Baleka Mbete's views on the UN, Aids denialism and state capture laid bare in shocking interview
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ANC stalwart and former National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete shocked viewers and embarrassed many South Africans with her reactions during an interview with Al Jazeera's Mehdi Hasan on Friday. She was invited to speak about whether the ruling ANC had betrayed Nelson Mandela's legacy since the advent of democracy in 1994.
Responding to a number of hard-hitting quotes about South Africa's economic and political challenges since 1994, Mbete appeared to either lose the plot completely or be so out of touch with the reality of the situation that it was actually comical.
She took issue with President Cyril Ramaphosa's comments about a "lost and wasted decade" in which there was systematic looting of state as well as the World Bank's assessment of South Africa as "the most unequal nation on earth".
"I must say that is very harsh, but I wonder if that is not an exaggeration. I really think that we must see both good and bad," Baleka told Hasan. She went on to say that "the World Bank is not God" and therefore their assessment of South Africa's economy didn't actually matter.
Hasan then called her out on the corruption within the ruling ANC and specifically referred to the axing of Pravin Gordhan by former president Jacob Zuma in 2017, causing the rand to tank. At the time, Gordhan estimated that around R200 billion had been looted from the state.
"You're acting like you were a passerby or an observer. You were in the thick of things. In the ANC you were the chair, you were the Speaker in Parliament. This happened on your watch," charged Hasan.
Mbete launched into a vague defence of herself and her colleagues. She claimed that she had only learned of a number of issues involving the capture of state-owned entities and high-ranking politicians through the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture.
Asked about the millions spent on upgrading Nkandla, Mbete stood by former Minister of Police Nathi Nhleko's findings that the swimming pool at Zuma's private home was a fire prevention tool.
"Part of the challenge that we have is that part of that (Nkandla) is actually government property, which is actually for purposes on ensuring that there are health facilities for the president to be looked after or any of the staff," Mbete told the audience who for most of the interview alternated between laughter and disbelief at the seeming nonchalance displayed by a senior official of the ruling party.
Hasan went on to ask Mbete why she, as a "neutral, impartial leader" of Parliament had called EFF leader Julius Malema a cockroach at an ANC rally.
"I used that term not in Parliament, I was in the North West," Mbete said. She claimed she apologised because it was wrong to call another person that.
Mbete went on to defend her support of convicted fraudster Tony Yengeni, the only senior ANC member who has to date been successfully prosecuted for corruption. She claimed that she accompanied him to the prison gates to start his sentence because she "did not believe that he had done the things he was being said to have done" and stressed that she was there in her capacity "as a comrade".
"I accompanied my comrade and I don't feel guilty for that," Mbete insisted.
Last year Yengeni was appointed the chairperson of the ANC's working group on corruption.
Mbete didn't fare any better when she was asked about former president Thabo Mbeki's denial of the HIV/Aids pandemic. She claimed she was too "busy" to talk to him about the fact that South Africans were dying because of government's stance.
Mbeki's AIDS/HIV denialism not allowing AntiRetrovirals leading to 330k deaths. You're Complicit?
You're saying as if we plotted that people must die, we didn't. Health Committee worked
Did you talk to Mbeki?
It wasn't for me, I was busy pic.twitter.com/Ha8NtDWWii
— Izwe Lethu (@LandNoli) October 21, 2019
Quizzed on the government's inability to reduce rampant crime, Mbete said it was not fair to blame the ANC-led government.
"We can't blame the problems of South African society on the ANC. Criminality has been in South Africa for more than three centuries, especially after the colonialists came and brought crime from Europe to Africa. So you can't say the ANC brought crime," a visibly irritated Mbete said.
Hasan goes on to clarify that while the British empire did colonise South Africa, it had done the same to a number of other countries. He went on to ask how South Africa became ranked the country with the fifth highest murder rate in the world. The exchange that followed was both comical and downright embarrassing.
What a mess 🤦🏾♂️
Medhi: South Africa is the 5th highest murder rates in the world.
Baleka Mbete: I am wondering who said that ?
Medhi: The UN you might have heard of them
Baleka Mbete: So what ...
— King of Leon. (@MightiJamie) October 20, 2019
Mbete: I'm wondering who said that?
Hasan: The United Nations. You may have heard of them. They're a big organisation.
Mbete: So what?
Baleka Mbete must avoid the Media and just enjoy her retirement.
She has embarrassed us on world stage.
"Crime was brought into South Africa by Europe"
This is an excuse for our highest murder rate and the highest femicide rates. pic.twitter.com/RJuqmPNV1Q
— Boitumelo Madiba🦅🇿🇦🦁 (@bmadiba7) October 20, 2019
Later, when the audience was allowed to ask questions, Mbete also denied that she had any knowledge about what government is doing to hold parties accountable for the Marikana massacre on August 16, 2012, in which 44 people were killed.
Baleka Mbete says she has no information on who was held accountable for the Marikana Massacre.
She says she is clueless around the Marikana Massacre. This is the most senior person in the ANC and a former Speaker of Parliament, and she claims to know nothing.
— Boitumelo Madiba🦅🇿🇦🦁 (@bmadiba7) October 20, 2019
"I'll have to go and look into it," Mbete told the stunned audience.