Some time towards the end of last year, the public protector conducted inquiries into accusations of state capture made against President Jacob Zuma, his son Duduzani Zuma and his business partners the three Indian Gupta brothers.
According to the report of the public protector “media reports alleged that the relationship between the president and the Gupta family had evolved into ‘state capture’ underpinned by the Gupta family having power to influence the appointment of cabinet ministers and directors of state owned entities and leveraging those relationships to get preferential treatment in state contracts, access to state provided business finance and in the award of business licences.”
The inquiry looked into irregularities, undue enrichment, corruption and undue influence in awarding of contracts, mining licences, government advertising in the New Age newspaper, and any other government services.
Five state-owned entities are named in the report as being affected for now. These are: Eskom which provides electricity to South Africa through a mix of nuclear, diesel, hydroelectric, pump storage solar and coal processes; Transnet which provides the country with freight rail, engineering, port infrastructure and marine services; Denel which provides turnkey solutions of defence equipment by designing, developing and integrating and supporting artillery munitions, missiles, aero-structures aircraft maintenance, unmanned aerial vehicle systems and optical payloads; South African Airways and South African Broadcasting Corporations. The companies owned and run by the Gupta brothers along with the son of the president got contracts to supply coal to Eskom at prices higher than coal is normally supplied to Eskom.
They got their representatives to sit on the board of Transnet in spite of the process not being open and legal. The companies partnered with Deneb to sell Denel products in Asia through a joint company that contributes nothing to Denel.
South African Airways was made to buy their newspaper New Age to the tune of 9.4 million rand worth. South African Airways was also being asked to give up its Johannesburg – New Delhi route to an Airways company owned by the Guptas in India. Services that South African Broadcasting Corporation used to give to ministries etc free of charge must now be paid for into the account of the Gupta companies.
As if all these were not enough, Mr. Jonas, a veteran of the struggle and recently deputy minister of finance swore to affidavit that the Gupta brothers offered him the position of minister of finance in the cabinet if he would do what they want him to do. This offer was accompanied with ghanamustgo bags of money. He rejected their offer and went public with the offer to show how far the government has been captured by the Gupta brothers.
It is to be noted that all these were processes, not events. That process reached a tipping point last week.
The finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas were recalled from an international road show to convince investors and others to do business with South Africa. There are speculations why President Zuma did this. Generally he does not like the way that minister Gordhan has made it impossible for the Gupta brothers to get their way with the South African Treasury. Secondly, he does not like the fact that Minister Gordhan does not think that South Africa need a trillion rand nuclear electricity project right now.
Smaller details have to do with the fact that the four biggest banks in South Africa have refused to do business with the Gupta companies because of accusations of irregularities and perhaps money laundering. Minister Gordhan refused to interfere to help the companies. There is also the small matter of the Guptas wanting to buy a bank and the Ministry and the Treasury not signing on with their permission so that the bank can be theirs.
So the minister, his deputy and the director general of the ministry were recalled. The minister and his deputy were replaced and the deputy general resigned. Within 48 hours of these sackings the rating agencies put South Africa into junk status. The rand lost more than four per cent of its value and banks suffered billions of losses on their shares. South Africa faces recession from which it might take five to ten years to get out of.
The type of accusations levelled against President Zuma, his son and the Guptas is the type of accusation that the South Koreans impeached their president and sent her to prison to await trial for using state power to allow her friend to enrich herself. Can it happen in South Africa?
Nobody can say for sure. Last Tuesday the deputy president disagreed with the President on the reshuffle that led to the replacement of the minister and his deputy. The Secretary General of the African Nationals Congress said they were not consulted on the reshuffle and that the list they were asked to endorse came from some where else.
The treasurer general of the party said that he was troubled by the way and manner the reshuffle was carried out. By Wednesday morning the three had changed their tune, saying it was alright for the president to reshuffle his cabinet. More importantly, they were not go to allow the generals of other enemy armies to command their own armies. Which means they will not be voting against the president when the vote of no confidence comes up in parliament on Wednesday 18 April.
The important issue here for corruption studies is that state capture is a far more thorough instrument to practise corruption.
Compared with the crude stealing of whole budgets, whole foreign loans, whole whatever moneys were allocated to roads, bridges, hospitals, electricity supplies, infrastructure, this was a long term planning of continuous benefitting from corrupt arrangements world without end.
The question must be asked: Which of these two forms of corruption is easier to deal with? Both are caused by the weakness of institutions. Both are caused by the impunity of politicians in office. Both destroy the dreams and possibilities of ordinary people. Both must be dealt with drastically before they destroy the country and the people.
