By Pinky Khoabane
Anybody to blame but ABSA as media goes into overdrive……
After a fortnight of scurrying around in an attempt to “expose” every reason why ABSA shouldn’t pay back the money, South Africa’s media can no longer deem itself a fourth estate whose role is to hold the rich and powerful to account – without fear or favour. Not that it needed this particular event but this is one that has exposed all our guardian angels including our usually very vigilant civil society groups such as the Helen Suzman Foundation, De Klerk Foundation, Corruption Watch, Freedom Under Law and others. Their silence on the corruption involved in the Bankorp lifeboat – which was bought by ABSA – is deafening.
The common thread among these guardian angels is corporate capture. Their donors are powerful corporations to which they are beholden for survival. We’ve written several articles which show which corporates have captured which NGOs.
Since the Mail & Guardian’s leak of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s preliminary report into ABSA’s apartheid looting a fortnight or so ago, SA’s media has gone into overdrive with reports which have tried to discredit Mkhwebane, her report and the sources of her report – the ultimate goal being to remove culpability, and accountability from Absa. The media has been waging a campaign to blame everybody but Absa. Interestingly, however, are the contradictions among journalists and editors on the events surrounding the Absa lifeboat. Did it happen, did it not, should Absa pay and indeed some of the latest reports seem to suggest Absa may have paid interest on the Bankorp loan. And this may answer the question we asked on how the Public Protector came to R2.5 billion when Ciex had it at R3.2.
But all of this confusion is in the context of very crucial information which should not be overlooked and I’m of the view it’s being overlooked deliberately to confuse readers.
The first to unleash the campaign was Ray Hartley in a column that sought to attribute Mkhwebane’s findings to a plot hatched by President Jacob Zuma in retaliation for the four banks’ decision to close the Gupta bank. Under the headline: New public protector guns for bank that dumped the Guptas, he later changed it “it was pointed it out this was stretching the point.” http://www.businesslive.co.za/rdm/politics/2017-01-13-politics-live-new-public-protector-guns-for-bank-that-dumped-the-guptas/
Next was Karyn Maughan of eNCA who tweeted that Mkwhebane may have altered the original draft by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.
“It appears that @ThuliMadonsela3 findings/remedial action in Ciex investigation may have been altered by Mkhwebane. No clarity as to why.
— Karyn Maughan (@karynmaughan) January 13, 2017
She wouldn’t go into details of why she had come to this conclusion and wouldn’t respond to a direct question I asked on whether she had seen the original report by Madonsela. The idea that the former public protector could have leaked the original report is not a far-fetched idea. She, after all leaked the audio recording of her interview with President Jacob Zuma to the same eNCA.
The usage of the word “altered” suggests something sinister on the part of the PP when in truth she was within her mandate to analyse the report and amend it as she saw fit. Madonsela had not finalised the report after all. It had taken her almost six years and she still was unable to complete it by the time she left office.
In what can only be described as bravery by Editor of Huffington Post, Verashni Pillay interviewed one of the researchers that had been investigating the apartheid’s economic plunder, Hennie van Vuuren, who pointed to a piece of information in the report which confirmed former Governor Chris Stals had information to the effect that ABSA had agreed to pay back the money. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.za/2017/01/16/dont-let-the-politics-get-in-the-way-of-understanding-this-expl/
It wasn’t long thereafter that for the first time, Stals was interviewed and he denied having said ABSA was willing to pay back the money. He, in contradiction to findings by Judges Heath and Davis, says there was nothing unlawful about the lifeboats.
Next up was the attack on Ciex Ltd –the London-based intelligence agency whose chairman is Michael Oatley, a former M16 intelligence agent. Media hardly questioned Ciex as an organisation in the early revelations of massive looting pre-1994. A few months ago, however, forensic expert Jeff Koornabally, publicly challenged the complicity of the democratic dispensation in the matter, in particular he pointed out former President Thabo Mbeki, former Governor Tito Mboweni, former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel and others. The notion of discrediting Ciex on the basis that Oatley was an M16 was started by Mboweni when in a Twitter post suggesting Oatley was a former M16 agent whose goal was to ruin SA’s banking system.
The narrative that Mkhwebane relied on British spies and questions around allowing spies to determine our economy and banking system have taken hold. The truth is, as Oatley responded in questions put to him and his South African representative by UnCensored: As a member of the ministerial group (set up by Mbeki into apartheid looting), Mboweni was perfectly aware of the terms on which CIEX Ltd was employed by the SA Government, and also aware that at all times the operations of CIEX in these matters were monitored and controlled by the Deputy President through the Director General of SASS Billy Masethla.
The attacks on Ciex as a group run by a British spy are disengenous. The media uses Paul O’Sullivan extensively, himself a self-confessed former M16 agent who it could be argued is wreaking havoc in SA.
The fingers are now pointing to the ANC – that the people we should be looking to for answers is the Mbeki-era cabinet and this is a fair assessment. In an audio recording of an interview with the former public protector, he asks her to approach Manuel and Mboweni for answers on why the ANC didn’t collect the money. And it is within this narrative that the word corruption is beginning to surface.
Ultimately, the story about how, through corruption, ABSA benefited from a “gift” given to members of the broederbond on the eve of democracy, has taken so many turns that it has now become an ANC issue. If its not Mbeki, it is Zuma – Anybody but ABSA.