||Patrick Bond 3 April 2012
‘I don’t have the stomach or the taste to serve any more at this level,’ said Minister of Intelligence Ronnie Kasrils, as he quit after fourteen years of service to the South African government. It was late September 2008, just after Thabo Mbeki was palace-couped.
His intelligence service was by then an international laughingstock, with spy-versus-spy intrigue spilling out wide across the political landscape, and unending, ungovernable, internecine battles using hoax emails, other disinformation and extraordinary political contortions unknown in even the ugliest Stalinist traditions of the African National Congress.
To last so long in that putrid swamp required a firm constitution, and to then extricate from the mire was a heroic task. Kasrils is still the continent’s highest-profile white revolutionary, and in spite of all the muck nearby, exudes an exceptionally powerful moral influence along with charisma and charm.
Last week he visited the University of KwaZulu-Natal as a Time of the Writer festival guest at the Centre for Creative Arts and speaker at the Centre for Civil Society’s seminar on state authoritarianism and corruption. A student here in the early 1960s, Kasrils reminisced about disputes during economics classes with Professor Owen Horwood – later a Vorster-Botha regime Finance Minister – over Horwood’s affection for Bantustan policy.
In 2010, Kasrils’ beautiful biography of his late wife Eleanor, The Unlikely Secret Agent, won SA’s main book award (the Sunday Times Alan Paton non-fiction prize) and his autobiography Armed and Dangerous had its third edition in 2004. His presentations last week celebrating writing, women and radical politics were thoughtful and humorous.
Kasrils’ current focus on corruption highlights the banal acquisitiveness of the political-bureaucratic petit bourgeoisie, aspiring to great wealth for little effort.
His naming as ‘WaBenzis’ several former colleagues – including the late defense minister Joe Modise and current SA Communist Party chief Blade Nzimande – certainly helps personify the problem. As Kasrils griped in our seminar, ‘South Africa is regaled by one revelation after another involving luxury limousines, lavish banquets, expensive hotel bills and other extravagant follies.’
Yet the 1997 Arms Deal was the font of South Africa’s large-scale corruption, and Kasrils had spent the late 1990s arguing that the deal could ‘stand up to the closest scrutiny’ because the process was ‘meticulously professional and objective.’ For the two leading Arms Deal experts, Paul Holden and Hennie van Vuuren, ‘It almost beggars belief that this claim could be made.’
Kasrils also notified parliament of ‘Major offset or counter-trade agreements so that for every rand spent abroad, the same amount will be invested in SA. Such packages will be of enormous benefit to our GEAR strategy. A tremendous boost to our economy and Treasury.’
Latest estimates from the Sunday Independent are that of the R114 billion promised in Arms Deal offsets, only R4 billion was delivered.
Kasrils’ defense last Friday was that the post-apartheid armed forces desperately needed the highest-technology weapons, but this did not leave his audience convinced. Exclaimed anti-corruption campaigner Marianne Camerer, ‘How can you sleep at night?!’
Kasrils’ answer: he’s sleeping well, because the Arms Deal didn’t corrupt at ministerial executive level in major transactions, though he now concedes that at secondary level, the company-to-company transactions had plenty of holes, such as Schabir Shaik’s offered facilitation of the French firm Thales’ access to Zuma for a reported R500 000/year.
Another contradiction is the so-called Secrecy Bill, the legislation that Kasrils originally introduced in early 2008 but now virulently opposes. As the Mail&Guardian reported four years ago, ‘Kasrils portrayed it as striking an enlightened balance between the need for secrecy and the constitutional imperative for open and accountable government.’
By mid-2008, Kasrils’ internal ministerial review commission – consisting of Joe Matthews, Frene Ginwala and Laurie Nathan – warned not to provide ‘so sweeping a basis for non-disclosure of information,’ reminiscent of ‘apartheid-era secrecy laws.’
To his credit, by late 2011 Kasrils was in the lead of the civil society campaign against the newer, more totalitarian version of the bill. It is, he announced at a Wits University rally, ‘turning into a Frankensteinian monster, a dog’s breakfast of toxic gruel.’
These are the kinds of dialectical discussions which Kasrils invites: vast contradictions in past practices, transcended by his ability to track degenerative trends and openly speak out today.
