Scenes of turmoil: Eerie symmetry in deaths and lack of accountability

This has been a grim week. It started with the most desperate scenes of terrified Afghans swamping Kabul airport trying to get on board a C17 to flee from the Taliban. The giant transport aircraft eventually took off – with two people falling to their deaths when they could no longer cling to the outside of the fuselage.

There was eerie symmetry to the footage. Next month, it will be 20 years since the twin towers in New York City were attacked. A person, forever known as ‘Falling Man’ was captured upside down plummeting to the ground. He’d jumped as the flames raged. He’d been desperate too to escape his fate. 

Thousands died in that attack. Thousands more have died in the fabled War Against Terror that followed. This week it ended in ignominy, with scenes unimaginably worse than the fall of Saigon in 1975 when the US evacuated its embassy by helicopter while North Vietnamese tanks pushed through the gates. 

Four presidents, trillions of dollars, 20 years – all to replace the Taliban with the Taliban. Inevitably it’s President Joe Biden, the current occupant of the White House, who is taking the fall. There’s plenty who want to pin it on him, even though it was his predecessor who put the plan in place.

The Republicans have been quick to remove an article on their website hailing Donald Trump’s 2020 deal. In this era of historical revision and personal truths ‘trumping’ actual truth, it might even work. It’s something that’s certainly working with South Africa’s own post-apartheid tragedy. 

Monday was the ninth anniversary of the Marikana Massacre that claimed the lives of 34 miners in North West. President Jacob Zuma was the president then. He’s supposed to be in jail for contempt of the Constitutional Court. Nathi Mthethwa, the Minister of Condolences and Congratulations today, was Minister of Safety and Security then. Riah Phiyega was police commissioner.

Nobody is calling them to account, but the EFF and Advocate Dali Mpofu want President Cyril Ramaphosa in the dock. Why? Because he sent an email asking the police to act, when the striking miners were posing a risk to life, limb and property. He didn’t hold office at the time. He wrote as a director of the company affected by the strike.

The Farlam Commission into the atrocity found he had done no wrong. Notwithstanding this Ramaphosa has apologised for sending the email. He’s taken responsibility. None of our political leaders have owned up for their part in the tragedy. 

His detractors can’t even own up to looting VBS Mutual Bank which was funded by grannies and stokvels. Then again, using their logic, fighting for (their own) economic freedom maybe it’s Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Fabiani, Versace and Salvatore Ferragamo’s fault for selling them the stuff in the first place.

And what was FNB’s role in all of this? Fica was set up to stop money laundering and crime. How could millions of Rands wash through the personal account of an elected official? 

Or, like history and truth, are some bank accounts more equal than others?

Originally published by the Saturday Star on 12 August 2021.