One David, screenwriter, essayist and Pulitzer Prize winner David Mamet once said: “Many remark justice is blind; pity those in her sway, shocked to discover she is also deaf.”
Another David, former South African politician and soon to be jailbird David Malatsi may have realised only this week that his namesake was correct – Lady Justice is indeed blind to political rank and deaf to the pleas of a corrupt man.
According to Sapa news agency, Western Cape High Court Judge Patrick Gamble took less than a minute to read out the appeal judgement against Malatsi, stating only that the “appeal is dismissed and conviction is confirmed”.
Malatsi will serve five years in prison for accepting a payment of R100 000 in April 2002 from Count Riccardo Augusto, the owner and developer of the R550-million Roodefontein Golf and Country Estate in Plettenberg Bay. The former provincial minister of environmental affairs and national deputy minister of social development had ignored environmental concerns and procedures, which may serve to confirm the payment was a bribe.
He was found guilty of corruption and sentenced in December 2006, but was granted leave to appeal. His appeal came before Gamble and Judge Elizabeth Baartman in August this year, where his lawyer argued that Malatsi had accepted the money in his fund-raising capacity as a New National Party member and that it had played no part in the ultimate decision to approve the development.
In his judgement, Gamble said this was hard to believe. “It is inconceivable that a person in the position of the appellant could not have realised, given the crucial timing of the handing over of the cheque, that he was expected to bring his side of the bargain to the table and to facilitate the passing of the necessary statutory approvals in exchange for the handsome contribution to his party,” Gamble said.
While Malatsi prepares to hand himself over to prison authorities, Corruption Watch would like to bestow on the experienced public office bearer the title of Zero of the Week. Perhaps this will remind Malatsi as he changes his attire from business suit to orange prison overalls, that to err is human but his failure to take responsibility is a disgrace for someone who once held such important positions in the country.
This week, Malatsi was not present in court when judgement was passed but his refusal to accept that his actions were wrong can’t be forgotten. At his sentencing in 2006, he said he believed his five-year sentence for corruption in connection with his involvement in the development was “harsh”, according to IOL. He had denied that there was any personal enrichment on his part.
“There was no personal enrichment in this case; there was no unjustified enrichment on my part, so I feel the conviction and sentence are unfair.”
Judge Gamble’s judgement follows hot on the heels of a presentation by the Public Service Commission in parliament last week, in which members of the committee stated that perpetrators of corruption were increasingly at a more senior level, and that highlighted the need for better, more ethical leadership.
David Malatsi is expected to arrive at Goodwood Prison in Cape Town on Friday to begin serving his five-year jail term.
David Malatsi may think his sentence for corruption is “harsh” and “unfair”, but as he prepares to put on his orange prison overalls, we think his actions and refusal to take responsibility for them make him a zero.