“‘Tis the prettiest little parlour that you ever did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I’ve many curious things to show you when you’re there.”
I’m sure many of you recognise this first stanza of the 19th century cautionary tale called The Spider and the Fly which, after the dramatic political events this week, Nhlanhla Nene would have done well to have heeded.
For those not familiar with the poem, it tells the story of a cunning spider who ensnares a naïve fly in its web.
Had the former finance minister listened to his instincts, he would have realised the invitation from the Guptas to their luxury compound in Saxonwold just didn’t look right.
In fact, Nene was initially suspicious of the invitation, just like the little fly in the poem.
Remember the second stanza?
“Oh, no, no,” said the little fly, “to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair can never come down again.”
Never were truer words spoken.
Whether it was temptation, naivety or just plain curiosity, once Nene stepped into the Saxonwold parlour, he was entrapped.
He’s now become the first victim of the state capture inquiry after confessing to secretly meeting the controversial family and not coming clean about his tête-à-têtes.
One can hardly condone Nene’s indiscretions, but he certainly deserves credit for resisting moves to sign a R1.3 trillion nuclear deal with Russia which would have left the country miserably broke.
He also put his foot down when pushed to sign on the dotted line for a crooked SAA deal, something not many of our current crop of ministers would have had the guts to do.
So let’s give credit where it’s due.
His dilemma was that it was not just the evil spider he had to deal with.
As a minister, serving at the pleasure of his president at the time, Jacob Zuma, he would have felt a sense of obligation to accept the Saxonwold invitation.
But he should have put his cards on the table and told the commission about these dialogues.
Anyway, Nene was not the first prominent politician to have supped with the Guptas.
Just look at the family’s email appointments, going back to 2012, and you’ll see a list as long as my arm of serving and former ministers and other politicians who were Guptarised.
And we all know who they are.
As President Cyril Ramaphosa has said, no one is above scrutiny.
But why should Nene be the fall guy in the state capture scandal? If he has to fall on his sword, when is Ramaphosa going to start spring-cleaning and clearing out other identifiable skeletons in his cabinet?
Do it soon, Sir, before it begins developing a bad odour.
* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.