SOWETAN | Can Mashaba be trusted?

ActionSA president Herman Mashaba.
ActionSA president Herman Mashaba.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Over and above their academic pedigree, the most important characteristic that should underpin the work of public commentators is integrity. 

This is because when done earnestly, their contribution to public discourse helps us make sense of the complexities of the decision-making processes in our political economy which often impact our lives. 

Similarly, politicians who present themselves as an alternative to the governing elite would have us believe that they hold themselves to higher ethical standards than their counterparts.

This week, however, both these assertions were exposed as mere fallacies, at least as far as author Prince Mashele and Action SA leader Herman Mashaba are concerned. 

Mashele recently authored a book on Mashaba, “The Outsider”, which was billed as an unauthorised biography. The label no doubt sought to position the book as an independent body of work and therefore ought to be awarded a higher level of credibility by the reading public. 

Only the book was not unauthorised. Mashaba paid a handsome sum of R12,5m for Mashele to write it, albeit claiming he had no say on its editorial content. 

Worse, when asked about the funding of the book in a television interview recently, Mashele blatantly lied, telling host JJ Tabane that the book was self-funded. 

In subsequent interviews, Mashele admitted that he was paid the money but has since claimed it was a loan from Mashaba, which was supposedly to be paid back from book sales. 

First, there is no book deal in SA worth R12m. As an established author, Mashele knows this. 

As a businessman, a leader of a political party and a subject of a prior book, it is inconceivable that Mashaba too would not know this. Therefore, it is unclear why such an exorbitant amount was exchanged for a project that ordinarily needs a fraction of the funds. 

Their explanations, which sought to justify this deal, have been incoherent at best. 

At worst, they are implausible, raising questions about the true nature of this deal, the real source of the funds and the actual motive behind this transaction. 

Ultimately, this saga has exposed both men as questionable characters who live to hold others to a much higher ethical standard than that to which they hold themselves. 

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