Beware, Zondo. State-capture gang is fighting back
With all the skulduggery being laid bare, his commission must be robustly protected against sabotage
It is a good thing that Judge Raymond Zondo experienced the skulduggery behind the state capture project early in the process of his inquiry.
The mass pillage of the state occurred through a premeditated and carefully executed plan to repurpose institutions and state-owned companies to feed the Gupta empire.
The Guptas paid a British PR firm an initial amount of £100,000 to deceive and manipulate South Africans in order to distract focus from their plundering of taxpayers’ money.
We do not know how much they invested in the protection racket that kept them from being held to account for their actions.
It would be naïve to think that an inquiry unravelling the state capture network, exposing the enablers and perpetrators, and trying to track where the money went would be left to do so without interference.
It is unlikely that there has been no further investment to protect the Guptas and their allies when they have so much to lose and could possibly go to jail if a competent National Prosecuting Authority is ever in place.
It is as yet not possible to quantify just how much was looted and the extent of the damage done during the years Jacob Zuma was president. But what has emerged so far at the Zondo commission paints a frightening picture of the criminal and evil actions of the Guptas to deliberately corrupt people and the state in order to raid state coffers. But the Guptas did not execute the plan or benefit on their own.
There was an entire network of people who participated in and protected the capture project, extending from the presidency, the cabinet, government departments, the NPA, the Hawks and the South African Revenue Service to state-owned companies Eskom, Transnet, South African Airways and Denel.
The ANC has attempted to brush off accusations about its role in aiding state capture. The testimony of former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan this week has implicated the ANC and its alliance partner, the South African Communist Party, in supporting Zuma’s efforts to make irregular appointments at SOEs and bullying people who tried to act procedurally and within the law.
It is becoming increasingly untenable and illogical for the ANC to continue to blame the Guptas and distance itself from state capture. The ANC has to take responsibility and answer for its support of the president as he allowed the Guptas to commandeer control of the state.
Evidence has already been presented that the ANC aided the Guptas, including supporting the appointment of their acolytes in SOEs and intervening when their bank accounts were closed.
The ANC must answer why it did not stop its deployees in cabinet colluding in grand corruption and also why the party secretariat suppressed those who came to Luthuli House for help to stop the looting of the state.
There are a vast number of people who are threatened by the work of the Zondo commission.
The commission is proceeding in an unpredictable pattern with nobody knowing what to expect next as well-kept secrets are being exposed.
The evidence emerging at the inquiry is also politically explosive on the eve of what is destined to be the most hard-fought election post democracy.
So let us not pretend that the commission would be left to its own devices when there is so much at stake.
The leak of public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan’s submission to the inquiry prompted Zondo to order an investigation into how this had happened.
It occurred during a month-long break in the commission’s proceedings to allow those implicated in witnesses’ statements to study the allegations and decide whether they wanted to apply to cross-examine them.
On the face of it, this appeared to be fair to all sides. In reality, it gave the perpetrators of state capture the time and opportunity to sabotage the commission.
Gordhan is a key witness. He was removed from the finance ministry along with Mcebisi Jonas in March 2017 because they stood as sentinels over the national Treasury, the ultimate prize in the state capture project.
Jonas’s testimony at the start of the commission tore off the shroud and exposed the true evil of the Guptas. They were willing to kill him if he did not surrender to them.
Gordhan’s submission identifies Zuma as the central figure in state capture, not just a passenger on the Gupta train.
Gordhan’s evidence on the nuclear deal, the planned PetroSA-Engen transaction and the Denel Asia joint venture makes it impossible for Zuma to continue to dodge the commission.
With the evidence already presented by Hogan and that still to come from Gordhan, Zuma will have to explain his actions and respond to the serious allegations of abuse of his office.
The leak of Gordhan’s statement has been used to aid the EFF’s vicious character assassination campaign against him.
In his statement, Gordhan warns of attempts to intimidate those appearing before the commission.
“People, including myself, who are appearing before the commission continue to be subjected to harassment and racist abuse in frivolous and vexatious litigation, in the media and on social media,” Gordhan states.
He said there was a fight-back aimed at countering the work being done to undo the damage of state capture.
Zondo has said repeatedly that the commission needs people to come forward to help piece together how the state was captured. But he needs to be aware that the atmosphere is perilous and it is difficult for people to surrender themselves to a nefarious agenda.
Vytjie Mentor felt threatened, Nhlanhla Nene had to step down, and Gordhan is being relentlessly attacked.
Zondo and his team need to take active measures to protect the commission’s processes and not allow it to be exploited as a political weapon. The perpetrators of corruption and state capture should not triumph from the very process to expose them.