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Picture: GCIS
Picture: GCIS

Politics is often the art of marrying the hypocritical with the cynical; never more so than now, as Julius Malema and Jacob Zuma’s offspring seize on the Phala Phala heist to demand President Cyril Ramaphosa’s head. 

Ramaphosa most certainly has a case to answer, and he is only making things worse for himself through his lack of transparency and refusal to offer substantive replies to questions from the media.

Malema’s EFF MPs, citing the allegations against him, tried to disrupt Ramaphosa’s speech on the presidency budget last week and were booted out of parliament for their trouble.

This allows him to dodge the legitimate questions he faces — in particular why he didn’t report it

Yet it is also true that the president’s timing was embarrassingly off when he suspended public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane — he chose to do so the day after she had announced she was investigating the farm heist.

Mkhwebane certainly had it coming. She is facing impeachment in parliament after years of stumbling from one mess to another:  the Absa-Bankorp lifeboat imbroglio, her pursuit of Pravin Gordhan, and other investigations too numerous to mention that have been dismissed by the courts and condemned as everything from “irrational” to “bad faith conduct”.  

In a way, the fact that those demanding Ramaphosa’s head comprise a coalition of SA’s most irretrievably compromised figures boosts his case; he can simply dismiss the heist/cover-up allegations as a smear by the radical economic transformation crew. 

So what should have been dealt with as a straightforward common crime now becomes a political issue, and Ramaphosa is exploiting this to try to dodge legitimate questions — such as  why the burglary was not formally reported to police when it happened two years ago, and whether everything about the dollars stashed in his sofa was kosher.  Many South Africans are arriving at the conclusion that Ramaphosa, despite his lofty anticorruption pronouncements, considers himself to be above the law.   

We have been here before — Zuma created a political smokescreen around the genuine corruption charges he faces and has hidden behind it for nearly two decades. One hopes the parallels end there — while Zuma’s Stalingrad defence has become legendary, Ramaphosa says due process must run its course and he is remaining silent in the interests of this process.  

Still, politics and the murky reputations of those leading the charge against the president have muddied the waters — creating opportunities to avoid transparency and true accountability. 


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