Ed Herbst: The Browse Mole, Public Protector and a little shaft of light

JOHANNESBURG — Veteran journalist Ed Herbst, in this satirical piece, puts the spotlight on our new Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane who has already made a controversial name for herself. Her predecessor Thuli Madonsela was always going to be a tough act to follow but Mkhwebane has seemingly ignored this legacy and bulldozed through bizarre findings on Bankorp that, in turn, seek to change the mandate of the Reserve Bank. Parliament and SARB are legally challenging this finding while Absa is also turning to the courts in a bid to overturn Mkhwebane’s Bankorp ruling. With a wealth of contacts and experience, Herbst gives us a taste of just how Mkhwebane may have come to occupy the hot-seat that she does… – Gareth van Zyl

By Ed Herbst* 

As I have indicated before, my fossorial contacts are well adapted to the dark, dank, dirty, dangerous and subterranean world of the ANC.

There is, furthermore, little to equal them when it comes to bravery, fortitude and the ability to cope with extreme levels of stress. They constantly run the risk of being exposed as whistle blowers, accused of being agents of the ‘colour revolution’ , accused of fomenting ‘regime change’, of consorting with the CIA and ending up, like their animal counterparts, floating face down and motionless in a suburban swimming pool.

I am not sure why my Browse Moles do it because I am certainly not in a position to reward them with a pimped-to-the-max, Scipio Technologies Griffin, much favoured, it would seem by the anoraks and petrolheads at the Dubai Laundromat.

Minister in The Presidency Jeff Radebe and Public Protecor Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane at Chief Albert Luthuli Memorial Lecture.

Their most recent intel is, as always, intriguing.

It goes without saying that the election of Thuli Madonsela as Public Protector was – and remains – an unmitigated disaster for Lootfreely House and its Zuptoid cohort.

Making the right selection in the choosing of Madonsela’s successor was, accordingly, of fundamental and profound importance to them.

Looking at the list of aspirants induced a distinct feeling of unease within the ANC’s inner circles I am told. The last thing they needed when the banks are getting a little uppity was somebody like Willie Hofmeyr cracking the nod, white-anting the Hyena State and thwarting the Gadarene rush to the trough.

The person scheduled to chair the election process was Makhosi Khoza, she of the theatrical gesture and the equally theatrical fingernails.

Read also: Theory on Public Protector’s deliberate ‘misstep’ to protect Zuma debunked

My Browse Moles tell me that her advice to the ANC caucus was simple: ‘Don’t give me a horse that I can’t ride into parliament.’

My subjective sense was that the choice of Busisiwe Mkhwebane had the fingerprints of the legendary Lootfreely House interns all over it.

In equine terms, though, Mkhwebane could well have been the progeny of Sea Cottage and Horse Chestnut, a sure-fire and at-a-canter Trillian Million winner.

For the ANC, life has been quite sombre of late and in a tempest of travails, in a Slough of Despond, one needs a little shaft of light occasionally – as Sir Archibald Clerk Kerr, Her Majesty’s ambassador to Moscow pointed out to his London colleague in the middle of World War II.

So when, despite DA concerns, Busisiwe Mkhwebane was elected to the coveted post it was, for the snouting faction of the ANC, not so much a little shaft of light as a solar flare.

The new Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, has been criticised for her recommendation to reduce the independence of the Reserve Bank (in effect, nationalising it). More magic available at jerm.co.za.

Local historians inform me that the consternation of the Saxonwold Shebeen’s neighbours – deafened by the cacophonous  carousing that night – rivalled the occasion when Beau Brummel first appeared on the streets of London wearing a cravat – ‘Horses bolted and washerwomen miscarried.’

I am further informed that the stocks of JWB took a thorough pasting and that the raucous celebratory sing-alongs that accompanied Cryin’ Brian Molefe’s toyi-toyi cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s I’m Your Backdoor Man didn’t so much raise the rafters of the incensed neighbours as founder their fillings.

