SLR London Diary: Coincidental stitch-ups, fibbers across the pond

JOHANNESBURG — This week Simon draws some comparisons from those in his adopted land with those from his motherland, and it’s a tale of coincidental stitch-ups and those little white lies. He also draws on a K2 Intelligence summit he attended, where a South African asked a simple question of newly elected president Cyril Ramaphosa; ‘where was he from 2012-2017?’ Simon as ever at his eloquent best. – Stuart Lowman

By Simon Lincoln Reader*

Monday

Former DP/DA Leader and Ambassador to Argentina Tony Leon chaired a K2 Intelligence summit on Thursday last week. The panelists for the discussion on South Africa: Lord Peter Hain, Baroness Lynda Chalker and Lord Richard Risby, all of whom boast links to SA.

Admittedly he’s a friend, but Tony is just such an excellent dude. His natural authority of the panel ensured that even when contentious statements were made, the discussion remained balanced. Too often you hear panelists just agreeing with each other – so step forward a man seated in the audience called Peter-Paul Ngwenya. Now Peter-Paul was in the Randburg court earlier this year for calling Investec boss Fani Titi an extremely naughty word, but happily there was none of that on the night. He just asked: ‘remind me again what was Cyril Ramaphosa doing from 2012 to 2017?’


Tuesday

The first time Work and Pensions Secretary, MP for Hastings and committed remainer Amber Rudd was caught fibbing in public occurred in the early 1980s. Private Eye reported on the incident in its April edition of 2018, adding that Amber’s previous investment concern went bankrupt within a year of its existence, leaving a debt of over a million pounds, which presumably didn’t thrill its investors. Amber’s father Tony was an asset stripper who was disqualified from company directorship in 1988.

In 2016 Amber came out in defence of then Prime Minister David Cameron on the awkward subject of offshore tax havens which was either odd or ingenious, considering she herself was once a director of not one but two company’s registered in the Bahamas.

Of course, this could all be a stitch-up. A stitch-up in the manner of Jacob Zuma’s multiple coincidental stitch-ups – a stitch-up like the EFF and VBS. We shameless, scheming peasants and our addiction to stitching-up politicians. To hell with us all.


Wednesday

Amber once married a man of such breathtaking talent that his absence still haunts the world. AA Gill turned food writing into philosophical existentialism, but his marriage to Amber collapsed when he upgraded to a younger South African model.

Amber resigned as Home Secretary earlier this year when the scale of the Windrush immigration scandal was revealed. Ironically this was not something she could be held responsible for; it emerged that she was misled, thrown under the bus by defective, faceless apparachiks located deep inside the heart of the civil service, the same systems Theresa May has in the past been accused of Faustian pact-ing with.

I went to leave-voting Hastings on one of the hottest days in summer earlier this year. I asked the taxi driver about Amber, but I couldn’t hear his voice over the sound of blood being spat onto the steering wheel.


Thursday

Last week hysteria broke out. The presentation of Theresa May’s ersatz ‘deal’ with the European Union prompted resignations and letters of no-confidence – the latter met with resistance from the Prime Minister’s sententious supporters and later portrayed as the crushing of frothing if not ovine dissent. Coupled these things formed distraction to what was a demonstration of establishment sleight of hand; Amber returned to the cabinet and suddenly, the curious spectacle of Theresa’s allies, at once leaping to congratulate Amber, that is, a politician who commands a wafer 0.5% majority in her own constituency.

It was a nuanced sequence of power from Westminster’s present elite. Brexiteers consider themselves immune from compromise, based on the result of the referendum alone (for which, theoretically, they cannot be faulted). But whilst they, consumed by their understanding of mandates and arguably the romance of historical peasant revolts too, were busy painting a target on the back of the ‘deal’, Amber – manifestly today’s establishment to her fingertips – chequered, suspect, culturally and financially detached from her constituents, emboldened and oblivious, came skipping back merrily.


Friday

Whew. Gotta tell you, am a bit clowned out after having listened to Standard Bank CEO and former Treasury Director General Lungisa Fuzile’s account of the poor wretched clown Des van Rooyen’s appointment as Minister of Finance in 2015.

At the time: speculation is that Nhlanhla Nene’s dismissal has been instructed by the shorter, fatter Gupta brother. The markets have smelt blood, the currency is tanking. With spirited urgency befitting a respected civil servant, Lungisa sends the clown a message, congratulating him and requesting he comes in for a handover.

But the clown is chilled: ‘I’ll come in at my own time,’ he responds to Lungisa.

‘At my own time.’ ‘Perhaps, but only after I’ve demolished these eight pink sausages in front of me.’ ‘Maybe, or maybe me and Carl Niehaus and Khulubuse will just hang out for the rest of the day.’

  • Simon Lincoln Reader lives in London.