Zondo Commission exposed Gordhan as petty, jealous, racist and dangerous
By Professor Sipho Seepe
“Every Napoleon has his Waterloo,” is a saying that reminds us even the greatest among us will have a moment of ignominious downfall. The phrase owes its origin to the historical defeat of Emperor Napoleon at Waterloo, near Brussels.
“Waterloo is considered the culmination of Napoleon’s overreaching hubris.”
I could think of no better phrase to describe the scenes playing out at the Zondo Commission. It was a pitiful sight to watch Minister Pravin Gordhan, “the high priest of BantuBlack purging in SOEs”, squirm under cross-examination by advocate Dali Mpofu.
It didn’t take long to expose the ugly side of Gordhan. A man who has been riding the high horse of political morality was exposed to be nothing short of petty, jealous, racist and dangerous. For too long he has been allowed to level accusations against all.
He had become untouchable. In his maniac obsession of finding everyone wanting but himself, he has been emboldened by the now known motley of journalists and analysts that had been eating out his hand. Until Monday, everything that Gordhan said about anyone would be headline news.
With so much investment in this project by news outlets, it came as no surprise some treated Monday’s performance as a non-event – yet it was billed as the battle of the decade, a battle between a represented goodness (Gordhan) and forces of darkness (Tom Moyane).
By the end of the day, the tables had changed. The hunter had become the hunted, unable to cover his tail. Only frustrated and helpless anger remained. Takings from the encounter:
Take-home number 1. For all the huffing and puffing of Gordhan, he couldn’t answer a simple, basic question – does he have any evidence to back his accusation that Moyane, the erstwhile commissioner of Sars, had used his position to advance state capture? Under fierce cross-examination the arrogant minister conceded he had none.
Take-home number 2. After years of denying the existence of the rogue unit, Gordhan admitted its existence. More importantly, he acknowledged it has no statutory foundations. This on its own suggests its establishment was unlawful. If anything, Gordhan went rogue in his determination to pursue whatever he thought served his interests.
Advocate Mpofu was perhaps referring to this egomaniacal inclination when he accused minister Gordhan of suffering from a “god-complex”.
Take-home number 3. With his testimony, Gordhan succeeded in exposing that the whole Nugent Commission was a farce. The Nugent Commission ignored several reports pointing to the same issues that Gordhan admitted under cross-examination. This includes the reports by Sikhakhane and Kroon. The commission was arguably established to hear nothing, see nothing but to simply ensure it gets rid of Moyane. It is a matter of public record that the Nugent Commission reduced itself to a mere political tool to achieve certain pseudo judicial-political outcomes.
Take-home number 4. Gordhan’s contemptuous disregard for and description of Des van Rooyen is nothing short of blatant racism. His defence that the comment had to do with integrity fell flat when it was pointed out to him that Mr Van Rooyen is more qualified in matters of finance than himself.
For the record, Van Rooyen holds two Master’s degrees whereas Gordhan, as he puts it, is a mere lowly pharmacist. It was pointed out that while he is busy pontificating about credibility he had no problem in the appointment of his friend who demonstrably did not possess the requisite qualifications.
Take-home number 5. Gordhan has succeeded in exposing those journalists that fell under his spell. As they say he threw all of them under the bus. An anchor at a certain television station could not contain her frustration when a field reporter pointed out Gordhan was exposed to be a gossipmonger – all his assertions were based on gossip and hearsay.
Take-home number 6. This is probably the easiest; it is easy to simply accuse people in this country when you are a Gordhan. No evidence is required. Interesting when Gordhan is pressed for evidence he relies on some dubious statement that we should connect the dots. It was very clear that this time he couldn’t connect the dots.
Take-home number 7. This is not the first time that Gordhan embarrassed himself. Not long ago, he failed to answer a simple question from BBC journalists on whether he has a concrete evidence pointing to corruption by the former president Jacob Zuma. Instead of answering a simple straight question, he went on to mumble some incomprehensible nonsense.
The fact that he keeps getting away with this behaviour of accusing people reflects the depth to which journalism has sunk in this country. You are guilty by virtue of mere accusations. Woe awaits those that dare to question those that have paraded themselves a paragons of virtue.
As Steven Friedman noted, the problem we have in this country is “that only one opinion is expressed and alternative views are driven from the debate …So strong has the current groupthink become that it is those who challenge it who are taking risks”.
Professor Sipho Seepe is the deputy vice-chancellor in Institutional Support at the University of Zululand.