Mo Shaik made it to the senior ranks of the spy agencies when Jacob Zuma became president in 2009 — then, suddenly, he was out. Picture: SOWETAN/ANTONIO MUCHAVE
Mo Shaik made it to the senior ranks of the spy agencies when Jacob Zuma became president in 2009 — then, suddenly, he was out. Picture: SOWETAN/ANTONIO MUCHAVE

It’s easy to be nostalgic about the ANC’s past and its leaders of yore. Walter Sisulu, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada and so many others represented an organisation that was grounded in honesty, service to the people and integrity. They were leaders whose commitment to SA was unquestionable.

Yet, every day now, you look at the same ANC and you wonder how it could have come so low so quickly. It is now an ANC that lacks a backbone and whose leadership has sold its soul to the highest bidder. We are reminded of this fact daily. Yet we forget it just as regularly. When will we learn?

There was no better illustration of this betrayal than the testimony of Mo Shaik, the former intelligence chief and lifelong ANC member, at the Zondo commission last week.

Shaik was embarrassed in the early 2000s when he and a cohort of other Zuma-supporting ANC intelligence types tried to besmirch Bulelani Ngcuka and label him as a former apartheid spy, only to be exposed as pathetic liars at the Hefer commission of inquiry.

He was elevated to the senior ranks of the spy agencies when Zuma became president in 2009. In addition to Jeff Maqetuka and Gibson Njenje, Shaik became one of the top three intelligence chiefs in SA.

Then, out of nowhere, a political lightweight called Siyabonga Cwele was installed as minister of intelligence. Shaik’s testimony last week lays bare why this appointment was made.

After information that the Gupta family were boasting about their access to president Jacob Zuma came to light, the three intelligence chiefs decided to launch an investigation. Of primary concern was how the Guptas had summoned Fikile Mbalula to their Saxonwold mansion to tell him of his imminent elevation from deputy to full minister in the Zuma cabinet. How could a private family have so much power and access to information that ought to be in the head of the president and perhaps one or two other people in the highest echelons of the ANC only? The minute the three intelligence bigwigs heard about this they had no choice but to launch an investigation into the Gupta family.

They were soon summoned to Cape Town by the minister, Cwele, who instructed them to immediately drop the investigation. He made up all kinds of reasons to achieve this end.

Minister after minister implicated in malfeasance was protected and some even had the audacity to parade their corruption in our faces

“He argued that the reason we wanted to further this investigation was to advance the interests of Mr Njenje,” Shaik told the Zondo commission last week. “I denied that and we all did. We tried to explain, but the minister did not listen. It seemed to me that the minister did not want this investigation to happen. The meeting was incredibly tense.

“The minister said: ‘I am instructing you not to continue with the investigation.’ We said we are going to investigate. Maqetuka then said we want to discuss the matter with the president directly. We did not accept to stop the investigation.”

Well, it is clear that Cwele could issue such an extraordinary instruction because he had the full backing of the man that the intelligence chiefs were trying to protect — Zuma. The three men were later fired or forced out. Zuma, the man who recruited them and for whom they had battled in the war against Thabo Mbeki before 2007, said not a single word in their defence.

The balance of forces had tilted. The Guptas, who housed and paid Zuma’s son as well as some of his wives and children, were now firmly in charge of the president and his actions. His former comrades were ejected.

Over the years from Zuma’s noisy arrival in December 2007 the ANC’s culture has embraced the corrupt, the unethical, the populist and the dodgy. Minister after minister implicated in malfeasance was protected and some even had the audacity to parade their corruption in our faces. How many ANC leaders have boasted of just how close they are to the Guptas, for example? Start with Ace Magashule, the party secretary whose son was also housed by the Guptas, and work your way through his office in the ANC and then down the ranks of the party. You will weep.

So the case of former state security minister Bongani Bongo, another lightweight plucked out of nowhere by Zuma, is interesting. Just days after being charged with corruption, Bongo is back in parliament, chairing the home affairs portfolio committee’s meetings. The party’s integrity commission says he should step down. Do you think Magashule will allow that to happen? Not a chance.

So now work your way from Bongo to other Zuma ministers implicated in corruption, everyone from Mosebenzi Zwane to David Mahlobo to Faith Muthambi. The elevation of these “leaders” tells you one thing: the ANC is showing you its face. Don’t ignore a party when it shows you its corrupt face because you will regret it one day.

This article was first published by Times Select.