These are among the 42 questions the public protector put to Zuma earlier this month, and which he has so far not answered.
The Sunday Times has seen a copy of the questions Madonsela gave Zuma on October 6, after he refused to answer her questions directly.
They cover issues relating to Zuma’s relationship with the Gupta family, the allegations that have been made against the Guptas by senior government members, various allegations that have been made against Zuma, and declarations made by the president to the cabinet.
Among the questions are:
• Has a member of the Gupta family ever given you or a member of your family a gift of any kind?
• Six months after you were elected president of the ANC, your son, Duduzane, and your daughter, Duduzile, were elevated to positions of directors in [Sahara, a Gupta-owned company]. Were you surprised at their sudden elevation at a relatively young age?
• I have received information that Ajay Gupta made Duduzane a billionaire and bought [your son] a house in Dubai. Is this true?
• By virtue of you and/or your son’s personal and professional relationships with members of the Gupta family, did you ever consider that this would inevitably create a conflict of interest for you?
• Did you ever consider … withdrawing from relevant proceedings of the cabinet, or at the very least declaring your son’s personal and professional relationships with the Gupta family to mitigate a potential conflict of interest?
• I have perused your declarations for the period 2009 to 2016. In all the declarations, there are no values. Why is that?
• In earlier years you declared the Waterkloof house used by Mrs Bongekile Ngema-Zuma as an asset and also indicated an amount of R18,000 per month. How do you reconcile this with the instalment in the mortgage bond from Bank of Baroda of R79,715.00? Why did JIC Mining provide security for the bond?
• Has the JG Zuma Foundation ever received any donation from the Guptas or Gupta-Zuma companies?
Madonsela noted there was no evidence of Zuma ever having expressed concern over alleged improper involvement of the Gupta family in the appointment of ministers or directors in state-owned enterprises, or use of his name to solicit favours by the Guptas.
“You are, however, on record as having denounced the allegations of state capture, stating ‘there is no such thing’, which … was a public repudiation of allegations by deputy minister [Mcebisi] Jonas, Ms [Vytjie] Mentor and Mr [Themba] Maseko … [of] allegations of state capture by the Guptas.
“In light of this, did you not consider that it was appropriate to at least institute an investigation, commission of inquiry, or suchlike, to test these allegations, before publicly repudiating these allegations?”
The questions were initially put to Zuma at a three-hour meeting between Madonsela, Zuma and his legal team in Pretoria 10 days ago. He declined to answer them, instead asking for them in writing and promising to respond by Monday.
He has not yet responded, and on Thursday initiated legal action to stop Madonsela releasing her report on state capture.
A source close to Madonsela told the Sunday Times this week she suspected she had been “duped” into handing over the questions to Zuma.
But Zuma’s spokesman, Bongani Ngqulunga, said yesterday that Zuma had never refused to answer the questions. “He has asked to be given adequate time to answer comprehensively various questions posed to him, some touching on matters dating back as early as 2009. The questions required him to speak to at least 21 people identified by the public protector.
“It is important to mention that the first time the president was asked to answer any questions was on October 2 2016. When the president met with the public protector on October 6 in Pretoria, he asked for the meeting to be postponed so he could get access to information that would enable him to answer the questions. The request was turned down and instead he was asked to answer written questions under oath.”
Ngqulunga said Zuma was willing to answer any questions by the protector. “He has also asked to be given access to certain information as provided for in the Public Protector Act.”
THE QUESTIONS ZUMA WAS ASKED:
The president’s relationship with the Gupta family:
• Kindly explain how your relationship with the Gupta family started.
• How would you describe your recent relationship with the Gupta family? Who are you closest to?
• How often do you visit the Gupta family at their Saxonwold residence?
• Besides visiting Saxonwold to service your friendship with the Gupta family, what are the other reasons why you have visited Saxonwold?
• Has a member of the Gupta family ever given you or a member of your family a gift, no matter how trivial? Please provide details.
Duduzane Zuma’s relationship with the Gupta family
• How would you describe your son Duduzane Zuma’s relationship with the Gupta family?
• How did Duduzane start working for Sahara Computers?
• Six months after you were elected president of the ANC, your son Duduzane and your daughter Duduzile were elevated to the positions of directors in the company. How and when did you learn about this? Were you surprised at their sudden elevation?
• I understand Duduzane resides at Saxonwold. Is this true and, if so, how did he end up living there?
• I have received information Ajay Gupta made Duduzane a billionaire. Is this true?
Allegations against the Gupta family:
• Ms Vytjie Mentor issued statements alleging a member of the Gupta family offered her a cabinet position during meetings at Saxonwold. The meeting with Ms Mentor apparently took place in October 2010. In return for this appointment, a member of the Gupta family wanted her to cancel an SAA route to India. What is your response?
