Mantashe or mouse? Gwede should stop dithering and stand before Zondo
Instead of rubbishing their testimony he needs to join the brave, principled witnesses at the state capture inquiry
One of the strangest developments from the state capture inquiry was ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe’s decision to publicly discredit the evidence of former MP Vytjie Mentor.Mantashe told EWN that “the whole story is actually a fake” in response to Mentor’s claim that she informed him and his deputy about the alleged offer by the Guptas in 2010 to make her the minister of Public Enterprises.Mentor was admittedly hazy on a number of details in her testimony, and stated incorrectly that the ANC deputy secretary-general was Jessie Duarte. Thandi Modise was Mantashe’s deputy at the time.
But whether Mentor’s testimony is plausible or falsified is up to Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo to decide, not an ANC official.It certainly should not be the person who tried to keep the lid on the state capture scandal until it exploded beyond his control.
Some of the witnesses at the inquiry, as well as others who pushed back against the Guptas, say they reported their experiences to Mantashe. The response many of them received was that they should not do anything to cause “disunity” in the ANC.
Mantashe said this publicly in November 2016 while explaining the ANC’s decision to rebuff public calls for former president Jacob Zuma to step down. This was after the release of former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report on state capture, which pointed to Zuma’s role in enabling the Gupta brothers’ improper control of the state.
“We took a decision that let’s work on the unity of the ANC because this organisation must be viable, united and strong. A fragmented ANC is bad for South Africa,” Mantashe said.
Earlier in 2016, Mantashe announced that the ANC had shut down an internal investigation into state capture.
“A number of comrades came forward on alleged business influence on state, but only one could make a written submission,” he said.Some of the senior ANC members who initially responded to the call from their organisation to come forward with information say they decided not to bother with written submissions because Mantashe was clearly not interested in pursuing the matter.
Even though Mantashe opposed the axing of Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas from the Finance ministry in March 2017 to hand over control of the national Treasury to the Guptas, he still believed the ANC should close ranks for the sake of unity.
Speaking at an SACP national imbizo in May 2017, Mantashe said it was “very problematic” to put SA ahead of the ANC and that this would “destroy the ANC”.
“It is a concept that says give up power and leave the country intact. It is a terrible concept. I don’t believe in fragmenting the ANC and saying you are strengthening it. It is a theory based on building a wall, not a movement,” Mantashe said.
Seven months later he “Mantashed”.
And now for the ‘vultures’
In his organisational report at the ANC’s 54th national conference, Mantashe questioned the party’s response to state capture – as if he did not have anything to do with it.
“Society is currently engaged in a debate about state capture and how it hurts the economy and the reputation of South Africa as a country. Once more‚ our movement is [caught] flat-footed in this debate‚ because we are reducing it into a personal attack on those seen to be associated with the Gupta family‚” he said.
In January this year, ahead of the ANC’s anniversary celebrations in East London, Mantashe dismissed talk that Zuma would be recalled.A month later, he publicly called on Zuma to resign or face the “vultures”.
“As a disciplined cadre of the ANC, you are given a chance to resign on your own. But if you lack discipline, you will resist. Once you resist, we are going to let you be thrown out through the vote of no confidence, because you disrespect the organisation and you disobey it. Therefore we are going to let you be devoured by the vultures,” Mantashe said.
Mantashe led the ANC’s vacillation on the Zuma-Gupta scandal, assisting in suppressing the matter for the sake of party unity, and then condemned its failure to manage it.
He also knows how many senior leaders were left crushed and humiliated by the way Zuma treated them in service of the Guptas. Mantashe did nothing to support them or to attempt to confront the hijacking of the state.Now, when the country is for the first time hearing detailed accounts of what the Guptas and Zuma did, Mantashe is rubbishing a witness’s testimony.
It is significant that all the main witnesses at the state capture inquiry so far – Mcebisi Jonas, Mentor, Themba Maseko and Phumla Williams – are senior ANC members who fought for this country’s liberation.
Apart from NEC member Zizi Kodwa attending some of the sittings, the party has done nothing to support their members testifying. The ANC has also not encouraged their senior deployees who aided the state capture project to step forward to confess their role.
As a result, the perpetrators, some of whom sit on the NEC, feel no pressure to admit their collusion with the Guptas because they know the ANC will continue to dither on state capture.Jonas, Maseko, Mentor and Williams testified because of their personal courage and principles. Their evidence at the Zondo inquiry is not only helping to piece together how state capture was executed, but also provided a cathartic release of the burden they have been carrying.
Like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the state capture inquiry is allowing the victims the opportunity to find closure for their trauma.
There are many other people who have knowledge of state capture, either through resisting or aiding it. They should follow the example of the brave people who have so far come before Judge Zondo.
If Mantashe has finally decided what his position is on state capture, he should do the same.