15 March 2020
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula’s comments this week that the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture “is a place for everybody to urinate there because they are bored” should be condemned in the strongest possible terms.
Mbalula was responding to allegations before the commission by former Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) chairman Khanyisile Kweyama that the minister dissolved her board illegally last year.
Not so long ago, Mbalula, the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) member, used the commission to detail how the Guptas informed him that he was going to be sports minister before former president Jacob Zuma could notify him of the decision.
Mbalula, who is also the ruling party’s head of elections, was waxing lyrical about how he ate curry with the Gupta family but “that curry never finished me, I stood firm”.
It was convenient for Mbalula to use the commission to throw the Guptas – and ostensibly Zuma – under the bus. So, now that allegations are levelled against him, people are urinating?
It is not the hypocrisy of Mbalula and his penchant to use words recklessly that is worrisome but the tendency by those accused at the commission to cast aspersions on its work.
Many are agreed that corruption is one of the biggest challenges facing our democratic dispensation and public life in general. Graft has permeated almost every facet of South African life – from government to the private sector.
It is the capture of the state for corporate interests, in particular, that has betrayed the promise of our democracy of a better life for all and led to billions of rand meant to uplift our people from a life of poverty and inequality being lost to corruption.
It is within this context that President Cyril Ramaphosa, with the support of the ANC NEC, established a commission of inquiry into the phenomenon of state capture.
Since the start of the commission, we have heard harrowing stories of how the state was hijacked to line the pockets of unscrupulous politicians and businessmen; sordid tales of how corruption-busting institutions such as the Hawks and National Prosecuting Authority were hollowed out in order to facilitate an orgy of state looting.
As rolling blackouts continue to inflict damage on the country’s economy, we have heard at the Zondo Commission how Eskom was pillaged and was central in the state capture project that has set the country back many years.
Many well-meaning politicians and senior public servants have appeared before the commission to shine the spotlight on a cancer that has been eating the future of this country.
Ramaphosa has even announced a Scorpions-like outfit to deal with cases emanating from the commission.
Yet, for Mbalula, all of this is “urinating”. While we have come to expect very little from Mbalula, it is unfathomable that a cabinet minister can make such a comment about something so serious.
Mbalula’s comment doesn’t only undermine the fight against state capture, but also urinates – to use his unfortunate words – on the country’s constitution, the president and, most importantly, the citizens of this country whose taxes fund the commission and pays his salary.