Saturday, January 22

Were the Guptas the disease or the parasite?

President Cyril Ramaphosa told the Zondo Commission of Inquiry about the state capture allegations that he learned of the Guptas a decade ago, when current Transportation Minister Fikile Mbalula told the party’s national executive committee in 2011 that he heard that he would be appointed minister to a member of the Gupta family.

(Mbalula was appointed Minister of Sports and Recreation by former President Jacob Zuma in November 2009).


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Discussions about ‘state capture’ and Gupta involvement increased, intensifying in 2013 at the time of the infamous ‘Waterkloof landing’, in which nearly 200 guests of the Gupta family landed on a private plane at the Base of the Pretoria Waterkloof Air Force, a military base. and national key point.

Read: Police say Gupta’s wedding investigation is part of broader investigation

A media frenzy ensued, with the government desperately trying to sweep the matter under the rug.

But the Zondo Commission has not asked Ramaphosa, as far as I know, when he learned of the corruption within the government.

The capture activities of the Gupta state have cost the country about R60 billion.

However, the Guptas were simply tapping into every source of cash they could get their hands on. The corruption didn’t start with the Guptas, they just took advantage of it.

There to drink …

The infamous family was undoubtedly well informed about the state of corruption, the flexibility of officials, and weaknesses in controls at state-owned companies.

They knew that South Africa was full of corrupt officials ready to harvest.

Most devastatingly, they were probably well aware that the parliamentary watchdog, Scopa, would be paralyzed by ANC cadres acting under instruction, and that his activities would continue without any intervention.

Read: Parliamentary watchdog neutered by unresponsive executive body

Otherwise, how could they possibly be able to influence so many key political figures and pull the strings in so many major state entities and government organizations?

How far back should we go?

No country is immune from corruption and South Africa is no exception, but the level of escalation in this country has been dramatic in recent decades.

In summary, the democratically elected presidents of South Africa include Nelson Mandela (in office from May 1994 to June 1999), Thabo Mbeki (June 1999 to September 2008), Kgalema Motlanthe (September 2008 to May 2009) , Zuma (May 2009 to February 2018) and Ramaphosa (from February 15, 2018).

Moeletsi Mbeki, in Architects of Poverty: Why African Capitalism Needs Changing (Picador Africa, April 2009), presented the proposal that the South African black elite, “who describe themselves as made up of previously disadvantaged individuals (PDI), see her main mission is to compensate those who put her at a disadvantage ”.

This resulted in “the transfer of resources from the wrongdoer.” Mbeki went further: “According to this logic, the South African state owes the well-paid jobs of the PDI.”

Mbeki looks at the consequences that followed, but with regard to state-owned entities (SOEs), he came up with a strong argument that helps explain the financial destruction of many SOEs.

Mbeki argued that “one of the most destructive consequences of the reparations ideology is the relationship and attitude of the black elite towards the South African state.”

“As it is said that the State has been a disadvantaged part of the IDPs, it is perceived that it also owes them something. Therefore, by way of redress, the State must provide IDPs with well-paid jobs.

“By extension, the assets of the state are considered fair play.”

The reader is reminded that Mbeki’s book was published in April 2009, before Zuma took office.

Corruption intensified since 2009

Mbeki then dropped what should have been an explosive claim: “It is not surprising that corruption under ANC rule has grown by leaps and bounds.”

Mbeki referred to Transparency International’s Perception Index, which ranks 180 countries and ranks each country out of 100. Below 50 indicates considerable corruption.

In 2006, South Africa scored 54 (Trevor Manuel was Finance Minister from 1996 to 2009). In 2008 South Africa scored 38. The country’s score improved to 43 in 2012, and in 2020 the score was 44.

Corruption Watch South Africa was established in 2012. That year, 1,227 reports on corruption were submitted to Corruption Watch. About 34% referred to municipalities, 32.5% to government departments, 17.6% to national government departments, and 3.4% to state-owned entities.

The OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) published an economic study in 2013 (available on the website of the National Treasury in published documents) where one of the main findings was the growing frustration with the failures in the provision of public services and corruption.

It was also mentioned that “corruption appears to be an increasingly important barrier to improving the provision of public services.”

“South Africa’s relative position in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index has deteriorated in recent years.”

Plans and problems

In the OECD report.

The NDP, published in 2012, established the growth strategy until 2030. It was prepared by the National Planning Committee (NPC). The NGP was launched in 2010.

The NPC released a ‘Diagnostic Report’ in June 2011 that identified nine major challenges facing the economy, including quality of healthcare and education, inadequate and poorly located infrastructure, corruption, low employment, a dependency excessive use of natural resources, unequal quality of public service, and spatial and social gaps.

The OECD noted a potential problem: “It is unclear whether structures are still in place to monitor the progress made in achieving the various goals set out in the NDP and NGP, and to what extent, if any, government departments they will be responsible in case they fail to advance in the achievement of the objectives “.

The OECD detected the weakness, there was no monitoring of progress, and government departments have never held themselves accountable for not meeting targets.

Official spokesperson ‘removed’

Themba Maseko was Executive Director of the Government Information and Communication System (GCIS) from June 2006 to February 2, 2009. As Director General, Maseko was the official government spokesperson and attended cabinet meetings.

In 2010, Ajay Gupta allegedly ordered Maseko to divert the entire government advertising budget to the family’s media company.

Gupta threatened to replace him with someone more docile. A short time later, Maseko was “removed” from his post.

Ramaphosa was not in government in 2009, so he was perhaps unaware that the government spokesman, a well-known former student activist and member of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the ANC underground, had been suddenly replaced in a cloud of Gupta interference.

Maseko has detailed his experience in his book For My Country: Why I blew the whistle on Zuma and the Guptas (Jonathan Ball Publishers, May 2021). Maseko was replaced as CEO of GCIS by Mzwanele ‘Jimmy’ Manyi, and was reassigned to the Department of Administration and Public Service as Director General, where he was sidelined. He left public service at the end of July 2019.

Maseko testified to the Zondo Commission on November 6, 2019.

His ‘Aha’ moment on the influence of the Guptas in government came in March 2013 when South Africa hosted the fifth summit of the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

Atul Gupta was with Zuma, and actually walked in front of him and the leaders of the other states, and escorted them to their seats.

This would have traditionally been the role of the minister for international relations and cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane at the time, and certainly not the role of a private citizen.

As Rome burns our president’s violins

Ramaphosa told the Zondo Commission last week that he will await the outcome of the commission’s report before taking any action.

With all due respect, Mr. President …

Moeletsi Mbeki screamed about corruption in 2009. Corruption was flagged by the OECD in 2013 and by Transparency International, which published its first perception index in 1996, and has done so annually since.

For many years, the Auditor General’s office has reported on problems in municipalities and state-owned companies, including vacant key positions, key officials lacking the right skills, management without consequences, problems with procurement and supply chain management, lack controls and increased irregular spending.

The Guptas took advantage and magnified the scope of the corruption. But this was visible to many state officials, who were willingly complicit. There were too many red flags to ignore.

The Guptas are gone, but the red flags remain.

The disease is still in the government.

It will happen again.

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