Thanks, Mkhwebane, for your lovely gift of fingering Zille and ...

Ideas

Thanks, Mkhwebane, for your lovely gift of fingering Zille and Mbalula

She gave us a chance to reflect on SA's genius for taking sides no matter what, and taking them to ludicrous extremes

Columnist


The office of the public protector is, many South Africans would insist, a hot mess. The clean, clear, austere institution that Thuli Madonsela established seems to have dissolved in a soup of controversy, mistrust, political interference and confusion. But this week Busisiwe Mkhwebane rose above it all and gave SA a priceless gift.
Admittedly, it came out of nowhere. After all, this is the same Mkhwebane whose insipid report on the Vrede dairy farm didn’t so much slap the wrist of the senior ANC official responsible as gently kiss their greasy palms. The same one who demanded that Absa should pay back R1.25bn apartheid-era loan, causing the Reserve Bank to suggest she had abused her office.
Not surprisingly, she has been hammered from all sides. In January, the EFF plumbed fresh depths of hypocrisy and called on her “to learn to keep quiet; for at times, silence is golden”. The Democratic Alliance has officially gone on record to declare that she is not fit to hold office.
Which is why this week’s gift was so unexpected. But what a gift it was: A chance for us to reflect on our national genius for taking sides no matter what, and taking them to ludicrous extremes.
The beauty of Mkhwebane’s gift was that it fingered two politicians who are equally adored by their fans and despised by their political opponents. By ruling that both Fikile Mbalula and Helen Zille had violated the Constitution and broken the Executive Ethics Code, Mkhwebane tossed a cat into a flock of pigeons and watched the feathers – and double standards – fly.
“So what if Mbaks was allegedly flown to Dubai by a supplier to Sascoc?” asked Twitter pundits who otherwise spend their weeks damning capitalist corruption and DA whataboutery. “But what about Zille?”
“Yes!” cried their allies, reading about Zille’s alleged transgression on every major news site in the land. “I bet the racist media won’t cover this story at all!”
“Oh please,” retorted the other side. “You’re just trying to distract the country from what Mbalula did! Well, it’s about time the law caught up with that guy! Well done, Ms Mkhwebane!”
“But she also accused Zille!” cried the Mbalulists.
“Who cares?” replied the Zillites. “Nobody believes a word Mkhwebane says because she’s a political plant and a legal numbskull. You can disregard basically everything she says.”
“But,” said the Mbalulists, “doesn’t that mean -- ?”
But they never got to finish their question because at that point Angie Motshekga arrived, saying she supported Zille. “I feel that this is about picking on Zille’s child because he is the son of a politician,” she said. “This cannot be fair.”
What followed was silence, broken only by the soft, liquid plopping of brains exploding as an ANC stalwart defended the Great Satan and the person currently overseeing the national crime of primary education stood by the DA’s Lone Ranger.
All of which is why Mkhwebane’s gift was so precious: It’s seldom that we get a chance to step back and see the smoking ruin that is the argument we thought we were making.
I don’t know how minor or severe the transgressions of Mbalula and Zille were. If laws were broken, lawyers will soon arrive.
But I do know one thing. If you genuinely believe that Busisiwe Mkhwebane is problematic, but still find yourself celebrating her pronouncements on Mbalula or Zille, perhaps she’s not the only one struggling with the nuances of the law ...

This article is reserved for Times Select subscribers.
A subscription gives you full digital access to all Times Select content.

Times Select

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems?
Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.

Previous Article