Journalists and other critics of state capture and corruption will not be cowed into silence
At the end of May a ragtag group of about 20 people marched on the private home of SA Communist Party deputy secretary-general Solly Mapaila.
They made numerous threats and said Mapaila, a critic of the Gupta family’s capture of the state and corruption, must stop publicly criticising President Jacob Zuma.
Among the group were known leaders of the MK Military Veterans’ Association, the organisation led by Deputy Minister for Military Veterans Kebby Maphatsoe, who also have business links to the Gupta family.
Interestingly, the marchers were accompanied by reporters from the Gupta-owned ANN7 television station.
“You could see it’s [march] co-ordinated from inside the Guptas. I understand why the Guptas would be angry because we’re stopping them from stealing the resources of this country,” said Mapaila then.
Two weeks ago an anonymous website published pictures from the illegal surveillance of Peter Bruce, editor-at-large at Tiso Blackstar (owners and publishers of this newspaper and website).
The surveillance was outrageous: identity numbers of private people, their addresses and telephone numbers were splashed on the website.
Chew on this: superior journalism by the Daily Maverick website found that some of the content was produced by former Gupta-owned Sahara Computers employee Saurabh Aggarwal. The man, a relative of the Guptas, is now in India.
On Thursday a group masquerading under the name Black First Land First, led by former EFF MP Andile Mngxitama, arrived at Bruce’s house and manhandled Business Day editor Tim Cohen while mouthing racist vitriol at Bruce.
These peace-time revolutionaries have absolutely no recollection that it was Bruce’s late brother-in-law, Donald Woods, who was among journalists who published and championed the cause of Steve Bantu Biko in the 1970s. By the way, the ideologically confused Mngxitama styles himself as the world’s greatest authority on Biko.
Yet he has no idea that it was the apartheid government’s harassment of Woods’s family that led to Bruce leaving South Africa when Mngxitama was still in nappies. I apologise. I am expecting the BLF’s members to have a passing acquaintance with books and history. My mistake.
Mngxitama’s 20 or so members appear whenever the Guptas are under scrutiny. Guess what the leaked trove of e-mails has revealed – that he has requested funding from the Gupta family in the past.
Under the circumstances we can assume all these attacks were initiated, activated and controlled from the Gupta family home.
There is such a long list of criminal investigations waiting to be triggered through the former public protector’s State of Capture report plus the 200000 leaked e-mails that their path to jail is virtually guaranteed unless they corrupt every single institution in their path.
Then there is also the fact that they are losing the leadership contest within the ANC.
The policy conference currently under way at Nasrec in Johannesburg has begun to show cracks in Zuma’s attempt to install his proxy, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as his successor.
The solid bloc of Mpumalanga is cracking, with Premier David Mabuza no longer trusted as a member of the so-called premier league (made up of Gupta-supporting North West and Free State premiers). KwaZulu-Natal, once impenetrable as a Zuma bloc, is now divided as Zweli Mkhize and Senzo Mchunu continue to yank it towards the Cyril Ramaphosa grouping.
Zuma may have to use that Dubai mansion after all.
As they become more desperate, dirty tricks, like from the apartheid regime, will become more common as critics and journalists are lined up for intimidation.
Whatever happens, they won’t stop any of us. Next week this column will harry them. So will hundreds of other journalists and columnists until Zuma gives our country back to its people.
The attacks on journalists and on upstanding people such as Mapaila are a distraction. They are meant to intimidate and cow all of us into silence.
They have already distracted us from the real issues of South Africa – the horrendous unemployment, the massive inequality, the shocking rape statistics and murders of women, the shrinking economy and the appalling education outcomes.
But now the real questions are being asked and they demand answers. Where is the national director of public prosecutions, Shaun Abrahams, as our country is being looted? Where is the national police commissioner, Lesetja Mothiba?
These questions will not go away.
This past weekend Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, one of the key members
of the coterie that propelled Zuma to power, called on the ANC to expel any of its members implicated in, and proved guilty of, involvement in the Gupta e-mails leaks saga. Of all those implicated, Zuma appears to be the most culpable. It’s curtains for Zuma now. It’s curtains for the Guptas.
That is why they appear to be trying to blackmail and besmirch journalists and turn our country into a failed state.
They will not succeed. They dare not succeed.