ANALYSIS: You're all Guptarised, ANC. Face it
Damning new evidence at state capture probe means party can no longer pretend it was all Zuma's fault
The ANC’s wish to keep a safe distance from the state capture inquiry came to an abrupt end on Monday.
The party can no longer claim it is not on trial and that state capture was perpetrated by some members who went rogue on the organisation. It also cannot continue to quietly blame its former president, Jacob Zuma, for collusion with the Gupta family.
Two of its current top officials as well as three serving members of the national executive committee (NEC) have been incriminated in trying to bully a major SA bank to reopen the Guptas’ bank accounts in 2016.
Led by advocate Phillip Mokoena, Standard Bank’s former head of compliance Ian Sinton gave startling evidence at the inquiry about how senior management of the bank were summoned to the ANC headquarters at Luthuli House after the Guptas and Duduzane Zuma were given notice that their accounts were to be terminated.
Sinton told Judge Raymond Zondo that Standard Bank’s chief executive Sim Tshabalala received a request for a meeting from then ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe regarding the bank’s decision to close the accounts.
He said Tshabalala then a led a delegation from the bank to the meeting at Luthuli House where they cautioned the ANC that they could not discuss the affairs of their clients.
Zondo asked whether they had not considered it to be “strange” to be called to a political party’s headquarters for such a meeting.
“We thought it inappropriate but we nevertheless decided to attend,” Sinton said, adding that since the ANC was the governing party, it would have been disrespectful not to honour the invitation.
It is understood that the commission has been in communication with the ANC to invite it to respond to the damning allegations against it.
Sinton said at the meeting with Mantashe, now the ANC’s national chairperson, deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte and NEC member Enoch Godongwana, the bank was asked whether it was part of “white monopoly capital oppressing black people”, and whether the bank’s management was taking instructions from people in Stellenbosch.
“This was the first time I saw my boss (Tshabalala) get really angry,” said Sinton.
He said they explained the policies and procedures leading to the closure of bank accounts, and informed the ANC that they were complying with the law by taking the necessary steps to protect the bank.
Sinton also testified that at a meeting with Oakbay representatives about the closure of the bank accounts, the then CEO Nazeem Howa informed Standard Bank that he had asked the ANC to intervene on their behalf.
This is the first evidence presented to the commission that the ANC as a political party interceded on behalf of the Guptas. It further compromises the ANC that their line of questioning regarding white monopoly capital is straight from the Bell Pottinger script to attack the Guptas’ opponents.
In a piece in the Sunday Times last month, ANC head of the Presidency Zizi Kodwa said the party has never condoned corruption and was not on trial at the commission.
“The ANC has acknowledged that the evidence placed before the commission may also lay bare conduct by its own members and leaders that may have aided instances of state capture or corruption. It is on that basis that we have called upon all citizens, including members of the ANC, who may be in possession of evidence or have first-hand knowledge of activities that fall within the ambit of the mandate of the commission to come forward and assist in the realisation of its mandate,” Kodwa wrote.
Asked for comment on the revelations at the commission on Monday, Kodwa responded via text: “ANC supports the work of the Commission and will not make running commentary about evidence and information of witnesses before the Commission. Witnesses must be allowed to present their evidence without fear or favour.”
Sinton also testified about the bank’s interactions with the interministerial committee set up to investigate the closure of the Gupta bank accounts. Standard Bank met former Mineral Resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane and Labour minister Mildred Oliphant, both current members of the ANC NEC, as well as Gupta ally Mzwanele Manyi, who claimed to be a ministerial adviser.
Sinton said Zwane threatened that as a member of the ruling party he had the ability to get the law changed so that it would be illegal for banks to close people’s accounts. Zwane also told them that banks operated under a licence from the government and that they should, therefore, be more “responsive” to government’s concerns. Zwane also asked the bank why it did not shut the accounts of construction cartels involved in collusion. Sinton said their response was that collusion was quite different from money laundering and corruption.
In a last-ditch bid to rescue the Guptas, Zwane wanted to know what changes could be made to Oakbay’s management that would persuade Standard Bank to reverse its decision. This was despite Standard Bank saying they could not discuss the details of why they closed the Gupta accounts.
Zwane was later caught out lying that cabinet took a decision to appoint a commission of inquiry into the banks, which the Presidency later repudiated.
Sinton testified that the decision was taken because of negative media reports about the Guptas’ activities, including the public statement by former deputy Finance minister Mcebisi Jonas about the offer to promote him, as well as reports about the Estina dairy farm and Tegeta’s acquisition of the Glencore mine. Despite the pressure that was put on the bank by Oakbay, the ANC and the cabinet committee, Standard Bank would not change its decision to terminate the accounts, said Sinton.
If the ANC made further attempts to intervene on behalf of the Guptas, this will be revealed when Absa, First Rand and Nedbank testify at the commission on Tuesday and Wednesday.
What is clear is that the ANC can no longer wash its hands of state capture. It is now implicated in aiding the Guptas, despite evidence of criminal activity being perpetrated and its electoral mandate being usurped.
The ANC’s leadership will have to answer for this.