As a veteran politician, Vice President Paul Machattel has mastered the art of deflection, answering questions that are never asked to avoid answering those questions.
In the past week, Mshatel has given various interviews to the media to discuss the first three months of his presidency.
The most obvious question for many journalists was whether he still believed there was a plot to overthrow him, as he claimed to City Press on Sunday.
In that interview, he said there was a plan by his critics in the ANC to get rid of him by next month — a claim that usually reinforced an existing narrative by some that he was the victim of so-called anti-progressive forces trying to derail his presidential ambitions.
He has since retracted that claim after being persuaded by President Cyril Ramaphosa That there is no such plot.
More importantly, however, were the questions about Machatel’s connection to the corruption of accused businessman Edwin Soddy, who is alleged to be his benefactor.
Sodi is a serial bidder who received a series of government contracts across the country in questionable ways and after making payments, left many of them incomplete.
Last month, News24 reported that Mashatile had occasionally made use of Sodi’s lavish home in Cape Town between 2016 and 2020, at the height of Sodi’s alleged state quorum and at a time when Mashatile was the ANC’s general secretary.
When asked by this newspaper about the allegations surrounding his friendship with a man accused of stealing money from the state with little accountability, Mchatel said any expectation that he should not befriend Sudi is unfair.
He said their friendship had been one that spanned years and that it would be dishonest to deny it. He said he had not been to Soddy’s home since joining the presidency.
However, this is not the point. No one ever expected Mchatel to claim not to know Sudi.
At issue is whether he was indeed a beneficiary of Sodi’s patronage network and whether he used his political influence to shield him from impeachment.
Mishatel’s avoidance of these questions in and of itself does not indicate that he is a black enabler.
After all, there are many ANC politicians who wield power and influence and have benefited questionably from Sodhi’s largesse.
However, it raises reasonable concern about the true nature of the affiliation between the second man in the country and the man whose plan has always been to make a quick profit from the state.