Greg Alexander Mashaba
I have deliberately refrained from commenting on the issue of the email saga surrounding Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa ever since the story broke late last week. My reasons for doing so are simply because, as a man, I always find it quite difficult to confront issues of sexual impropriety and morality. It is a topic which causes me immense embarrassment. It is quite possible that even in cases where I am not the guilty party, I somehow share in the collective guilt of men who, for one reason or another, find themselves on the wrong end of the morality yard-stick.
The second reason why I have refrained from commenting is simply because I did not want to be seen to be rubbing my hands in glee while another comrade, a prominent leader of our organisation, faced together with his family, the humiliation of being exposed in public for his human frailities. After all, in isiZulu, it is said that “inxeba lendoda alihlekwa”, (one may not be seen to be rejoicing in the face of another’s afflictions). The latter carries within itself the subtle reminder that no one is immune from afflictions of one kind or another. It is for that reason that I felt very sorry for the Minister in The Presidency , Comrade Jeff Radebe, and his family upon revelations of requests for lewd images directed at a female staffer based at the Union Buildings. Although much better was expected from him giving his illustrious profile in the national liberation struggle, he succumbed, very much like most of us men ( myself included) to the lure of the pleasures of the flesh.
However, unlike Comrade Cyril, Comrade Jeff took the difficult but correct approach towards dealing with the matter by owning up to his shortcomings and issuing an apology directed at his family, his organisation the African National Congress, and the country. Not so in the case of Comrade Cyril. Having failed to meet the deadline for comment, he sought to block publication of the story by bringing an urgent interdict against The Independent newspaper, an application which was dismissed by the High Court. As we learnt yesterday in Steve Motale’s statement, instead of filing responses to questions submitted to himself, Comrade Cyril sought to solicit the assistance of the neo-liberal media houses who would be expected to issue a more favourable expose of the issue given that he is the preferred candidate of big business in so far as the ANC succession race is concerned. It is precisely within the context of this revelation that I felt the need to advance my own comment on this topic.
Ever since the ANC succession debate started gaining momentum, it has become clear that Comrade Cyril seems to be the preferred candidate of those within the right of the political spectrum in South African politics. The fixation of the opposition parties led by the Demorcatic Alliance, the party of white privilege and minority rule, with the removal of Jacob Zuma as president of the Republic and calls for his replacement by Comrade Cyril (as was demonstrated by calls from Musi Maimane during the last “no-confidence “ debate in parliament ) betray his political appeal to the right wing .
Comrade Cyril has been held up by the right-wing and big business as the “voice of reason”within the ANC. Not only is he held up as the direct political antithesis of the incumbent Jacob Zuma, but he is being promoted as the well-healed gentleman, the former left-wing trade unionist turned successful millionaire. Comrade Cyril is, very much like comrades Sipho Pityana, Trevor Manuel and Pravin Gorhdan, part of a new emerging black business elite who owe their loyalty more to their white peers on Rivonia Street in Sandton than to the masses in the sprawling townships of South Africa. Instead of transforming their white peers into being progressive business people who are committed to the transformation of our society, they have instead been transformed by the latter into being conservative elements who are apparently very uncomfortable at the mere mention of the two closely related concepts of Radical Economic Transformation and White Monopoly Capital.
Hence it was with great haste that some on the right ( including those on the right within our organisation) sprung to his defence . It was argued that Comrade Cyril was the victim of a smear campaign whose objective was to thwart his political aspiration of being elected leader of the ANC, which in turn would propel him into the highest position in the most advanced economy in sub-Saharan Africa. The fact that Comrade Cyril has admitted to the fact that the email addresses belong to him and that he sought to block publication thereof on grounds that they were “private emails“ seems to have been ignored in promoting the narrative of a “smear campaign”. More ominously , those who seek to defend the Comrade Cyril by alleging a smear campaign have, as Comrade Pinky Khoabane has shown, themselves launched an unprovoked campaign against another candidate in the ANC succession race, namely Comrade Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. They have wrongly and without proof insinuated that Comrade Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is behind the email leaks. Coming from those who portray themselves as holding the moral high ground within our organisation, they certainly stooped to a very low point.
As I said at the beginning of this article , I am wary as a man to point fingers at those who succumb to pleasures of the flesh for many great men have been victims to this phenomenon since time immemorial. Even within the history of the church, we read of many great men who were found wanting when it comes to issues of sexual impropriety. One example which comes to mind is St Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of The Church. His mother, St Monica, is said to have prayed and sought to convert him for over 33 years. He was known to have led a life characterised by excessive drinking and phornication throughout his early adult life. He would eventually be converted after he migrated from his ancestral home in North Africa to Rome where he was converted to the Catholic faith and installed as a bishop. He later became famous for his writings on the “just-war theory” which formed part of the basis of humanitarian international law. His more famous writings within the church have been immortalised in “The Confessions of St Augustine”.
In defending his decision to go ahead with publication of the story of the email saga, the editor of The Independent correctly stated that there are “consequences to one raising one’s hand“ and seeking to be leader of the ANC and of South Africa. Simply put, those who seek to ascend to the highest office in the land must expect themselves to come under scrutiny. Comrade Jacob Zuma has been under such scrutiny for well over ten years. Despite all manner of insults thrown at him over this period, he has stood his ground and has in fact gone on to state that such insults are the signs of a healthy democracy. Perhaps Comrade Cyril can learn a lot from Comrade Jacob when it comes to political longevity.
Finally in his defence, Comrade Cyril argues that the sordid details of sexual impropriety detailed in the emails constitute a private family matter. I beg to disagree with him on that score. Having sexual relations outside of marriage and especially with much younger women is not a private matter especially when those who are found to be guilty of so-doing are those who hold high office in our country. Secondly, having sexual relations with much younger people, especially where the flow of money and other resources is used to sustain such relationships constitutes blatant abuse of women. The fact that the perpetrator is the second most senior citizen of our country certainly serves as an aggravating factor.
Greg Alexander Mashaba is an Additional BEC member of the African National Congress’ s Ellen Khuzwayo ( Ward 23 ) Branch in Ekurhuleni. He writes in his personal capacity