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Only the cat can bell the cat but will he?

By Kole Omotoso
09 July 2017   |   2:22 am
A time there was in South Africa when the president announced to the world that those who have evidence of corruption against him or any member of his family must show him. The implication of the statement is that with the evidence made available to him he would do something.

South African President, Jacob Zuma / AFP PHOTO / RODGER BOSCH

A time there was in South Africa when the president announced to the world that those who have evidence of corruption against him or any member of his family must show him. The implication of the statement is that with the evidence made available to him he would do something. Today, as we speak, so much evidence of evil doing by the president, some members of his family and a clique of the African National Congress, the country heaves under a huge pile of published evidence.

The former public protector provided evidence of wrong doing in terms of Nkandla, a matter of a few millions of rand really, but still money wrongly used for the president’s private residence. The Constitutional Court ruled that the president must pay back the money. Further, the Constitutional Court ruled that parliament failed to do its constitutional duty overseeing the behaviour of the president. The speaker of parliament was also rebuked. Grudgingly the president and all those affected in the Nkandla corruption report quietly said they thought they were right but now they know they were wrong.

Then, there is the matter of the industrial-style corruption machinery spear-headed by the Gupta brothers (a kind of modern day post apartheid spear of the nation?) whereby one corrupt gift keeps giving world without end. This has been dubbed ‘state capture’. The former public protector recommended that the Chief Justice should set up a judicial commission of inquiry. Under normal circumstances, the president is the one empire to set such a commission but the president is one of the accused in the matter of state capture. So, should he set up a commission to investigate himself? Sounds like that line from Derek Walcott ‘myself investigating myself’!!!

For months, nothing was done about state capture. This was mainly because the president had asked for the report to be reviewed because, he claims that he was not allowed to defend himself. The fact of the matter was that when he was given the chance to respond to the accusations he dragged his feet, postponed where he legally could and stymied processes where he could. Anything but forward movement to clarification of things. After all, where is the evidence of state capture? Is it wrong for the president to be friends with the Gupta brothers? Why can’t the president’s son be in business with the Gupta brothers?

Sometime in April the South African Council of Churches published its report on the corruption called state capture, looking at it from what it considers its moral position in the confessionals of its members. There were members who had approached the churches bearing the burden of knowing about this corruption and worried how to go forward in their private and public lives with their knowledge.

Soon after the report of the churches, a group of academics released a 72 page academic essay with footnotes and further readings and all the things you expect to see in an academic essay on state capture. Each of these reports – the former public protector’s report, the report by the South African Council of Churches and the academic report by the university professors mentions ministers, deputy ministers, CEOs doing the bidding of the Gupta brothers and the wishes of the son of the president. The Gupta brothers were landing their private planes in security landing places. They were choosing and rejecting ministers. They were picking up millions here and there as something or other comes into being. Nothing was being done to anyone in spite of evidence of wrong doing being documented and released into the public space.

Then in May between 100,000 and 200,000 emails and letters were leaked from the Gupta companies. Dubbed GuptaLeaks the material is wiki leaks of South Africa. Suddenly, it is no longer they said, they didn’t say. Every transaction, every devious arrangement was exposed for all the world to see. Names and places and spaces and the list is still coming out. Sometime in June a group, mindful of the need to prepare these materials for presentation to a court did exactly that, presenting copies to members of parliament as well as all those to do with the judicial systems: the police, the investigation units, the prosecuting authorities and the speaker of the Houses of Parliament. Why then, in the face of all this evidence, not one person has been arrested? Who will bell, the cat if the cat refuses to oblige the rats and bell itself?

The rats always went about the business of belling the cat the wrong way, even for that time. As a community, rats wished to be warned ahead of any rampaging cat hunting for lunch or dinner. They came up with the idea of putting a bell on the cat so that rats will be warned of the approach of the cat. The challenge was to find a hero to bell the cat. They could have gone about the whole thing differently. They could have attempted to get cats to stop their feeding on rat flesh. Convert cats to vegetarianism. Don’t kill and don’t be killed. Humanitarian principle to teach the world. If that did not work, perhaps rats could take charge of providing rat flesh to cats on demand at a cost to cats. And if the cats would not agree to that arrangement? Well, fight the cats to a stand still. Every creature came into their world on its own. No creature was created for the pleasure of other creatures. Easier said than done. What about technology?

Which brings us to the resolution of the matter of the president as outlined by the Secretary General of the African National Congress. Come December, the president will step aside as president of the ruling party. He would still be the president of the country. But he can now be recalled by the African National Congress from being president of the country. This is the only way, according to the Secretary General to get rid of the president to answer to his seven hundred and eighty-three cases plus hanging over his head. To think that mere reports, religious, academic or judicial will do it is to expect the cat to bell itself for the benefit of the rat.

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