Thabo Mbeki had just been inaugurated as president in June 1999. He defended former apartheid apparatchik Ndaweni Mahlangu, who for some inexplicable reason Mbeki had appointed premier of Mpumalanga. His first public utterance (and the province even then, long before DD Mabuza took its helm, was riddled with corruption) was to defend a proven liar’s appointment in his administration. Mahlangu’s defence was way ahead of its time but it set the standard for the mendacity of mediocrity soon to become the norm.

“It is permissible for politicians to lie in public,” was the soundbite to posterity Mahlangu provided. No contrition or remorse from him back then (unlike Nene now).

When I suggested to Mbeki he could set a golden example to illustrate his government’s standards in fighting corruption, the president declined. Not only would he not do so, but he branded me and my political cause “peddlers of a soulless theology, homegrown Tories, who define some races as subhuman and believe in the survival of the fittest”.

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