Mhambi recently wrote a blog post in which I critisised deputy chief whip Andries Nel. He has kindly responded to the blog post which I publish in full and to which I will respond to in good time.
In your blog of 24 December 2007 (“Party Pooper: Andries Nel – Sies!”) you accuse me of having, “contributed to the demise of the moral fibre and the growth in corruption of the ANC.” You base these accusations on Andrew Feinstein’s book, After the Party.
These accusations are very serious – so much so that one would have expected you to have heard my side of the story before deciding to, “expose, to hound and to damn.”
You say that, “those who are mentioned and named are of course, welcome to reply.” I would have expected more than a cyber kangaroo court from you. Hanging first and hearing evidence later just isn’t good enough.
When you were busy with your film project on the “border war” you found time, on numerous occasions, to correspond with me by email, seeking assistance in tracing activists in the anti-conscription movement. I gladly responded to these requests and also met with you to discuss your project. What made it so difficult to contact me regarding this matter?
This kind of behaviour goes against the traditions of comradeship, rigorous, honest intellectual engagement and common decency that existed amongst the activists you mention. You say that, “charity (and putting right wrongs) should start at home.” I agree. I would add that the same should apply to getting things - like facts – right.
The implication of the statements that I have been, “quietly climbing the ANC ranks” and that my “loyalty must have been noted early on, as he was appointed to the Party’s whips office” is disappointing, especially coming from someone who should know better.
I have never hidden or been ashamed of my loyalty to the liberation movement. It is a loyalty based on deeply held convictions that I have maintained during times when doing so held no prospect for material reward. I will continue to be a loyal and disciplined member of the ANC – also in the democracy for which so many of its members died.
Returning to the charges of, "contributing to the demise of the moral fibre and the growth in corruption of the ANC." The only evidence you adduce is Mr. Feinstein’s account of the matter involving former Minister Penuel Maduna and (the late) former Auditor General Henri Kleuver and my participation in the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA.)
You quote/paraphrase Feinstein to the effect that the ad hoc committee dealing with this matter – which I chaired - blocked “a full investigation” and “despite hearing damning evidence against the Minister, the Committee found in his favour.” You also say, “Yengeni told them ‘I don’t think a public hearing is a good idea, this matter should be dealt with internally, like the Maduna matter.’”
The facts, in highly abridged form, go something like this:
During Parliamentary question time Maduna accused Kleuver of aiding and abetting certain oil sanction busting activities of the apartheid regime. The matter was referred to the Public Protector. An extensive investigation, lasting many months and costing millions of rands came to the conclusion Maduna’s allegations were not true. There was, therefore, no need for a further “full investigation.” The Public Protector briefed the ad hoc committee on his findings in a series of open and transparent meetings - no inkling of the matter being “dealt with internally.” The committee did not, “find in favour” of Maduna, but accepted the Public Protector’s findings. What is true is that we did not hang, draw and quarter Maduna as many had wanted. By the time the Public Protector’s report was presented to Parliament Maduna had long withdrawn the offending remarks (something the Public Protector missed.) In terms of the rules of Parliament, there was no further sanction to apply.
In relation to SCOPA, you make the statement that, “the new members of the Committee were openly hostile to Feinstein. As far as Scopa was concerned the arms deal would be investigated no further.” Firstly, I don’t recall ever being “hostile” – openly or otherwise - to Mr. Feinstein. Tellingly, you provide no examples. Secondly, it is simply not true that, “the arms deal would be investigated no further.” There was an extensive investigation conducted jointly by the National Prosecuting Authority, the Public Protector and the Auditor General on the recommendation of Scopa.
There are ongoing investigations and prosecutions of alleged wrongdoing relating to the arms procurement process. The democratic government, led by the ANC, has made no attempt to interfere with these processes.
If you are writing your blog in good faith you will go back and tell your readers whether you ever bothered to study any of the basic original source documents relating to this matter - such as the Public Protector or the ad hoc committee’s reports. All of this information is readily available on the internet. You undermine your statement that “there's no escape from information on the superhighway” by ignoring easily accessible information. We escape easily on this highway by skidding on the oil of our own intellectual sloth.
At the start of your blog you remind us that, “quite often important information is revealed in books, information that never makes it to a wider audience.” Very true, but how much important information never even makes it into books?
Laudable as your approach of trying to disseminate information might be, you end up trapping yourself in the vicious downward spiral that is impoverishing our public discourse. Information is uncritically recycled from newspapers into books back into newspapers onto the internet back into newspapers and so on and so on. How many journalists, public intellectuals etc. actually go to the trouble of investigating, analyzing debating what they write about? How many media companies provide those that write with the space and resources to do so properly?
You will remember how, during the 1980s and early 1990s, Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Pretoria organized internal political education workshops and public seminars, held public meetings where speakers came to give first hand accounts of what was happening in the country, published Skryfskiet – a monthly newsletter etc. We were trying to provide alternative information and to give students tools to analyse, understand and change their society. We actively opposed the regime’s propaganda and the established media and provided alternatives.
We trusted each other and resisted the lies the regime spread about us. We built and developed each other through debate and discussion.
Let us continue engaging in this tradition of honesty, integrity and respect.
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