We are immensely fortunate that the way that John le Carré’s great novel The Spy Who Came in From the Cold was described by Time magazine – ‘a sad, sympathetic portrait of a man who has lived by lies and subterfuge for so long, he’s forgotten how to tell the truth’ – is the polar opposite of how to understand Ronnie Kasrils’ renewed life on the left, after departing morally-frozen Pretoria.
Patrick Bond directs the UKZN Centre for Civil Society, whose public seminars this week – http://ccs.ukzn.ac.za – address urban political ecology and poverty.
Sibheka kabusha ubuhixihixi mayelana noRonnie Kasrils
NguPatrick Bond Yahunyushwa nguFaith ka‑Manzi
‘Angisenaso isibindi noma ukulangazelela ukusebenzela izwe lami
kulesisimo,’ kusho uNgqongqoshe Wezobunhloli ngesikhathi eseshiya
phansi emva kweminyaka eyishumi nane esebenzela uhulumeni
waseNingizimu Afrika. Lokhu kwenzeka sekuyophela inyanga kaSeptemba
2008 ngenkathi kuchithwa umbuso kaMbeki.
Umsebenzi wakhe wobunhloli ngaleyonkathi wawusuyinhlekisa emhlabeni
wonke, ngenkathi kunokungqubuzana okwakudida phakathi kwezinhloli
kwezombusazwe kanye nokungapheli, ukulawuleka, kwezimpi zangaphakathi
kuthunyelwana ama‑emails angamanga, kanye nolwazi olungenalo iqiniso
kanye nokungabikhona kokuqonda kwezombusazwe okungaziwa ngisho
emlandweni omubi kakhulu kwinqubo yamaStalinists kaKhongolose.
Ukuzimelela isikhathi eside kangaka kulowomfula onukayo kwakudinga
umgomo oqinile, futhi nokuzixazulula kulolobishi kwakungumsebenzi
wobuqhawe uKasrils uyisishoshovu elisezingeni eliphezulu lesizwe
esimhlophe ezwenikazi laseAfrika, futhi kukho konke lokho kungcola
eduzane, unobulungiswa obumangalisayo kanye nokuba nomthelela omkhulu.
Ngesonto eledlule ubevakashele isikhungo semfundo ephakeme iNyuvesi
yaKwaZulu‑Natal njengomunye wezimenywa zomcimbi weTime of the Writer
Festival eCentre for Creative Arts wabuye waba yisikhulumi eCentre for
Civil Society mayelana nomthetho wombuso kanye nenkohlakalo.
Engumfundi kulesisikhungo ngeminyaka yawo1960, uKasrils wayekhumbula
ukuphikisana ngesikhathi sezifundo zomnotho noSolwazi uOwen Horwood –
owagcina eseNgungqongqoshe Wezimali kumbuso woVorster noBotha –
babephikisana ngothando lukaHorwood ngomgomo wamaBantustans.
Ngonyaka ka2010, umlando omuhle obhalwe nguKasrils ngonkosikazi wakhe
ongasekho uEleanor, The Unlikely Secret Agent, yadla umhlanganiso
kumklomelo wezincwadi ophambili eNingizimu Afrika (The Sunday Times
Alan Paton non‑fiction prize) kwasekuthi incwadi ayibhala ngempilo
yakhe iArmed and Dangerous yashicelelwa okwasithathu ngo2004.
Ukukhuluma kwakhe ngesonto elidlule ejabulela ukubhala, abesifazane
kanyenobushoshovu kwezombusazwe kwakunomqondo futhi kuhlekisa.
Ukubhekana kukaKasrils nenkohlakalo kubeka obala ukufuna kakhulu
izinto okunokuhlanya phakathi ngababusi, abafuna ukuceba kakhulu
ngaphandle kokusebenza kanzima.
Ukubiza ngo’Wabenzi’ abanye ababengozakwakhe abambalwa –
okumbandakanya owayengungqongqoshe wezokuvikela ongasekho uJoe Modise
kanye nesikhulu esiphezulu okwamanje kwiqembu lamakhomanisi
aseNingizimu Afrika uBlade Nzimande – lokho kusiza igqame lenkinga.
Njengoba uKasrils asho ekhuluma eCentre for Civil Society, ‘iNingizimu
Afrika ibuswa ngokwambuleka njalo ngokukhungathwa izimoto zamanani
aphezulu, imicimbi eshisa imali, izindleko ezinkulu ekukhokhelwa ngazo
amhotela kanye nezinye izinto ezidla imali ezingamaphutha.
