Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
22 January 2009

Questions for Chikane, Mbandla, Gumbi, Simelane, Mpshe and Mbeki

Sometimes the truth seems so blindingly obvious that one is tempted to believe that even our politicians would not be able to twist the facts to justify the indefensible – only to be reminded that politicians lie for a living and that the ordinary voter is often too lazy or stupid to care.

But let us consider this question, nevertheless: who should we believe?

Should we believe Vusi Pikoli, the man who even Frene Ginwala – old friend of Thabo Mbeki and disciplined member of the ANC – found to be a man of the highest integrity?

Or should we believe Brigitte Mbandla, the often tired and emotional ex-Minister of Justice, her Director General, Mr Simelane, who was caught lying before the Ginwala Commission, or Thabo Mbeki, a man who has a rather bizarre relationship to facts and the truth, or his Director General, Frank Chikane, who first made ringing statements about the deal struck with Adriaan Vlok before he went to the Ginwala Commission to denounce that very same deal when his boss decided a case had to be built against Pikoli?

Let us consider the evidence and probe a bit deeper into this obvious question. On the one side we have Vusi Pikoli, who told the Parliamentary Committee set up to rubber stamp the decision of President Kgalema Motlanthe to fire the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), that if the Scorpions had never investigated the murder of mining magnate Brett Kebble he would not now be suspended and required to defend himself before a parliamentary committee.

“If it had not been for the matter of Kebble I would not have this problem I am having today,” he said, adding that the decision to charge Selebi was the direct reason for his suspension. He also described as unlawful and unconstitutional an instruction from then justice minister Brigitte Mabandla that he halt the investigation of Selebi. He said both Mbeki and Mabandla had asked him to resign but he had refused as this would have allowed executive interference to triumph over the independence of the National Prosecuting Authority. “Because I refused to obey an unlawful instruction I was suspended.”

On the other hand we have the government, this time represented by the honourable Reverend Chikane who claimed yesterday that it was wrong to say that Mbeki had abused his power.

“I was there. The president did nothing to stop Pikoli from arresting Selebi.” Chikane said Mbeki had merely acted to manage any potential security fallout when he asked the head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to wait two weeks before arresting Selebi on corruption and fraud charges. “There was a great risk of something extraordinary happening to destabilise the country and it was the duty of the president to ensure the country was not destabilised.

  • What is the relationship between Mbeki and Selebi? How long do they know each other? How much money did Brett Kebble give to the ANC? Did he give any money to Mbeki or any of his pet projects?
  • After it became clear that Pikoli was going to arrest Selebi, what did the President say to Chikane, Mbandla, Gumbi, Simelane or Mpshe about the case? Did he ask any of them (or anyone else) to take steps to ensure that Pikoli did not arrest Selebi before the Polokwane conference? If he did not, was it because he was momentarily dumbstruck or are those testifying just lying to protect their boss?
  • Why did Simelane write the letter illegally instructing Pikoli not to arrest Selebi and why did Mbandla sign it? Was there any link between this letter and anything the President or his staff told Simelane or Mbandla? If not, why has Simelane and Mbandla not been arrested by the police for this illegal interference with the NPA? Why were they not immediately fired by the President for issuing this illegal order?
  • If Mbeki did not do anything to stop the arrest of Pikoli, why was Pikoli suspended by the President on a public holiday and only a day before he was going to execute the warrant for Selebi’s arrest? 
  • If Mbeki, as his underlings and Ginwala have claimed, was concerned about the national security implications of Selebi’s arrest, and if Mbeki had not tried to stop that arrest, why on earth did he not try and stop the arrest? Surely, if there was really a national security concern and if he thought he had a duty to act to protect the country, then he would have made sure that Selebi would not be arrested – otherwise he would be in dereliction of his duties as President? Please explain this contradiction.
  • After Pikoli’s suspension and the appointment of Mokotedi Mpshe as NDPP, what was said by Mbeki, the Minister or anyone else to Mpshe about the arrest of Selebi? Who gave the instruction to Mpshe to cancell the arrest warrant? Surely it must have been on instructions from the President that this instruction was given – otherwise, how does one explain the involvement of Gumbi and Simelane in the drafting of the letter to request the cancellation of the arrest warrants? Or did these officials act without instructions from the President and if so, why have they not been fired?
  • Why did the Presidency give conflicting reasons for the suspension of Pikoli? Was it incompetence or was it because they discovered that the original reason for the suspension could not be justified, so they had to cook up some new reasons ex post facto? Either way, why were they not all fired for this dishonesty/incompetence? Was it because they were acting on instructions from Mbeki?
  • Even after he was fired as President, Mbeki maintained that he had not seen any evidence of wrongdoing by Selebi, despite the fact that Pikoli had provided the President with all the information he requested – the same information that prompted an indepndent panel of experts to conclude that a strong case exists against Selebi. So was Mbeki lying when he said repeatedly that he had not seen evidence to implicate Selebi? If he was not lying, what was he smoking at the time?

A skilfull cross-examiner will have a field day with all these witnesses and I will take a bet of R1000 with anyone that under cross-examination it would become clear that Mbeki and all his underlings are lying through their teeth about this matter. Pikoli was suspended because he wanted to arrest Selebi – finish and klaar.

Why Mbeki and his underlings are spreading these “deliberate falsehoods” are beyond me. If there was good reason to suspend and fire Pikoli to protect the national security, then surely Mbeki and his underlings should all be admitting that Mbeki suspended Pikoli to ensure that Selebi was not arrested because then Mbeki would just be doing his job.

The fact that they are all denying this blindingly obvious fact can only mean one thing: they are not telling us the truth. But parliament cannot afford to face this fact so Pikoli is toast.

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