Bruce’s List: A guide to informed reads.
Last Friday President Jacob Zuma’s administration took SA into a new political category, leaping almost effortlessly from the deplorable to the despicable. His foreign minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, it emerged, had written to the United Nations announcing SA’s intention to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). In a follow-up, justice minister Michael Masutha said the withdrawal was necessary so that SA could conduct conventional diplomacy, which included doing business with leaders who face charges from the ICC, including Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, who was forced to flee SA last year to avoid arrest during a summit of African leaders in Johannesburg. Conventional diplomacy, he said, implied that leaders charged by the ICC should have immunity when they were in our country.
What he, in fact, means is not immunity but that they should be able to travel here with impunity. It is a shocking and vile decision which will make our country slip even further down the ladder of respectability in the eyes of the world. The ICC tends only to prosecute individuals on the grounds of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide inside their own countries. Many of its cases result in acquittal. Its chief prosecutor is an African woman, from The Gambia. The majority of cases are brought by African governments.
The fact that SA is so concerned about al-Bashir has a lot to do with pressure put on it by the Chinese government to help resolve the war between Sudan and South Sudan. Before the Sudan split into two the Chinese had invested heavily in that country’s oil industry. Now most of the oil is in South Sudan but the pipelines taking it to export points in Sudan run through Sudanese territory. The result has been a US$70bn disaster for Chinese expansion in Africa and SA spends a lot of effort trying to get the region settled and the oil flowing to China.
In light of the South African decision, it is worth noting that not all African governments are as aggrieved about the number of Africans targeted by the ICC. Earlier this year Côte d’Ivoire‚ Nigeria‚ Senegal‚ and Tunisia joined Botswana in expressly opposing ICC withdrawal and Burkina Faso‚ Cape Verde‚ the Democratic Republic of Congo‚ and Senegal entered reservations about withdrawing.
Meanwhile, the disintegration of the South African state continued apace last week, a drift brilliantly analysed here by Adriaan Basson, who like most decent citizens was shocked to read in the Sunday Times yesterday that the national director of public prosecutions, Shaun “I am no-one’s puppet” Abrahams jumped to attention and obeyed orders when summonsed to a meeting at the ANC headquarters in Johannesburg the day before he charged finance minister Pravin Gordhan. What a shocker this guy is: Forget the Guptas - state capture just became much scarier. And the campaigning advocate, Paul Hoffman, neatly explains how Abrahams may soon find himself the subject of litigation as a person unfit to hold public office: How Shaun Abrahams is cooking his goose.
I thought the Sunday Times’ coverage of the state capture issue was brilliant yesterday and so, it seems, did its former editor, Ray Hartley. The Sunday Times keeps its work behind a paywall and as it gets better by the week I urge you to subscribe if you do not already. Over four pages it spectacularly described the machinations behind state capture and, especially, unravelled the plans to capture national treasury that week last December when Zuma fired Nhlanhla Nene: POLITICS LIVE: The plan to stitch up the Treasury revealed in all its glory.
Justice Malala this morning in The Times is appalled by the new public protector, who appears to be wasting no time establishing herself as a Zuma ally in the fight against the fight against corruption. She is clearly captured and the opposition parties who backed her nomination must be kicking themselves: Madonsela exposed state capture, Mkhwebane is implementing it. And as state capture becomes truly overwhelming here, check out Stuart Theobald this morning as he tries valiantly to find the money missing from the Gupta family’s Optimum mine rehabilitation fund. Remember that by law the money in a rehabilitation fund needs always to be immediately available to clean up a mine’s mess when and if it closes. Theobald does his sums and comes up a few hundred million rand short. Where, he asks, is that money now? Guptas show money in Optimum trust, but figures indicate there should be more.
But back to the ICC, here is justice minister Masutha trying (and failing) to justify the decision to pull out of the body: Why we're withdrawing from the ICC - Mike Masutha. And I thought this thoughtful piece from an academic in today’s edition of The Conversation nicely encapsulated the indignity and the potential illegality of the move: Withdrawal from the ICC: A sad day for South Africa and Africa. For brave human rights activists operating in hostile territory in Africa, the decision is especially dispiriting: African human rights bodies slam SA decision to leave international court.