South Africa – Molefe farce like the Life of Brian

Mail and GuardianMonty Python’s Life of Molefe

Not Atul: Brian Molefe was meant to be the tame finance minister in the Republic of Gupta, but one ANC faction said no. (Rodger Bosch/AFP)
Not Atul: Brian Molefe was meant to be the tame finance minister in the Republic of Gupta, but one ANC faction said no. (Rodger Bosch/AFP)

Earlier this week someone advised me to consider a career in comedy if I should ever tire of my various jobs. Sadly, I’m no comedic talent. They were confusing the comedic state of our politics with any talent of mine to generate laughter when talking about politics.

Life in the Republic of Gupta is so tragicomic that one merely needs to give a straightforward narration of what is going on, while playing some circus music or the theme song for Pinocchio in the background, and thereby also perform one’s own lie of being a comedian.

Not a week goes by these days without spectacular new lies surfacing, new evidence of state capture dripping into the public space, and the foundations of our democracy being shaken yet again.

The latest web of lies in which the Monty Pythonesque life of Brian Molefe is entangled is this week’s political lowlight.

The Eskom boss and the Eskom board’s chair, Baldwin “Ben” Ngubane, take us for fools.

The latest tomfoolery is more dangerous than usual because it involves a range of improbable statements made under oath and which are now before the courts.

These two guys would have us believe that Molefe never resigned from Eishkom. He simply went on early retirement.

It gets worse. Turns out that young Molefe isn’t old enough to qualify for early retirement, and so they snowball the lies by agreeing instead to pretend that Molefe has been on unpaid leave since the beginning of this year. I don’t believe a word of this rubbish. It is all the more shocking that these claims are made in documents before a court of law.

Not only do these people take the public for fools, they also make a mockery of judicial processes that are supposed to be respected when we are hauled before a court.

Molefe resigned. He unilaterally told us he was doing so for the sake of good corporate governance and to clear his sullied name, following the bad press for Eskom and for himself, after he was implicated in the previous public protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report.

That is why Cabinet, through the shareholder representative, Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown, explicitly accepted his resignation and wished him all the best as he contemplated his next career move.

Molefe never went on early retirement and he never took unpaid leave. Who the heck takes unpaid leave and then gets sworn in as an MP of our National Assembly, a job you cannot hold if you’re in the employ of a state entity such as Eskom?

So what is going on here? It’s simple. Molefe was meant to be the next minister of finance. That is what President Atul Gupta wanted.

President Gupta is in a battle to loot from the state while a faction of the ANC tries to prevent the complete theft of state resources. Jacob Zuma is simply a Gupta henchman.

The Guptas often get what they want. They do not, however, always get what they want. Every now and then the anti-Gupta faction in the ANC scores a win.

The captured boy-child, Brian Molefe, was taken to work in Parliament with a view to joining the executive of henchman Zuma. The anti-Gupta faction inside the ANC pushed back.

In the end, Malusi Gigaba, cut from the same cloth as Molefe but not yet tainted as badly, had to be appointed minister of finance instead.

But the investment of President Gupta in young Molefe is worthless if Molefe is simply an ANC MP. Parliament does not have enough loot for the rapacious Gupta family’s liking. So Molefe had to be hastily returned to the trough of a strategic state-owned company where the Guptas need him to dish them up some more loot.

That is how we got to the current mess of lie after lie being told to justify why Molefe is back at Eishkom. It is not a matter of good faith and mistaken early retirement. It is simply Saxonwold Shebeen shenanigans.

It doesn’t help that Minister BrownNose behaves as if she is powerless. Either Eishkom lied to her about Molefe’s resignation or she, too, is captured.

If she is captured, the truth will eventually out and she will have ruined a decent career in politics. Alternatively, she was genuinely kept in the dark by Ngubane and Molefe, in which case she should resign – because her oversight role was poorly performed – or immediately use her powers more effectively to get rid of Molefe and the board.

With every day that passes and the status quo remains, the minister’s position becomes more and more untenable. What’s the point of being our shareholder representative if you cannot represent the public interest effectively?

Meanwhile, Zuma is quiet because he is not interested in governing beyond taking instructions from the parallel executive structure based at the Saxonwold Shebeen.

We are now at the mercy of an ANC at war with itself. You’d be forgiven for believing that the anti-Gupta faction is trustworthy and honest.

After all, we can do with some good news, can’t we? Don’t be naive though. Even those fighting the Guptas and Zuma are merely positioning themselves for proximity to the leftovers at the trough.

Why else were they mostly quiet until they got booted from the state or the executive, or had a falling-out with the chief Gupta henchman from Nkandla?

There are many dark days ahead – even if Eskom keeps the lights on.

Eusebius McKaiser

Eusebius McKaiser

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