Bruce’s List: A daily guide to informed reads.
I don’t know how stuff like this gets done but the outgoing public protector, Thuli Madonsela, plans to interview (and say farewell to) President Jacob Zuma later this week as she prepares a report on the capture of the state by the president and his friends, particularly the Guptas. It is vital that she releases something before she leaves office in the middle of the week as her successor is a largely unknown quantity and may already be “captured” herself. But let’s not be unfair. She may not be. Madonsela’s visit to Zuma has been made more difficult, though, by a leak to The Citizen newspaper on Tuesday of a letter written to Madonsela by one Fana Hlongwane. You may remember him as a sort of shadow figure in the arms deal, a middleman who made a lot of money according to those who know. It was Hlongwane who set up the meeting last year where deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas later revealed the Gupta family had offered him Nhlanhla Nene’s job as finance minister provided he could clear some troublesome people out of treasury.
Hlongwane’s letter to Madonsela denies that that offer was ever made and it most certainly presents a difficulty, though not an unsurmountable one, in proving state capture by the Zuptas. I thought Hlongwane rather spoiled his ruse by suggesting that he and Jonas had some sort of business arrangement going, a clear effort to smear Jonas as the holder of a political office. In fact, Madonsela said yesterday that she had asked Hlongwane to give evidence to her inquiry and that he had sent her the letter and simultaneously released it to the media instead. Pretty sophisticated stuff and you can see the hand of pros like Bell Pottinger in the whole thing. Gupta trolls were all over social media yesterday, crowing about the letter but I think it wise to wait for Madonsela’s report. I hope it shows Jonas still has some fight in him: Protector moves to quiz president.
Meanwhile, there has been some fine reporting about the student unrest and the threat to our universities. The scenes from Wits yesterday were disgraceful, on both sides. But I can’t recommend Stephen Friedman’s column in Business Day today highly enough. He makes the simple but telling point that the police have done nothing to improve their public order policing since killing 34 miners at Marikana in 2013. They were at Wits yesterday to do two things essential to any functioning democracy — to allow classes and learning to continue and to allow peaceful but effective protest. They did neither: Democratic public order policing would help.
A good news story, though, is about plans to allow independent power producers to generate 3,000MW of electricity from gas plants to be built at Richards Bay and Coega. Will Eskom buy from them, I wonder? Richards Bay to get 2,000MW from gas power project.
In the US, the two vice-presidential candidates held their one and only TV debate last night and, jeez, Donald Trump’s running mate seems to have won! Eek! There’s tons of analysis going on and it did seem that Hillary Clinton’s VP choice got better towards the end but only when he realised that his opponent wasn’t defending Trump, There’s a lesson in this for Trump himself the next time he meets Clinton (next week); deny, deny and change the subject: Mike Pence 'won' the debate by pretending Donald Trump doesn't exist. And just in case you don’t know what a little twerp Trump is here’s a wonderful profile of him written by Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair magazine. It isn’t often Carter lifts his pen in this fashion but he sure knows how to stick it to someone when he tries: Donald Trump: The ugly American.
And finally, in the UK, Prime Minister Theresa May is in the middle of her first Conservative Party conference as leader. It has made her behave quite oddly and, though she may look competent on the outside, the consequences of announcing an actual date for triggering Brexit next year are so vast you have to question not only her intelligence, says this Gideon Rachman piece in the Financial Times, but her confidence as party leader: (paywall) Theresa May walks into a Brexit trap.