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JOHANNESBURG — It’s been a long walk to prison for corrupt ANC politician John Block. He’s fought the sentence against him in a similar Stalingrad strategy employed by the likes of Jacob Zuma. But the Constitutional Court has had the final say, ordering him to put on his new orange overalls. In this article, veteran journalist Ed Herbst pens the timeline of John Block’s demise as well issuing a warning of how the ANC may just make sure Mr Block doesn’t spend too long a time in prison… – Gareth van Zyl
By Ed Herbst*
‘I’ve always seen the driving forces behind the corruption currently ravaging the country as a combination of three bad factors: a corrupt civil servant, a corrupt politician and a corrupt business person.’ – My Second Initiation – Vusi Pikoli with Mandy Weiner (Picador Africa, 2013)
Embattled Northern Cape ANC leader John Block remains innocent until proven otherwise, the ANC said on Monday.
“The ANC will not allow itself to be pushed to take action on any matter, based on allegations,” said African National Congress Northern Cape spokeswoman Gail Parker. – N Cape ANC stands by John Block IOL 16/9/2013
In an article posted on this website a fortnight ago, I predicted that the first deployed cadre to go to jail for snouting during the Ramaphosa era would be a former ANC Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Rubben Mohlaloga. He was part of a criminal syndicate that ripped off the Land Bank for R6m – previously depleted by R2bn in the first ANC raid – ask Helena Dolny, she’ll tell you.
Well, I’m delighted to be proved wrong because, 15 years after he had favourably impressed the Luthuli House talent scouts by using taxpayer’s money to fund a trip for himself and his family to the Cape Town Jazz Festival, the cell door has finally closed behind former ANC Northern Cape leader and premier, John Block, now resplendent in his newly-acquired orange raiment.
John Block was, to quote the inimitable Detective Inspector Derek Grim, ‘‘A fat cat, spinning his web with his tentacles in every pie’ and, as Andrew Louw, DA Northern Cape Premier candidate points out, we only grasped the half of it.
It is for this very reason that he is revered by the ANC and why, since his incarceration, there has not been one word of condemnation from Loot-freely-and-fully House about the man who won election for a third successive term as the party’s provincial chairman ‘by a landslide’ in 2012 despite being on trial on multiple charges at the time.
Rest assured that the ANC will make every effort to ensure that he serves only a fraction of his allotted sentence – ask Alan Boesak and Tony (Maserati crasher) Yengeni and the terminally-ill Schabir Shaik, they’ll tell you.
When the time comes for the compilation of the Domesday Book of Snouting, I am sure that the Loot-freely House mandarins will allocate Block a chapter all to himself for two of his stellar snouting achievements.
High-five conga line
Consider his role in a R6.7m diamond heist which must have had them careening down the Luthuli House corridors in a rollicking, high-five conga line. That joyous celebration would have been repeated with a boisterous toyi-toyi when the news broke that he had snouted a salt mine using a forged mining certificate.
The ANC proved that it had learnt from the latter endeavour when former Mineral Resources Minister, Mosebenzi (Gupta) Zwane, flew hither, thither and yon to assist a Saxonwold family in their own mine-snouting efforts – although the tactic did not work so well for Ben Ngubane.
One can but hope – because the ANC admires and respects its snouters – that the adoring ANC in the Northern Cape carried Block shoulder-high to the local slammer, giving him the sort of rapturous send-off which Alan Boesak and Tony (Hic) Yengeni received from the likes of Ebrahim (Journalist Briber) Rasool and Baleka (Gold Fields beneficiary) Mbete et al when they started their truncated jail sentences.
I have drawn up a brief timeline of John Block’s snouting career which I am sure will be appreciated by all the cadres whose pockets he has so copiously lined during his selfless service of more than two decades on behalf of the ANC’s patronage network.
7 September 2004 Whistleblower going to the top News 24
4 April 2010 Top ANC man at centre of salt mining scandal IOL
6 August 2010 Block’s permit taken with a pinch of salt Mail & Guardian
12 November 2010 Block’s strange taste in lawyer Mail & Guardian
18 December 2010 – MEC awards top job to former prosecutor Sunday Times
6 July 2011 – Cape mines official to answer for forged permit The Citizen
1 February 2012 The more things change noseweek
26 July 2012 I was bribed, says N Cape hospital chief M&G
15 February 2013 John Block in R7m diamond poser Mail & Guardian
28 March 2013 Is John’s head finally on the block? Daily Maverick
16 September 2013 N Cape ANC stands by John Block IOL
14 October 2015 John Block guilty of corruption, fraud, money laundering Mail & Guardian
16 October 2015 The ANC and the John Block case: What a difference four days make Daily Maverick
6 December 2016 John Block gets 15-year jail term for money laundering, corruption Mail & Guardian
7 December 2016 ANC fully behind corrupt Block’s appeal IOL
20 November 2018 Constitutional Court orders John Block to go to jail Business Day
In the meantime, the ‘Amigos’ case – in which Block also featured – has been postponed until March next year. The former Kimberley Hospital chief executive, Hamid Shabbir, fled to the United Arab Emirates in 2009 after telling the Hawks that he had accepted a bribe from Block in the Intaka water purifier scam.
Going by what seems to be de facto ANC policy I see a bright future for Block when he is released from prison in the very near future.
My guess is that the ANC will make him an MP representing the Northern Cape and nominate him as one of their members on parliament’s joint ethics committee and I base this prediction on previous Luthuli House precedents:
- In 2011, R100m was moved from the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union provident funds and promptly disappeared. Enoch Godonwana is alleged to have misled a subsequent inquiry. He was subsequently and consequently appointed the chairperson of the ANC’s subcommittee on economic transformation and nominated as a senior member of its National Executive Committee. The ANC clearly felt that such a talent should be recognised and rewarded.
- In June this year, a decision was taken at the ANC’s 2019 election manifesto workshop to appoint Tony Yengeni as chair of its crime and corruption group. This was in recognition of his efforts – as outlined in Andrew Feinstein’s book After the Party – to suppress parliament’s investigation into Arms Deal Corruption which funded the ANC’s subsequent election campaigns. His ability to snout a major discount on a luxury Merc (thereafter known as a ‘Yengeni’) and to serve only four months of a four-year sentence (with weekends off) counted heavily in his favour and his penchant for imbibing a tincture or five too many, leaving him as sober as an ANC-protected judge, was not considered a handicap.
The latest inmate of a well-known penitentiary in Kimberly is surely destined for an important role in the future promotion of the ANC’s Glorious National Democratic Revolution which has proved so telling in countries like Zimbabwe and Venezuela and North Korea.
In closing: In an interesting op-ed article in Die Burger on 26 November headlined Erasmus vs Zondo Commission – What is South Africa’s biggest scam?, Dr Pieter Mulder draws a comparison between the Info Scandal which cost then National Party Prime Minister John Vorster and his father, Dr Connie Mulder, their political careers and the ANC’s relentless depredations on the fiscus. He points out that Eschel Rhoodie was charged with stealing R62,000 and subsequently cleared of all charges on appeal. In contrast, he says, John Block fraudulently enriched himself by R112m.
Viva, John Block Viva!
- Ed Herbst is a veteran journalist who these days writes in his own capacity.