instructive example is the Dewani murder case. On the face of it, the case appears remarkably simple. Shrien Dewani is a masochistic homosexual whose ridiculously wealthy family compelled him to marry a blonde trophy wife, which had the potential to interfere with his Internet-aided cavortings (and this was doubtless the idea).
Somehow, the unhappy couple went to Cape Town for their honeymoon and went for a spin in Gugulethu, which is not the tourist centre of town, where Dewani was dumped after which the wife was unceremoniously shot. It then transpired that Dewani had not mentioned to anybody that he had had a little meeting with his driver a day before the trip, which was captured on closed-circuit TV, and when the driver was pulled in he immediately claimed that Dewani had paid him to bump off the wife.
Had the entire case been pre-baked and handed to the police with a pizza spatula it could hardly have been more convenient. Just to allow a little more convenience, Dewani scuttled off to the UK and used up the family cash to try to avoid extradition at all costs, hiring the repulsive celebrity publicist and speedily-imprisoned paedophile Max Clifford to smear South Africa on Dewani’s behalf. All this did Dewani no favours in the eyes of South Africans, and meanwhile it gave the cops limitless time to fine-tune their case to the last detail. By the time Dewani arrived in South Africa he should have been practically ready for the prayer-book, six-foot-drop and naked dump into a pit of quicklime.
Instead, what’s happened has been instructive; the cops have apparently devoted time to coaching the witnesses in contradictory directions so that they say different things about the same events, while the forensic evidence has been mishandled really bizarrely. There is now a real chance that they might lose the case even with an honest judge. And, of course, South Africa does not have many honest judges; they are all busy sucking up to the ruling class. So it seems that Dewani was correct in his apparent assumption that it would not only be easy to find someone to murder his wife for him in Cape Town, but that he would also get away with it — although he probably didn’t expect to have to spend so much time and money on his getaway.
Of course, this displays the incompetence of the police, and will very probably display the bias of the judge, but it also displays the incompetence of the National Prosecuting Authority, so that’s the executive, the judiciary and the legislature all done and dealt with.
This is worth thinking about when one considers the recent South Park-style shenanigans in Parliament.
It will be recalled that the shenanigans are about two things: the Marikana massacre, and the Nkandla fraud. The two events are both conspicuous failures of governance; the first a failure to resolve a dispute peacefully (or at least to restrain violence so that nobody got killed by the state) and the second a failure to hold the President accountable for his corrupt exploitation of his position for personal financial gain. Both, therefore, are issues which could serve as examples of a wider corruption and ineptitude within government, which Parliament ought to address.
But they are also both issues which have been predominantly taken up by the ruling class for use against the ANC. On the other hand, one could argue very strongly that they are both issues which represent occasions when the ruling class has got what it wanted. The Marikana massacre was an extension of the militarised and unaccountable policing which the ruling class wants (and it also provided an excuse for the ruling class-controlled AMCU to call off a strike which the ruling class no longer needed once the power of the NUM had been broken). The Nkandla corruption was, arguably, a reward for Jacob Zuma’s compliance with their wishes.
So it is perhaps unsurprising that these two issues have received relatively little attention in Parliament, in spite of their immense significance in the media, and the fact that the “official opposition”, the Democratic Alliance, has been campaigning very noisily around Nkandla (though hardly at all around Marikana, doubtless because it embarrasses the large corporate entities which control the DA). Until, that is, the EFF arrived, with its well-justified and sensible hatred for Zuma and his deputy (whom the DA has to back off from since he is adored by the large corporate entities which control the DA). In effect, by attacking Zuma for Nkandla and Ramaphosa for Marikana, the EFF was following the narrative already established by the corporate media, so they were doing nothing new, and indeed arguably were potentially falling into a trap laid by their enemies.
And yet, in doing so, they were also pointing out how completely Parliament had failed to call the leaders of the country to account, and thus how not only the ANC was failing in its governance, but the DA was failing in opposition. Thus what they were doing was pointing out how Parliament had collapsed into a mere lapdog of executive power, which means corporate power — a fact which had largely escaped the people who never failed to make such accusations (sometimes justified, usually not) when Mbeki was President and the ruling class was keen on attacking him.
The EFF essentially behaved as if Parliament were an elected sovereign body. They refused to cover up for President Zuma’s misdeeds at Nkandla, and when Zuma hid from them and sent Ramaphosa in his place, called him a person unfit to receive a report on the Marikana massacre given that he had financial connections with the company involved in the strike. When the ANC used parliamentary rules to suppress the EFF’s protest, the EFF refused to acknowledge the rules, whereupon the ANC used force against them on behalf of the rules — first calling the police, and later, after it proved that the police had too much respect for Parliament to act brutally, calling the riot squad, claiming that Parliament was being brought into disrepute, rather in the same way that the ANC and COSATU love to expel people on this very subjective and dubious basis.
