Opinion / 3 November 2018, 11:30am / Kevin Ritchie
Perhaps the only good thing to come out of Malusi Gigaba’s admission that he was being blackmailed is the almost universal revulsion, on social media at least, of the sex tape being weaponised against him.
Gigaba’s defence, when he attempted to pre-empt the blackmailers by outing himself last weekend, that this was a private video intended for his wife’s edification and delight, appeared to garner him even more support.
He had a point. We should be a country that can live up to our constitutional values - in this case the right to privacy and to dignity.
But then, why did Gigaba use a government phone and not his own? In fact, what possessed him as an ostensible adult to even film himself in the first place?
What if his phone wasn’t hacked at all but that he sent it to a person who wasn’t his wife and that others used this to hold him to ransom? It doesn’t make any of what happened legal, far from it, but it does strip any goodwill that Gigaba might have earned with his apparent candour and contrition - if a Twitter apology can be that, because if true, that will be yet another lie that has caught him out.
Many have asked why we should even care - if our only interest is prurient.
It’s a valid question, the laws against even publishing extortion cases are unequivocal. Gigaba, though, is no ordinary citizen with the same protections afforded by the law, he is a Cabinet minister with an important portfolio who, at the time the extortion began, had an even more critical post - as minister of finance in a country brought to its knees by state capture.
We have a right to know what effect, if any, the blackmail bids had on him - and us.
But it doesn’t end there. In his first incarnation as Minister of Home Affairs he oversaw the ruinous and overturned onerous visa requirements for children. Redi Thlabi even asked if he had authored them following a domestic affray with his estranged wife. Gigaba responded by using state resources to in a bid to muzzle her in court.
That’s just one issue. There have been myriad concerns about his capacity for good governance and ethical leadership, culminating this week in what is an almost unprecedented intervention by the usually moribund public protector Busisiwe Mhkwebane, effectively asking President Cyril Ramaphosa to fire Gigaba for lying under oath and abusing the Constitution.
Commentators have argued the scandal was a much-needed, and undeserved, distraction for Gigaba stopping us from asking pertinent questions about his competency and complicity in state capture.
They’re right. Thankfully that danger appears to have passed - a week is a long time in politics, especially for distractions.
What the video does do, unequivocally, is to confirm everything that we might ever have suspected about the minister. Malusi Gigaba is, by his own hand, nothing more than a wanker using state resources for his own gratification.
His continued presence in Cabinet - on any of these issues, never mind their cumulative effect - speaks volumes about the much-vaunted New Dawn.
* Ritchie is a media consultant. He is a former journalist and newspaper editor.