It’s an oldie but goldie. How can one tell when a politician is lying? Answer: When their lips are moving.
It’s distressing not only that President Jacob Zuma’s administration is inept and corrupt. What is almost worse is the insultingly poor quality of the explanations proffered when things go wrong.
After 21 years of assiduous equivocation, obfuscation and fabrication, one would have hoped that the ANC government by now would have got better at it. Instead, they have got worse. Their excuses are of the standard, as former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils scathingly remarks, of “the dog ate my homework”.
He was responding to State Security Minister David Mahlobo’s series of statements late last week on how it happened that all electronic communication within the Assembly was switched off before Zuma started his State of the Nation Address. Apparently, according to Mahlobo, South Africans are entirely mistaken in thinking that this was because the ANC did not want uncensored video and audio to be distributed during a session that they knew would be interrupted by calls for Zuma to “pay back the money” and would likely culminate in the forcible ejection of the EFF MPs.
The first offering was that it was a “technical glitch”. Then Mahlobo said that the media was mistaken not only about why the ANC jammed the signal but whether the signal was, in fact, jammed. “There was no jamming of the signal because if it was jamming there was going to be a total shutdown.” Which is, the media points out, was exactly what had happened, hence the opposition MPs and journalists standing en masse and waving, like a field of sea anemone, their cellphones above their heads.
So it was not jamming, Mahlobo said, but “signal disruption”. He could not provide details of the device that caused the “signal disruption” but said it was all linked to the restricted airspace above the parliamentary precinct. “There are unmanned machines (drones) that are flying all over that can kill people.”
These drones presumably have been sent by those unnamed “Western powers” that Speaker Baleka Mbete told ANC supporters were working with the parliamentary opposition to depose Zuma, because they question “how can a rural man sit with them on international structures?”
However, if a lurid Sunday Times report of strife in the four-wife Zuma household is to be believed, the president is in more danger of being poisoned by a vexed wife than death by killer drone. Since the jamming device left the signal outside the Assembly unaffected, State Security clearly feared that the drones would be launched from inside, presumably by EFF assassins from under the parliamentary benches.
Kasrils, not one to mince words, responded, “Do they really think we are stupid enough to believe such a hopeless excuse?”
As the minister that at one time used to oversee all the intelligence services, Kasrils has high standards. After all, spies are second only to diplomats in the dark arts of dissembling.
Kasrils always espoused the flat denial method of dealing with controversial allegations about his ministry – whether it be over arms deals corruption, illegal rendition and Central Intelligence Agency torture, or spy tapes – and it served him well. He has yet to be caught out at telling a whopper.
You will notice, too, that Kasril’s indignation is not over mendacity. It is that it is all so badly done.
Kasrils has got to the nub of it. South Africans are gatvol over two-faced, shape-shifting politicians because we have our pride. We expect better.
No, not the truth. We are not naïve. But this is a compulsively competitive nation. If our government is going to be a bunch of lying shits, we want them the be the best lying shits. In the absence of gold medals at the Olympics and cricket World Cup trophies, we want to win the Lying Shits World Cup.
After all, we have been lied to by the best, going back as Zuma has pointed out, to 1652 and the arrival at the Cape of Jan van Riebeek (only here to establish a refreshment station). Followed by British occupation and Lord Milner (these concentration camps are for your own good), all the way through to the apartheid years.
The National Party years were the zenith of dishonesty. Think of PW Botha (we are not in Angola), John Vorster (what secret funds?) and Hendrik Verwoerd (it’s not discrimination, it’s separate and equal development).
Now along comes the ANC with its pathetic, childlike fibbing. Jacob (it’s a fire-pool) Zuma, for the sake of national honour, just has to do better.
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