Was Pauw raid tit for Zupta tat?

Ideas

Was Pauw raid tit for Zupta tat?

Targeting investigative journalist shows Cyril Ramaphosa is dragging a coffin of rotting baggage

Columnist

Here’s what I want to believe about the Hawks’ raid on Jacques Pauw. It’s convoluted, so please bear with me …
Imagine that you find yourself the president of a country terminally infected with virulent, gangrenous corruption. Imagine that you are surrounded by ruthless and corrupt climbers, some of them dangerous warlords, who want your job.
You understand that the only way the country survives and you get your second term is if people go to jail. This is a tricky proposition, because, in South Africa, only the poor go to jail. Still, there’s more than one way to skin a cadre. Jail might not be realistic, but you can certainly put enough legal pressure on your enemies to make them OK with being redeployed as ambassadors somewhere far away.To exert this pressure, you need a squad of G-men: a national prosecuting authority that is tough, professional and, most importantly of all, believed to be politically impartial. Any whiff of partisanship and you can kiss your New Dawn goodbye.
Unfortunately for you, your current prosecuting authority consists of a dirty fish tank housing seven invertebrates and a remora sucking on the glass, watched over by the country’s most famous sheep.
So how do you start rehabilitating the reputation of your G-men?
You send them after some big, soft, dramatic targets.
And so, in the next few weeks, the sheep instructs the slugs and the remora to raid a dodgy dairy and the empty mansion of some state captors, and they triumphantly carry away some stale kitty litter and a filing cabinet containing only a daddy longlegs.
The public loves it. People stop saying “sheep” and start saying “Hawks”.
The problem, however, is that some are also saying “political tool”. If your dodos are to be transformed into hawks, you cannot allow them to be seen as a goon squad used exclusively to round up your opponents.
And so you select a new big, soft target. He is widely admired, and technically helped put you in office, but, your advisors tell you, he might have broken at least one law by allegedly possessing classified documents.
You know the G-men won’t find anything. You also know that the media will howl. But impartiality is everything. You’ve raided the friend of your enemy. Now it’s time to raid the enemy of your enemy. Your G-men must go after law-breakers whether they break the law for good or evil.
And so they raid Pauw’s home and business, and come away with the inevitable box of lint, but the job is done. When your opponents accuse you of wielding the Hawks to persecute the Zuptas, you can simply point to Pauw.Of course, the media are apoplectic with rage but you know how fast the news cycle moves and how short attention spans are. Besides, the media have fresher meat, what with your new election plan, Operation Make The EFF Instantly Irrelevant By Foregrounding Land Expropriation …
That’s the version I’d like to believe. I want to convince myself that there is an ultimately progressive strategy at work here and that some eggs are being (slightly) broken in order to make an omelette somewhere down the line.
But I fear I’m wrong.
The truth is that President Ramaphosa is dragging a coffin full of rotting baggage behind him. The ANC remains poisonously split. And so I have to admit the possibility that what we saw this week was evidence of a second falconer commanding the Hawks. I fear, in short, that the Pauw raid was tit for Zupta tat: Ramaphosa’s enemies within the party telling him: “Fine, you go after our guys, we’ll go after yours.”
Whatever the truth behind the Machiavellian shenanigans, the raid on Pauw didn’t look anything like a new dawn.
Rather, it looked like something depressingly old: the machinations of villainous politicians who do their best work at night, and who hope the darkness never ends.

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