The Gupta family identified Zuma “at a very early stage as someone whose character was such that they could use him against the people of South Africa, their own country and their own government to advance their own interests. commercial,” the Zondo Commission found.
The latest report concludes that Zuma “would do anything the Guptas want him to do”, and that the former president played an unequivocally central role in the attempted capture of the National Treasury and Eskom in particular.
Commission Chairman Judge Raymond Zondo goes so far as to say that activists, opposition politicians and ordinary citizens who ultimately took to the streets in protests calling for Zuma’s removal in 2017 “must all to be congratulated and the country should be grateful to them”. .
A Vindication for Former Finance Ministers
Report amounts to vindication of former finance ministers Pravin Gordhan, Mcebisi Jonas and Nhlanhla Nene, who faced intimidation and harassment and ultimately fired as a direct result of their refusal to cooperate with Zuma and family schemes Gupta to take control. on state coffers.
The Zondo Commission found Jonas’ account that a Gupta brother offered him a R600 million bribe in 2015 in return for his appointment as docile finance minister to be credible. Despite denials by Duduzane Zuma – who was present at the meeting – Zondo found this attempted transaction by the Guptas to be consistent with other similar actions taken by them, including offering a bribe to former acting CEO of SAA Vusi Kona in 2011 or 2012. .
Based on an analysis of cell phone records and other documents, Zondo concluded that the Gupta family member responsible for Jonas’ bribe was Rajesh “Tony” Gupta. It was therefore recommended that the NPA consider criminal charges against Gupta for attempted bribery – although this point is moot as long as the Guptas manage to evade extradition to South Africa.
Zuma is reportedly firing outgoing Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene just weeks after Rajesh Gupta offered the job to Jonas. At the time, Zuma told Nene and the South African public that the minister was needed to lead the Johannesburg branch of the newly created Brics bank.
Zondo dismisses this rationale as patently false, noting: “For more than two years after removing Mr. Nene as finance minister, President Zuma never followed him to tell him what was going on with the banking position. of the Brics or to ascertain whether anyone had contacted him in relation to the position. This is inconsistent with the conduct of someone who, at the time of Mr. Nene’s dismissal, reasonably believed that Mr. Nene was about to be appointed to the post.
The commission accepted testimony from Zuma’s former colleagues in the ANC’s Top Six that Zuma did not discuss Nene’s removal in advance, although he later claimed he did. did. It reveals that Zuma “was even willing to falsely implicate his comrades” in the decisions he made to enable the state capture, Zondo wrote.
The report concludes that Zuma’s appointment of Des van Rooyen as the replacement finance minister in December 2015 “must have had the approval of the Guptas”, since Van Rooyen was such an odd choice. Zondo also points to the fact that the short-lived finance minister arrived to work with two advisers he clearly didn’t know – as evidenced by the fact that in Van Rooyen’s submission to the commission he got the question wrong. one of their names.
“These were the people the Guptas wanted him to name. That’s the only explanation that makes sense,” Zondo concludes.
Although the market’s disastrous response to Van Rooyen’s appointment forced Zuma to reinstate Pravin Gordhan as finance minister, in 2017 he sacked Gordhan and his deputy, Jonas, based on an alleged intelligence report suggesting that both were lobbying foreign governments against Zuma. administration.
Zondo rejects the idea that there was any legitimacy to the intelligence memo, saying that as a former ANC intelligence chief, Zuma “in all likelihood” knew the report “was fake. or was not credible for one reason or another”. In reality, the only reason for their dismissal was their refusal to cooperate in the capture of the Treasury.
The report expresses particular shock that Zuma then informed the ANC Top Six that he intended to appoint Brian Molefe as finance minister, despite the fact that Molefe had previously been involved in wrongdoing in public entities. “There may not be much the ANC leaders from 2009 to 2017 deserve credit for when it comes to their handling of President Zuma…but for standing up to President Zuma and the ‘stopped appointing Mr Brian Molefe as Finance Minister, they deserve credit,’ Zondo wrote, adding: ‘One shudders to think what would have happened to the National Treasury [under Molefe’s control].”
‘The ANC should be ashamed’
Elsewhere in the report, however, other ruling party leaders face damning criticism from Zondo. Regarding the capture of Eskom, which Zondo says was carried out thanks to the collusion of Zuma, his ally Dudu Myeni and former Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown, Zondo concludes that the ANC must assume the responsibility. responsibility.
“South Africans thought the ANC government controlled Eskom, but that was not the case. He had ceded control to the Guptas and the people the Guptas wanted. The ANC and the ANC government should be ashamed that this happened under their watch,” Zondo said.
But it is ultimately Zuma who receives the greatest condemnation from the Zondo Commission. Writing about Zuma’s apparent determination to hand over control of the Treasury to the Guptas, Zondo rhetorically asks in disbelief if this could be the same man who twice took the presidential oath promising to do nothing to harm the progress of the Republic. “Yes, it was the same man,” concludes Zondo. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly newspaper Daily Maverick 168 which is available for R25 from Pick n Pay, Woolworths, Spar, Checkers, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. To find your nearest retailer, please click on here.