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Mbhazima Shilowa, former Gauteng premier and ex-Cosatu general secretary, has woken from his below-the-radar slumber by tweeting: “If you guys touch me I’m dropping files on judges and journalists.”
Who would want to touch Shilowa on his studio, or anywhere else? He’s a has-been who couldn’t cope with not being leader of Cope, the party formed in 2008 by ANC leaders unhappy over the toppling of former president Thabo Mbeki. Shilowa once was famous.
In its early stages, the Gautrain project was nicknamed the Shilowa Express. That moniker ran out of steam quicker than Shilowa’s political career. We’ve heard threats like his before, memorably from Bathabile Dlamini. The former minister and ANC Women’s League leader claimed to know secrets.
In 2016 she said: “All of us in the NEC [ANC national executive committee] have our smallanyana skeletons and we don’t want to take out skeletons because all hell will break loose.”
If the ANC had a spine, a collective shiver might have been felt. Yet, few people gave a damn. Why? Because such threats are not new.
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Former president Jacob Zuma is assumed to have dirt on anyone who matters. He supposedly has spy tricks from when he was an ANC intelligence chief in exile. He’s made many threats. In 2016, Zuma said he would spill the beans on those who criticise him for being uneducated.
In 2018, Zuma said: “I want to warn all of them. In the past few years, they have dragged my name through the mud. Some of them say Zuma is corrupt but they can’t tell me what I have done that makes me corrupt. I know some of them who say this about me, they are also corrupt – I will spill the beans on them.”
Maybe those beans are so worn out and shrivelled, they won’t germinate; just lie there in the dust, unnoticed. Yet Zuma keeps on hinting. In court papers in August 2021, through his legal team, he threatened to implicate “prominent organisations and foundations” in his corruption trial.
“The legal team … has dispatched letters to prominent organisations and foundations who benefitted from the arms deal to provide pertinent details,” the Zuma foundation said.
Gosh, really? And then? There will be fertile dirt in the final report of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, whose release was delayed this week by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
Unfortunately for the likes of Shilowa, Dlamini and Zuma, South Africans are no longer shocked by stories of scandal and corruption. We hear this stuff every day. Threats not carried out become hollow. Hints are not enough. If you have ammunition, use it.
For example, ex-spy boss Arthur Fraser didn’t issue public warnings before exposing the Ankole skeletons at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala game farm. People who know about corruption are obliged by law to report this to the authorities. What a fine example Ramaphosa has set with his fairy-tale explanations.
Why hasn’t Shilowa reported what he knows? If anyone is harbouring secrets about Shilowa, touch him. The files he threatens to drop will sink in an overcrowded sea of malfeasance.