‘We were in trouble’: Mantashe recalls ANC ‘revolt’ over state capture
Secretary-general paints a picture of a party falling apart during Jacob Zuma's second term in office
ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe has shed light on how state capture led to a rupture in the party’s top structures during President Jacob Zuma’s second term in office.
“The first five years of the 10 years I was secretary-general, it was just comfortable ... there were a lot of good things ... the structures did well and even deployment was done nicely. But if you look into the last five years, that is when things began to fall apart.
“It is when this issue of state capture began to manifest and took various phases towards the end of the last five years. We were in trouble,” Mantashe told the state capture inquiry.
Mantashe became the first ANC top six official to appear before the Zondo commission, and used his opening statement to emphasise its importance.
However, he testified about how tensions escalated in the ANC over state capture, resulting in at least three members of Zuma’s cabinet leading impassioned calls for his removal.
“If you recall, at one point when there was a cabinet reshuffle, several officials revolted. That was an indication that we were dealing with serious and difficult complex issues. There were two specific reshuffles that actually caused a lot of revolt. The first one is the dismissal of [former] minister Nhlanhla Nene and the recall of minister (Pravin) Gordhan,” he said.
Earlier, Mantashe had to defend the party against allegations that it tried to pressure banks into reconsidering their decision to close Gupta-linked bank accounts.
He was part of an ANC delegation that met three of the big four banks to discuss the decision to close accounts of Gupta-owned companies.
Mantashe had been asked questions around testimony already before the commission from executives of Standard Bank, Absa and Nedbank, who said they were summoned to Luthuli House in 2016 to account for why they closed Gupta-linked accounts.
ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte and the chairperson of the party’s economic transformation subcommittee, Enoch Godongwana, were also present at the meetings. The two accompanied Mantashe to the commission on Tuesday.
He recalled how, as the party’s secretary-general, his office received a letter from Oakbay chief executive Nazeem Howa asking for a meeting to discuss potential jobs losses emanating from the closure of the company’s accounts.
“We didn’t just wake up and call the banks, there were quite a number of issues that put pressure on us to seek clarity on how the banks were working ... The issue of the closure of the bank accounts of Oakbay in particular was a topical matter in the public domain. Oakbay came to the ANC mainly emphasising the possibility of the loss of jobs.
“Many of the organisations they lobbied was to put pressure on the banks to reconsider their decision to close the accounts. They thought we would join the campaign ... We took a decision that we can’t deal with this issue from one angle; we need to get the view of the banks, how do they operate and what leads to the closure of the accounts.”
Mantashe maintained that the party followed due process before meeting the banks.
Before Mantashe took the stand on Tuesday, the commission rounded up the testimony of Mzwanele Manyi, specifically his tenure as head of government communications when millions in state ad-spend was directed to media outlets owned by the Guptas.
Manyi had earlier abandoned attempts to get evidence leader Vincent Maleka to recuse himself. He later informed the commission that The New Age newspaper, which he bought from the Guptas through vendor financing, would go under the hammer on Wednesday since its liquidation had been finalised.
On Wednesday morning the commission will hear testimony from former minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi and his then adviser Sam Muofhe. Ramathlodi previously claimed that during his stint as mineral resources minister, former Eskom boss Brian Molefe and board chairman Ben Ngubane tried to force him to suspend Glencore's mining licences while the Guptas were trying to purchase the company’s Optimum coal mine.