ANALYSIS: SA laughs off the Eskom crisis as capture rogues make a comeback
As the likes of Molefe and Koko reinvent themselves, it's unhelpful to giggle at our most terrifying crisis in 25 years
The announcement on Monday that Bosasa had gone into voluntary liquidation following the closure of its bank accounts demonstrates the power of the Zondo commission to cripple corruption networks.
Contrary to some people’s belief, halting corruption and taking action against perpetrators of state capture does not have to wait until Judge Raymond Zondo submits his final report to the president.
As evidence of criminality is unearthed at the state capture inquiry, it should be investigated and verified by the law enforcement agencies; financial institutions should take measures to prevent further illicit activities; and the government should cancel crooked contracts and act against those responsible for rampant looting.
However, SA seems to be very forgiving when it comes to perpetrators of financial crimes.
While we live in hope that the National Prosecuting Authority will develop the will and ability to prosecute big corruption cases, people like Marcus Jooste and Gavin Watson continue to live their lives untroubled.
In the case of the Guptas, their legal and media strategy to project themselves as victims of the criminal justice system has helped dissipate public hostility towards them.
The bungled Estina and Duduzane Zuma cases are being used to revise the narrative around their criminality and normalise the idea of them returning to SA.
Part of the Gupta strategy is also to demonise the state capture whistle-blowers and resisters. Fortunately for them, Vytjie Mentor’s version of her interaction with them unravelled under questioning at the inquiry, and this has been used as a basis to question all other testimony against them. Another strange phenomenon is the legitimisation of collaborators of state capture. Social media has allowed people who should be on trial for corruption to be “commentators” on politics.
And because Twitter is so overrun by troll armies and manufactured conversations, such people have a wide berth in which to participate and steer political discourse.
In the wake of the recent load shedding crisis, people like Brian Molefe and Matshela Koko, who, in service of the Guptas, were responsible for bankrupting Eskom, have made a comeback as energy pundits.
Molefe and Koko actually have the audacity to boast about their “achievements” at Eskom and bewail the marvels they could have pulled off had they been allowed to stay on at the helm of the energy utility. Molefe, for example, continues to project the nuclear deal as a viable answer to the power crisis and says it would have been beneficial to the country had it gone ahead.
While he was still Eskom chief executive, Molefe argued that the nuclear build programme would not need to be funded by the fiscus and would “finance itself”. He claimed there were potential financiers who would be willing to take the risk up front.
Just this week, former national treasury director-general Lungisa Fuzile told the Zondo commission that the deal would have breached the government’s expenditure ceiling and would have condemned the country to an untenable debt-to-GDP ratio of between 75% and 95% by 2030.
Although the nuclear deal would have been the biggest project undertaken by the government in the democratic era, the treasury was under fire for trying to follow the correct procedures and protect future generations from being saddled with a bankrupted country.
The department of energy went to the extent of understating the cost of the nuclear deal by 40% to get it approved. Former president Jacob Zuma was so frustrated with the treasury’s safeguards that he fired former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in the hope that his replacement, Des van Rooyen, would be able to ram the deal though.
Who knows where SA would be now had Zuma, Molefe and Van Rooyen been left to their own devices?
Koko has also been bragging about his ability to keep the lights on when he was at Eskom. Koko’s Twitter followers and cheerleaders, like Mzwanele Manyi who called for the two disgraced executives to return to Eskom, disregard the fact that he shot up debt by burning diesel to keep the lights on.
So he is projected as a sage and visionary instead of a state capture collaborator and beneficiary.
Like Zuma, Koko has discovered the art of reinvention via Twitter.
He has used his newfound social media prominence to even threaten the May elections. In the midst of the load shedding crisis, he tweeted that the ANC had “lost its mables” [sic].
“To the @Eskom_SA Guardians, do [not] leave anything to chance on 8 May. ANC is selling you down the river,” Koko tweeted.
Whatever could this mean?
Who are the “@Eskom_SA Guardians” and how are they able to affect the election?
There is no doubt that people like Molefe and Koko still have a loyal network of people at Eskom. As part of the process of rehabilitating and stabilising the utility, there should be an investigation into what, if any, impact the state capture network still has on Eskom’s operations.
Sometimes our nation’s resilience and ability to laugh off everything is actually unhelpful.
After a frightening and economically destructive spate of blackouts last week, we simply joked about our predicament and resumed the normal course of business.
The fact that the department of public enterprises told parliament last week that Eskom is technically insolvent and will not survive beyond April, has washed over most people.
The collapse of Eskom is the most terrifying and dangerous prospect facing the nation in our 25-year history. Yet, as long as the lights stay on, we do not see the looming disaster as a crisis.
Most people believe this is the politicians’ problem to sort out. Expectation has built that finance minister Tito Mboweni will pull a rabbit out of a hat in his budget speech and all will be hunky-dory.
There is no rabbit and no hat.
All Mboweni can do is buy time until hard decisions are made and a realistic, sustainable plan is agreed on to rescue Eskom.
In the meantime, we will continue to giggle and retweet the deplorables who pushed our country to the brink and still run riot without accountability.