Unlike Nene's, there is nothing moral about Gigaba's resignation

Former home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba resigned simply to save face, and not necessarily for the good of the country and his party, according to the writer.
Former home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba resigned simply to save face, and not necessarily for the good of the country and his party, according to the writer.
Image: Thulani Mbele

Malusi Gigaba has done the honourable thing and resigned as minister of home affairs. As welcomed as this news is, the reality is that Gigaba's resignation has nothing to do with honour.

It is tempting to conclude that a culture of accountability and ethical leadership is finally taking root in cabinet and across government, especially since Gigaba's resignation comes on the heels of former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene's.

Nene's departure came after he admitted that he had lied to the nation about meeting the Guptas while testifying at the state capture commission. Nene could not reconcile remaining in his post while his ethics and integrity were placed under scrutiny, thus threatening to further erode public confidence in Treasury both at home and abroad.

His was an honourable deed. In his request for President Cyril Ramaphosa to relieve him of his duties, he demonstrated that he accepted that he had failed to uphold ethical standards befitting a member of the executive. The circumstances of Gigaba's resignation are a stark contrast to those just noted.

Despite constitutional court finding and recent report by the public protector, he did not immediately acknowledge that his conduct was bringing his office, cabinet and the nation into disrepute.

Gigaba's resignation comes after a week or so of long media campaign aimed at pushing back against the high court and the public protector's findings that he lied under oath in the Fireblade Aviation matter.

He released several tweets and statements, did an exclusive TV interview and used an appearance before parliament's portfolio committee on home affairs to press his case rather than account for the findings against him.

He has maintained that there is a political plot against him to thwart any chance of him riding to the highest office in the land in future.

This is not the posture of a leader that affirms the duty to uphold ethical codes as stated by the presidential spokesperson, who said on one radio station that Ramaphosa holds his cabinet members to the highest ethical standards.

Notwithstanding that the Constitutional Court dismissed his leave to appeal the 2017 high court finding against him, this following the Supreme Court of Appeal dismissing his leave to appeal earlier this year, Gigaba failed to take the committee into his confidence. The public protector's finding that Gigaba breached the Executive Ethics Code and the Parliament Code of Ethics follows from the findings from the court that Gigaba lied under oath.

In his resignation, Gigaba does not make reference to his own unacceptable conduct but rather claims to be resigning in the interests of the country, the ANC and to relieve Ramaphosa of pressure. He was careful to state that his resignation was not an admission of guilt.

But his push-back campaign was against the interests of the country and his party. The damage is already done. He was more concerned about his political career, fearing to leave ministerial office which has become a comfort zone and an assurance of his continued meteoric rise that began with his first stint in the national executive in 2004.

The picture that emerges is that he resigned when it became clear that characterising court processes and the public protector's probe into his conduct as a political plot was not finding resonance within his party at different levels.

His belligerent stance in this matter was going to force the president's hand, whose own integrity and credibility has been under trial since the controversies around Gigaba.

Gigaba acted to save face, seeing that his political fightback would not be enough to compel Ramaphosa to defend him, let alone keep him on as minister. He may no longer be minister but he remains an MP.

He also remains a member of the ANC's national executive committee.