What is becoming clear however is that there are severe staff shortage ‘challenges’ in that ANN7 television-watching building that Mkhwebane now occupies. This, despite the fact that Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s charismatic clerics kindly exorcised all the demons in the place during Madonsela’s tenure.

All the evidence indicates that Mkhwebane doesn’t have a PA for example and what is becoming clear is that she hasn’t so much lost the plot as she is oblivious of the fact that a plot exists in the first place. Or that her notes fell down the rabbit hole.

I thought her job was to nail the snouters to the wall – you know Nkandla-type stuff – while diplomatically refraining from pointing out that PW’s humdrum abode was paid off by him over 20 years, did not cost taxpayers a cent and was severely lacking in contemporary modcons like a firepool and a chicken run.

Or investigating the local version of Tammany Hall, aka Chancellor House and that Hitachi tender kindly organised by Comrade Valli ‘Squeaky-Clean’ Moosa which chowed a 5000% insider trading return on its investment  – while remaining tactfully silent about the fact that the Nats built a bunch of power stations like Taaibos, Highveld, Komati, Camden, Hendrina, Grootvlei and Kriel on time and on budget while Medupi  and Kusile are running years late and are  eleventy billions over budget. And please don’t mention the Ingula Pump Station scheme.

Or Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s R42.3 million ‘high tech’ Rugby World Cup studio which looks as though it was cobbled together from the rejects bin at a Makro Black Friday sale and, for obvious reasons, faithfully followed the rigorous ANC requirement of tender avoidance.

She, however, seems to think her function is to inspect toilets in the townships.

As I pointed out in a previous article there is no city in the country which betters Cape Town when it comes to the provision of township toilets and the worst place in this regard is the rural areas of the Eastern Cape which have been under ANC control since 1994.

So, instead of catching a plane to Mthatha Airport, she flies to Cape Town on Friday 23 June and then imperiously demands that Helen Zille and Patricia de Lille accompany her on her water closet walkabout.

She clearly doesn’t have clue about protocol though and her chances of this coming about were as limited as her chances of spotting Winnie in parliament.

To paraphrase Andrew Bonamour’s immortal riposte to a clearly clueless Indy reporter: ‘Lighten up Boet … it’s a Friday’.

My subjective opinion is that, in her hubris, she wanted to show that she is made of the right stuff by flying to Cape Town to kick a little DA butt, the only problem being that Helen Zille was abroad at the time and Patricia de Lille let it be known that she was otherwise engaged. To paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, the DA women were not for turning – or buckling for that matter.

Cecil John, methinks, would have approved of the approach, if not its utterly inept implementation – but then he did rather stuff up the Jameson Raid, didn’t he?

The new Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, has been criticised for her recommendation to reduce the independence of the Reserve Bank (in effect, nationalising it). More magic available at jerm.co.za.

And while Mkhwebane did consult with Stephen Goodson on April 20 – Adolf Hitler’s birthday –  she has not, apparently, availed herself of the institutional knowledge  and expertise of the ANC sisterhood – people like Dudu Myeni, Ellen Tshabalala, Dina Pule, Faith  Muthambi, Hazel Ngubeni, Matilda Gaboo, Portia Sizani, Sheryl Cwele, Cynthia Maropeng, Zukisa Faku et al.

Or Prasa, for that matter, which has a fair amount of knowledge when it comes to toilet seats.

And what about the long wait for the smelly Siyenza long drop report – will a turd force be blamed?

Within days of assuming office it became clear that Busisiwe Mkhwebane was no Thuli Madonsela clone. She does, however, remind one somewhat of a predecessor in that office, someone who the ANC recalls with great fondness and respect.

Despite a somewhat controversial tenure, Lawrence Mushwana left office with the traditional ANC golden handshake – your money and mine.

The Dongfang branch of the Saxonwold Shebeen Temperance League and its fervent founder, Bathabile Dlamini, wish you good health and safe driving in your customised  Scipio Griffin.

  • Ed Herbst is a retired veteran journalist who writes in his own capacity.
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