• Ms Mentor further alleges that you were present at Saxonwold when this offer was made. Is that true?
• Ms Mentor said she repeated the offer made to her and you failed to take action and merely said you would not have requested her to come if you were aware she was on crutches.
• Ms Mentor further alleges that she had battled to secure the meeting with you for months and that during her discussion with Mr Atul Gupta it became apparent that they knew about the agenda she had with you.
• Were you present at the Gupta residence that day?
• Mr Mcebisi Jonas, deputy finance minister, issued a statement alleging a member of the Gupta family offered him a cabinet position during a meeting in Saxonwold in October 2015. What is your response to this?
• Mr Themba Maseko, former CEO of government communication and information services, also issued a statement alleging that Ajay Gupta sought to influence spending by GCIS in favour of the New Age newspaper. Maseko alleged that he met Ajay Gupta at Saxonwold. What is your response to this?
• Mr Maseko alleged you called him and asked him to help the Gupta brothers. What is your response?
• Mr Maseko further alleges that his job was threatened if he didn’t accede to their demands. When he asked how they would do this, they informed him that they have regular meetings with the president and that any minister that doesn’t agree to transferring the budget would be “sorted out” by them. What is your response to this?
• EFF leader Mr Julius Malema alleged Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula admitted that he was informed he would become sports minister by the Guptas even before it was announced by you. What is your response?
• It has been reported in the media that several members of cabinet, high-profile businessmen and others visited Saxonwold. Please tell me whether each of the following people A) visited Saxonwold at the same time as you; B) do you know if they ever visited Saxonwold; C) what was the reason for their visits; D) if applicable, why did they visit Saxonwold with you?
1 Vytjie Mentor, 2 Mcebisi Jonas, 3 Themba Maseko, 4 Fikile Mbalula, 5 Jeff Radebe, 6 Lindiwe Sisulu, 7 Essop Pahad, 8 Aziz Pahad, 9 Rob Davies, 10 Malusi Gigaba, 11 Ben Martens, 12 Tina Joemat-Pettersson, 13 Mosebenzi Zwane, 14 Des van Rooyen, 15 Lynne Brown, 16 Kebby Maphatsoe, 17 Collen Maine, 18 Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, 19 Fana Hlongwane, 20 Brian Molefe, 21 Dudu Myeni.
• It has been reported that a member of the Gupta family or a company linked to them assisted one of your wives to purchase a house in Waterkloof, Pretoria. Is this true and if so, why did they assist her?
Allegations against Zuma:
• What were the reasons for your removal of Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister on 9 December 2015?
• What were the reasons for your appointment of Des van Rooyen as finance minister?
• What were the reasons for your abrupt removal of Des van Rooyen as finance minister four days later? Why was he appointed as minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs and minister Gordhan reinstated as minister of finance?
• The second complaint alleges you breached section 2.3 of the Executives Ethics Code by: exposing yourself to any situation involving the risk of a conflict between your official responsibilities and your private interests; using your position or any information entrusted to you, to enrich yourselves or improperly benefit any other person. How do you respond to these allegations?
• You were required by section 2 in the Executive Ethics Code to: declare any personal or private financial or business interest that you or a family member may have in a matter in relation to which you are required to take a decision as a member of the executive; withdraw from any proceedings of cabinet considering a matter in which you or a family member has any financial or business interest unless you decide you or your family member’s interest is trivial or not relevant.
• By virtue of you and your son’s personal and professional relationship with members of the Gupta family, did you ever consider this would create a conflict of interest for you?
• Did you ever consider withdrawing from relevant proceedings of cabinet or at very least declaring your son’s personal and professional relationships with members of the Gupta family in order to mitigate a potential conflict of interest?
Declaration made by the president in terms of the executive code:
• I have perused your declarations for the period 2009 to 2016. There are no values; why is that?
• Can the president confirm the declarations made to the cabinet secretariat are the complete declarations and there are no declarations elsewhere?
• In the earlier years, you declared the Waterkloof house used by Mrs Bongekile Ngema-Zuma as an asset and indicated an amount of R18,000 per month. How do you reconcile this with the instalment in the mortgage bond from the Bank of Baroda of R79,715. 00 monthly instalments. Why did JIC Mining Service – a Gupta-owned company – provide security for the bond?
• This declaration no longer appears in recent years, why?
• What is your relationship with Roy Moodley, owner of the Beachfront property in Durban? I noticed that he has provided use of the property to you.
• Has the Jacob Zuma Foundation ever received any donation from the Gupta family or any Gupta or Duduzane Zuma owned company?