Gwede Mantashe. Picture: SOWETAN
Gwede Mantashe. Picture: SOWETAN

I’ve long had reservations about ANC chairman Gwede Mantashe. Now, thanks to Ian Sinton’s deposition at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture, not only are these reservations back but they have mutated into radioactive judgments. On the basis of this evidence, Mantashe is as poorly in the head as I always suspected him to be.

Sinton is Standard Bank’s general counsel, who was summoned to Luthuli House to explain why the bank closed the Gupta accounts in 2016. Those doing the summoning were reportedly Mantashe, Jessie Duarte and Enoch Godongwana.

During the course of the discussion, Sinton and CEO Sim Tshabalala were asked: "Is Standard Bank doing the bidding of white monopoly capital?" You would expect clowns like Duarte or Mosebenzi Zwane or Mzwanele Manyi to ask a question like that. But Mantashe? We’ve always respectfully accepted Mantashe’s antipathy towards business. However, in the extremely unlikely event this bank were to do anyone’s bidding, it would be the "bidding" of its major shareholders, right?

President Cyril Ramaphosa needs to examine Standard Bank’s exchange with the ANC and issue a swift instruction that no individual involved in any discussions with any parties during this period of Spanish inquisitions must participate — in any form — in the state’s attempt to recover from its perilous economic position.

And those major shareholders just so happen to be 13,000km away in Beijing — hardly Stellenbosch’s pawns.

Even mild curiosity that a mythical force of Afrikaners might be influencing this institution is akin to the worst anti-semitic conspiracies about Rothschilds and the Illuminati that protesters distribute on the picket line.

Former Business Day editor Peter Bruce taught me to temper frustration with the party’s paranoia because most of us couldn’t possibly have understood what it meant to be in exile.

Those in foreign places, he said, were forever looking over their shoulders, unfamiliar and uncomfortable with their new surroundings, while some of their colleagues in East Germany and the Soviet Union were being subjected to the worst kind of communist brainwashing (of which — lest it be forgotten — paranoia is a prerequisite).

It has, however, gone way too far now; the damage is not just revealed in the party’s notoriously poor judgment but by its inability to acknowledge the most common feature of history: what lies behind every catastrophe is not conspiracy, but incompetence.

Sinton’s testimony is actually a summary of the country’s latter-day fortunes under the present administration, why it never managed to ride the commodities boom, why it stubbornly refuses to overhaul its core economic beliefs, and arguably why the oblivious wives of ministers are still allowed to rack up such extravagance on our tab.

There is the expectation that the Zondo commission will result in a raft of charges and prosecutions against the worst offenders of the Gupta-Zuma axis. President Cyril Ramaphosa needs to examine Standard Bank’s exchange with the ANC and issue a swift instruction that no individual involved in any discussions with any parties during this period of Spanish inquisitions must participate — in any form — in the state’s attempt to recover from its perilous economic position.

In 2002 I went to Batho Pele House in Pretoria, to the department of public service & administration, where I observed no fewer than 25 administrators on a single floor all playing Solitaire on their desktop computers, Microsoft 2000 version, before 10am.

I left reasonably convinced that I’d never seen the government so harmless before.

This is exactly the sort of place to house all these suspicious halfwits. Let them play Microsoft Paint and sketch little pictures of stickmen sitting around fires talking to fish, while the rest of the country tries to sort out the mess they’ve made.

• Reader is an executive at financial technology firm Fourex in London. He is currently writing a book on British, SA and European politics.