Bizarre conspiracy theories about the CIA are cooked up because she is protected from executive action

I once joked with South Africa‘s nightingale-voiced and beautiful operatic diva, Pretty Yende, that her mother chose her Christian name with commendable foresight.

So, with all the shenanigans — from load-shedding to board-shedding and beauticians morphing into diesel providers — what is one to make of the surname of Eskom‘s chairman, Zola Tsotsi? An unfortunate coincidence, no doubt.

Then there is the middle name of President Jacob Zuma, “Gedleyihlekisa”.

According to him, it means “someone who laughs while actually endangering you”. That famous chuckle has been felt by many victims, from former president Thabo Mbeki to suspended Hawks boss Anwa Dramat.

Public protector Thuli Madonsela‘s full Christian name, “Thulisile”, approximates from Zulu into English as “she who makes things quiet”. Given the enormous storm of controversy the very mention of her name generates, I thought it a spectacularly ill-chosen name.

But, in front of a capacity audience in Cape Town last week, she displayed a preternatural calm.

She might indeed speak truth to power, but she does so very quietly.

The friendly audience at the Gardens Synagogue would have made her president of South Africa on the spot. But I decided I could not simply bowl like the UAE cricket team did last week, and just allow her to hit a six off every ball.

To spice things up, I asked her , in the language of inverted McCarthyism which is enjoying a surprising reappearance in democratic South Africa: “Are you now, or have you ever been, a CIA spy?”

She swatted it away as nonsense, as has US Ambassador Patrick Gaspard in response to a mad, badly written blog that named Madonsela “a CIA project against South Africa”.

But State Security Minister David Mahlobo did not denounce this farrago.

Instead he announced he will be “probing the claims” against Madonsela and others.

I couldn‘t resist asking Madonsela whether it was passing strange that the worst conspiracy to be cooked up against pesky individuals was to suggest they were hand-in-glove with the CIA, not the modern version of Russia‘s KGB, the Federal Security Service, or FSB.

This brought a smile to her regal countenance.

But on the subject of “cooking things up”, we owe the reappearance of this latest farce to one of our more notorious former chefs.

Kebby Maphatsoe, Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans and one time chef for the MK in Uganda, was the first to allege this CIA link to Madonsela last September.

Maphatsoe humiliatingly withdrew the claim within days of making it and offered an apology.

Madonsela is obviously more forgiving than Maphatsoe‘s predecessor in office, Ronnie Kasrils.

Maphatsoe also accused Kasrils of “hand-picking” the rape accuser against Zuma. Not only has Kasrils sued the hapless deputy minister, but claimed that Maphatsoe deserted an MK camp, where he served as a cook.

A more high-profile figure who recently joined the ranks of conspiracy mongers is Israel‘s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Like the South African crowd who find stigma-labelling the handiest defence when cornered, Netanyahu seeks an external enemy to blame for his misfortune. In December, he called an early election he thought he couldn‘t lose.

But when the polls in Israel closed this week, he seemed to be in the fight of his life and was facing the loss of office.

When the campaign started to turn against him, he also found refuge in conspiracy.

According to reports, he started to talk darkly of a “huge, worldwide effort” to oust him. His Likud party somewhat narrowed down this universal conspiracy to “English-speakers”.

But perhaps not all of them, since this number would include the Republican congressmen and senators who received him with such rapture during his recent address to them.

Back home, there‘s a big difference between Madonsela and those in the ranks of the suspended and discarded Eskom executives — or Dramat, Robert McBride and a slew of others recently dethroned by government whim.

Madonsela cannot be simply removed, suspended or redeployed. She has protection from our battered, but still intact, constitution. Hence the need for a smear campaign against her.

You can also bet your declining rand that Mahlobo and Maphatsoe enjoy travel in the front of the plane to Western capitals, are ferried in German cars, wear Italian ties, and perhaps even (and they should) consult what most of our diplomatic missions read to check out their countries of accreditation — the excellent “CIA fact book”.

But then again, some hypocrites even give hypocrisy a bad name.