IT WAS the night of December 18, 2017. There was a hubbub in the Media Lounge at Nasrec. Cyril Ramaphosa had just been elected president of the ANC by a hair’s breadth. Suddenly, the doors burst open and Bathabile Dlamini stormed in, with her entourage trailing in her wake.
They headed straight to one of the two interview rooms and closed the door. Why she went there and not to any of the countless other (non-media) rooms available at Nasrec no one knows because she didn’t speak to the media.
“Sasetshenziswa” (we were used) was all she said to shouted questions, before the door was locked behind her.
The next day she held a press conference in her guise as president of the ANC Women’s League. She came in flanked by her posse, all wearing ultra-dark sunglasses.
Maybe they were trying to be like the Sopranos, but on steroids, but they looked like Gucci grannies on Guronsan C the morning after the night before. It didn’t go well.
She flubbed her lines before becoming totally unhinged after she was cornered about saying they’d been betrayed by the patriarchy of the ANC, when it was obvious she’d voted for DD Mabuza rather than Lindiwe Sisulu to be deputy president of the party.
It was all downhill from there: incoherent, illogical, ugly, vicious and wholly inept - much like her stewardship of the all-important Department of Social Development, which oversees the payment of grants to no less than a third of the population of this country.
Last September, she made legal history when the Constitutional Court called her reckless and grossly negligent and then ordered her to personally pay the legal fees of the people who’d been forced to sue her to get her to actually do her job.
It was a ruling that might well reduce her to a retirement of penury as desperate as any of those grant recipients. The court also ordered the NPA to check if she shouldn’t be prosecuted for perjury. If convicted, she could end up bankrupt and behind bars.
Her continued presence in first Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet and then Ramaphosa’s after last February’s quiet coup was a low-riding mark in the Plimsoll line of South African politics that has been a sea of depravity and venality. She was eventually fired as a minister after the general elections.
This week, she quit Parliament, one of a growing list of the Zuma Walking Dead quietly being vanquished in the glare of the New Dawn.
Her letter of resignation suggested one written in her own hand without the cosseted protection of blue lights, hand bag carriers and support staff. Incoherent, illogical, inept, ugly and self-serving - it was the best possible epitaph for a career that played Russian roulette with the poorest of the poor and cynically abused gender, like any other card in a deck, she played hard and dirty to keep her at the trough.
Thankfully, it looks like it’s all over now.
That whooshing sound you’ve been hearing in the background ever since has been the sigh of relief from one side of South Africa to the other.
Kevin Ritchie is a journalist and former newspaper editor.
The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of Independent Media