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The South African

Minister Pravin Gordhan is a man of unshakeable will – one of the very few people within ANC family whose integrity is untouched - and sincerely believes that as a public servant he is obligated to fight for the soul of the nation.

Given the continuous drama and debates about ‘state capture’ South Africa has been treated to over the last few months, I reminisced about watching a movie some four score and five years ago, a western at that, in one of my famous childhood movie houses in Durban called The Royal. The movie was titled High Noon and was produced by Stanley Kramer, directed by Fred Zinnemann and starred Gary Cooper. Basically the film tells the story of a town marshal forced to confront a gang of killers by himself. The similarity between the movie and the current South African ‘state capture’ saga is that in both instances the fate of innocent people is dependent on the outcome of a battle between good and evil.

Besides its historical significance, High Noon is a heroic struggle for justice against the backdrop of crime, hatred and retribution. It is one of the best westerns ever made. Although the storyline of the movie is quite simple, it has deep underlying symbolisms. The marshal of a small rural town (Hadleyville) in the movie represents the righteous man who is willing to stand up to the wrongdoers. The story is universal and has enduring relevance. Even in South Africa, to boot.   

In juxtaposing the position of Marshal Will Kane against the heroic stand taken by Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, in our own drama of State Capture, I am fondly reminded of the historical significance of High Noon and the compelling story of personal courage in the face of overwhelming odds.

In South Africa, the political narrative leading to the corresponding poignant moment of the movie High Noon, the marshal is represented by Pravin Gordhan - the righteous man who is willing to stand up to wrongdoers. The wrongdoers are represented by all those who are allegedly involved in the process of ‘state capture’, draft and corruption – many of them from the ‘house of cards’ are his former comrades, led by narcissistic leaders and psychopaths parading as legitimate and progressive representatives of the people of South Africa. A far cry from the likes of Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada and Govan Mbeki who literally sacrificed their lives for our freedom. The new hombres, some of whom have been caught with their proverbial hands in the cookie jar have summoned Marshal Gordhan to a momentous confrontation for ‘attempting to run the country properly’ – to borrow the words from Zapiro’s most recent hilarious cartoon.

The majority of these selectmen who pretend to be Marshal Gordhan’s amigos are his ‘comrades’ from days gone by, especially when it was politically correct to fight for freedom and the overthrow of a pernicious system called Apartheid. To add salt to Marshal Gordhan’s wounds, his adversaries are political brethren from within the ANC family. They pretend to be the upholders of the law and view Marshal Gordhan as the arch villain – someone, whom they consider a spoilsport that did not play along with their game of dice called ‘Let’s Loot the Nation’s Purse’.

Marshall Gordhan is resolute and is not deterred by their veiled and unsubstantiated threats. After spending months in attempting to frame a propped-up-charge, these namby-pamby individuals have through sinister motives found Marshal Gordhan guilty by suspicion of re-hiring a former employee of the Treasury on a contractual basis. Indeed, the act of framing a nebulous charge against a trusted comrade is in itself a serious problematic. It gives credence to an old saying – “weak men cannot handle power. It will either crush them, or they will use it to crush others”.    

Similar to Marshal Will Kane in the movie, Minister Pravin Gordhan is a man of unshakeable will – one of the very few people within ANC family whose integrity is untouched - and sincerely believes that as a public servant he is obligated to fight for the soul of the nation. He wants his day in High Noon.

In the movie, the majority of the townsfolk for fear of retribution from the outlaws decide to do nothing in the face of evil. In a similar fashion the majority of Marshal Gordhan’s ‘amigos’ have decided to do nothing to protect their comrade.  Some of the ‘amigos’ claim that the ‘fight’ between Marshal Gordhan and his persecutors is a personal matter and that he is ‘not above the law’. The critical question is whose law? It would seem that many of his so-called amigos are failing to protect Marshal Gordhan because they are extremely vulnerable in a system where coercion dictates their futures. They use selfish and shortsighted rationalisations to avoid confronting the ‘gangsters’ within government.

In recent weeks, however, senior members of the ANC family have decided that in the interest of the future of the country they have to make a stand against the perpetrators of scandalous crimes against the state - notable amongst these have been Trevor Manuel, Cyril Ramaphosa, Jackson Mthembu, Enoch Godongwana, Joe Phaahla, Max Sisulu and Derek Hanekom. Former colleagues and members of the judiciary and the legal profession have also joined the chorus in supporting Marshal Gordhan because they believe that the evidence against him is exculpatory.   

Finally, there are lessons to be drawn from the movie High Noon. In the first instant Marshal Will Kane stays true to his principles even though it means that he must face adversity alone, outnumbered and risking death in the process. Despite the betrayals of the townsfolk of Hadleyville, he succeeds.  Secondly, the principle that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing. The town had the good fortune to have a Marshal with the integrity of Will Kane. We have Pravin Gordhan. It is time for the silent majority to rise for a noble cause.  Patriotism towards our beloved land demands it.  

* Professor Dhiru Soni is an academic, researcher and policy analyst and writes in his personal capacity.



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