Charles Cilliers
4 minute read
17 May 2017
9:11 am

Where were you, Ramatlhodi, when we needed you?

Charles Cilliers

The former mining minister seems not to realise he has damned himself along with Molefe and Zuma.

FILE PICTURE: Ngoako Ramatlhodi. Picture: Christine Vermooten

After Zuma’s most recent disastrous Cabinet reshuffle in March, I wrote a column about how it wasn’t all bad, because at least he also fired people like Tina Joemat-Pettersson.

Lumped in with the horrible ministers the president fired – according to me at the time – was the former mining and later public service and administration minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi, because he seemed like just another useless ministerial nonentity, and he certainly had not appeared to contribute much to either public service or administration.

Shortly afterwards, though, Ramatlhodi gave an interview about how relieved he was to be out of Zuma’s government and I started to wonder whether I’d perhaps been a bit too hard on the geezer (and yes, I have reached the point that I judge whether you are a good or moral person on whether you are pro- or anti-Zuma/Gupta, even though that’s just a starting point).

Then yesterday Ramatlhodi dropped the “bombshell” about how he was removed as mineral resources minister by Zuma because he allegedly wouldn’t play along in the dirty game of bullying Glencore so that the Gupta family could take over the Optimum coal mine.

“Okay,” was my immediate reaction. “I was wrong about this one; Ramatlhodi seems to be one of the good guys.”

Not so fast, though. It didn’t take long before I was wondering why it had taken this long for him to speak up.

Last year, after the ANC supposedly launched its own internal investigation into whether there could possibly be any attempt by the Gupta family to capture the state, Gwede Mantashe told us they were shutting it down because they hadn’t been able to find any witnesses or enough evidence.

Then, finally, Thuli Madonsela dropped her State of Capture report, which, if not conclusive, certainly suggested there was much left to investigate. Her findings on Eskom CEO Brian Molefe and the Guptas were particularly damning, and it’s hard not to read her report and be completely convinced that Molefe went out of his way to improperly award a coal deal to the Gupta-owned Tegeta Resources after the company snapped up the Optimum mine from a bruised and limping Glencore.

But Madonsela’s report would have made for even more interesting reading if Mr Ramatlhodi had seen fit to give her a call and tell her about how Molefe and Eskom chair Ben Ngubane had supposedly been “blackmailing” the then minister to suspend all Glencore’s licences and stand firm on a more than R2 billion fine.

To his credit, Ramatlhodi says he stood his ground and refused to do the wrong thing. But he didn’t entirely do the right thing either.

After he was replaced by Gupta stooge Mosebenzi Zwane, everything Zuma and the Guptas wanted happened anyway. They got their coal mine, they were given their ridiculous and completely indefensible coal deal. And South Africa got screwed yet again.

Where was Ramatlhodi while all this was going down, and was also much publicised? Well, supposedly overseeing all that public service and all that administration in his new portfolio.

The last I checked, the public protector’s website is still there. They still answer the phone.

If Ramatlhodi didn’t want to talk to Thuli, the anti-corruption hotline still gets answered. The number is 012 328 7690 by the way.

But no, Ramatlhodi sat there quietly thinking about how to be a public service minister.

He was eventually shafted by Zuma’s long knife (or spear) at midnight, and now aaaaaaall of a sudden, the man seems to have a lot to say. He is suddenly sooooo energised to stand up against corruption and bullying.

What could Ramatlhodi not have achieved if he’d agreed to getting Molefe, Ngubane and perhaps even Zuma on record (perhaps even taped) in a sting operation with anti-corruption authorities while he was still the mining minister, when he could still have been a hero and made a huge difference? But the opportunity passed, as it so often does.

I don’t know if Ramatlhodi is a good man, but he deserves to be reminded of the quote attributed to Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

In the end, Ramatlhodi is just another politician. The fact that he’s telling the truth now is because he’s getting some political capital out of it, perhaps hoping Cyril Ramaphosa will become president and remember him kindly. He may even be trying to assist the Ramaphosa campaign.

Also, he has nothing left to lose. Just like Mathews Phosa, Ramatlhodi can now stand safely on the sidelines throwing rocks while the gunfight in government and the ANC rages on.

Thanks for the headlines, Ramatlhodi. Very interesting reading. But it’s too little, too late.

Charles Cilliers, digital editor

Charles Cilliers, digital editor