And then, rather suddenly, the DA decided to do the same. That is, they suddenly began to pretend that they cared deeply enough about these things to defy Parliamentary regulations and even face physical assaults. They had not done this before, and this was probably for two reasons. One, they did not need to — they had the press and Thuli Madonsela to do the work. Two, they did not want to — the ruling class would hardly be happy at having their beloved Cyril Ramaphosa attacked (and on every occasion when Cyril has been criticised the people most under the thumb of the ruling class, the leader-page commentators and cartoonists, have leaped to his defense). But the trouble is that the DA knows perfectly well that if the big conspiracy is exposed too conspicuously, if their collaboration with the neoliberal leaders within the ANC is revealed, then the public will stop voting for them. So, at least for a little, they had to stagger after the EFF, like a clockwork rhinoceros blundering after a caracal.
Then, of course, Ramaphosa had to play the peacemaker. It was what his white masters have employed him to do, much as he surely disliked to do it. He offered to withdraw the sanctions which the ANC imposed on the EFF in Parliament, if the EFF would only undertake to be nice and submissive. The EFF, sensibly, agreed to this, knowing that it could not possibly be binding — and then the ANC in Parliament repudiated Ramaphosa and reinstated the sanctions. If Ramaphosa ever had any status in the NEC into which he was parachuted by his masters, or in the ANC caucus which almost certainly despises him as an amateur and a turncoat, he lost it at once — although the press, owned by Ramaphosa’s masters, naturally could not say this.
Meanwhile, just in case anyone thought that the Fourth Estate was the watchdog which would discourage corruption and prevent abuses of power, the press was (again) exposed as the toadies of corrupt power which they have always been.
The story first broke in noseWeek, South Africa’s only muckraking magazine. The Sunday Times‘ crack investigative journalists, “Mzilikazi wa Afrika” and Steven Hofstatter, ran a story in 2011 claiming that the Cato Manor Serious and Violent Crimes Unit, commanded by General Booysen, the head of the Hawks in the province, was a hit-squad murdering people with impunity. The unit was closed down and Booysen arrested. noseWeek suggested, as informed by Booysen, that this was a ploy to remove Booysen for getting too close to corrupt police who were plundering KwaZulu-Natal SAPS supplies; it was obvious that “Wa Afrika” and Hofstatter had received their information from within the SAPS. Presently noseWeek’s claims received some corroboration of a kind; the criminal charges against Booysen and his colleagues were all dropped and instead disciplinary charges were made. Subsequently, however, the disciplinary charges also collapsed.
It was obvious that the arrests and the disbandment had been completely frivolous and that “Wa Afrika” and Hofstatter had delivered a heap of someone else’s garbage which they had not bothered to test. However, the editor of the paper stood by them and they were allowed to keep all the awards which they had received for a story which should never have been published. No newspaper followed up any of noseWeek‘s stories.
But in October-November this year, the self-same team repeated a raft of implausible-sounding allegations about an alleged “rogue unit” within the South African Revenue Service which “Wa Afrika” and Hofstatter had made earlier in the same paper; the core of the allegations was that the “rogue unit” had been investigating high government officials including Zuma himself. It seemed credible that, once again, “Wa Afrika” and Hofstatter were acting as channels for an official smear campaign in order to protect corrupt officials against investigation, with the approval of their editor and owner. Within days of the repetition of the articles, the “rogue unit” was closed down and its leaders suspended and threatened with criminal charges.
This time, however, there was a response; the South African Revenue Service was one of the sacred cows of the corporate ruling class. Max du Preez, the right-wing commentator with close ties to the ruling class, said in one of his rambling articles that the attack on SARS had been facilitated by the press. The Mail and Guardian ran a front-page article claiming that the attack on SARS was an ANC plot to punish the organisation for trying to impose import duty on imported T-shirts, and mentioning that it had been facilitated by the press. However, neither Du Preez nor the Mail and Guardian dared to mention either the newspaper which had run the stories, or the journalists who had acted as front-people for a government smear campaign. Thus the public, unless they were paying close attention (which few do) remained in the dark, except that the government, as usual, was bad. The fact that the press was colluding with corruption and covering up for this collusion as much as possible, passed the public by — apart from the vast majority of the public who understandably don’t believe a word of what they read or hear or see in the media.
So the security forces and the judiciary are incompetent or corrupt, the legislature is dysfunctional, the executive is out of control and the media are happily covering up for all these things while facilitating them as often as not? Well, what do you expect? Why make a fuss? We can move our wealth offshore, can’t we? Pass the under-age Ukrainian prostitute, would you?