Kodwa isivumelwano Sezikhali (Arms Deal) isona esaba nenkohlakalo
kakhulu eNingizimu Afrika futhi uKasrils wachitha ukuphela kweminyaka
yama1990 ephikisa ukuthi lesisivumelwano ‘kufanele siphenywe kanzulu
ngenxa yokuthi inqubo yaso ‘yayinobuyoningco futhi izimele’.
Ongqondongqondo balesisivumelwano abahamba phambili, uPaul Holden
noHennie van Vuuren bathi, ‘Lokhu akukholeki.’
UKasrils wabuye waxwayisa iPhalamende ‘ukuthi lezizivumelwano
ezinokungqubuzana ngemali echithwe emazweni angaphandle, iyona mali
engatshalwa eNingizimu Afrika. Lokhu kungaba nomthelela omkhulu
kwiGear. Ukukhulisa kakhulu umnotho wethu kanye nezimali zombuso.’
Ukuqagela kwamuva okuqhamuka kwiphephandaba iSunday Independent kuthi
izigidigidi ezinguR114 owathenjiswa kwinzuzo yeSivumelwano Sezikhali,
yizigidigidi ezinguR4 ezafika.
Ukuzivikela kukaKasrils ngoLwesihlanu olwedlule ukuthi ezokuvikela
emva kokufika kombuso wentando yeningi zazidinga kakhulu izikhali
zesimanjemanje eziseqophelweni elipheulu, kodwa lokhu akuzange
kujabulise abalaleli bakhe. Kubabaza olilunga lomkhankaso omelene
nenkohlakalo uMarianne Camerer, ‘Ulala kanjani ebusuku?!’
UKasrils waphendula wathi: ulala kahle, ngoba Isivumelwano seZikhali
asizange sense inkohlakalo ezingeni lezikhulu kumnyango wakhe,
kodwa‑ke uyavuma ukuthi esigabeni esilandelayo, ezimbonini,
kwakunezimbobo eziningi, njengoSchabir Shaik ethi uyena oyophatha
izingxoxo nemboni yaseFrance iThales ukunika uZuma uR500 000 ngonyaka.
Obunye ubuhixihixi uMthetho Wemfihlo (Secrecy Bill), umgomo uKasrils
aqala ukuwuqhakambisa kuqala u2008 kodwa manje asewuphikisa kakhulu.
Njengoba iphephandaba iMail&Guardian yabika eminyakeni emine edlule,
‘uKasrils wawubeka lomgomo njengomqondo ophusile wokusimamisa phakathi
kwesidingo ngemfihlo kanye nomthethosisekelo osobala kanye nohulumeni
Phakathi nonyaka ka2008, ikhomishani yokubuyekeza kangqongqoshe
ngaphakatho komnyango wakhe – ekubalwa kubo uJoe Mathews, Frene
Ginwala kanye noLaurie Nathan – baxwayisa ukuthi ‘kungenziwa umthetho
ofihla izindaba zezwe,’ osikhumbuza ‘imithetho yenfihlo ngesikhathi
Ukumncoma‑nje, sekuphela u2011 uKasrils ehola umkhankaso womphakathi
omelene, nomgomo omusha wemfihlo osuqinile. Wathi ngomhlangano
owawuseNyuvesi yaseWits ‘lomgomo usujike waba yisilwane iFrankestein,
Ilezike izingxoxo uKasrils azibungazayo:ukwehlukana kakhulu kwakudala,
okubonakala ngokuguquka kwakhe aphumele ngaphandle namhlanje.
Sinenhlanhla ngendlela incwadi enedumela kaJohn leCarre ethi Inhloli
Eyaphumela Obala (The Spy Who Came in From The Cold) yachazwa iTime
Magazine –‘njengencazelo yendoda eyayiphila ngobuqili nangenkohliso
isikhathi eside, seyakhohlwa ukukhuluma iqiniso’ – kungukwahlukana
okukhulu ngokuqonda impilo entsha kaRonnie Kasrils nezishoshovu, emva
kokushiya impilo engenanembeza yasePitoli.
UPatrick Bond ungumqondisi waseUKZN Centre for Civil Society,
izinkulumo zakhe zomphakathi kulelisonto ‑ http://ccs.ukzn.ac.za
zibhekene nezemvelo zombusazwe emadolobheni kanye nobuphofu.