It may have been politically expedient to remove Hawks head Anwa Dramat urgently, but the process to do so was entirely illegal – Police Minister Nathi Nhleko suspended Dramat just before Christmas last year, despite not having the constitutional authority to do so.
The high court in Pretoria ruled Dramat’s suspension was not legal, but the minister insisted it was valid, citing claims that Dramat was involved in an illegal rendition operation in 2010.
Odd then that Dramat has still not faced any charges.
It became clear the more likely problem was Dramat’s request to investigate politically sensitive cases, including the Nkandla docket. It fell to Nhleko to ensure everyone remained “secure in comfort”.
In the end he flashed the cash and Dramat squawked off with R3-million in his back pocket.
February was awkward for the energy department. A confidential document detailing South Africa’s secret nuclear memorandum with Russia’s state-owned firm, Rosatom, was published by amaBhungane.
It didn’t just showcase Russia’s lobbying skills, but also showed South Africa is terrible at negotiating. No wonder the trillion-rand procurement of a bunch of new nuclear reactors is such a covert operation.
The deal signed by Energy Minster Tina Joemat-Pettersson includes a variety of questionable concessions and tax breaks. Oh, and the company will not be held liable for any nuclear-related accidents during the reactors’ life. Perhaps it was the tranquillity of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s palace at Novo-Ogaryovo, where President Jacob Zuma spent time a few weeks earlier, that helped him see the demands made by Rosatom were totally reasonable.
March was a stormy month for Eskom when the power-less utility’s board suspended its chief executive and three senior executives.
This was necessary, its chairperson Zola Tsotsi said, so that an independent “deep-dive inquiry” into the utility’s financial and operational affairs could be undertaken.
Instead, priorities such as resuscitating operations and completing major, overdue projects took a back seat to executive-level spats.
Tsotsi and Eskom’s commercial head Matshela Koko’s traded allegations. Tsotsi claimed that Koko’s commercial division was “rotten” and Koko claimed that Tsotsi “regularly interferes … in procurement”.
Tsotsi and three execs bowed out, but Koko was brought back unscathed. It turned out there was not even a “shallow-dive” inquiry.
New faces were brought in to see whether they might bring light, including Anoj Singh, Transnet’s money man. His links to a deal indirectly involving the controversial Gupta family seemed to be no issue (see July).
Factionalism should be so last season, but somehow the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has managed to resurrect the trend. Consequently there was little time for its managers to focus on their constitutional obligations.
“Survivor of the year” must go to the deputy prosecutions boss, Nomgcobo Jiba. She shrugged off criticism when it emerged that she dumped three legal teams before she found someone who would argue her case on withdrawing charges against suspended crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.
Jiba has seen off attempts to charge her with perjury and has shown she has unwavering support from Number One and the new NPA head, Shaun Abrahams. She still faces being disbarred by the General Council of the Bar, but has a solid strategy of blaming others. Expect this diva back next year.
The South African Revenue Service (Sars), formerly one of the strongest and most reliable institutions in the country, has ended up in the factional dirty-games heap.
Allegations that a “rogue unit” operated illegally brought out the best and worst in the media, as well as information peddlers and not-so-secret intelligence operatives.
Former top Sars executives, since out of the revenue service, deny there was anything illegal about the unit.
It’s a tricky one: the ultimate truth remains in the murky world of spies, and sordid allegations made about the unit remain untested in court.
The sudden return to the treasury of Pravin Gordhan – slammed by “rogue unit” advocates as ultimately responsible for its transgressions – suggests there may be a new chapter of this saga in 2016.
Despite unaffordable stadiums, tax breaks and collusive tendering, the 2010 Fifa World Cup was to bring us priceless treasures: unity and a global boost to the SA brand.
Those were already looking a bit tarnished when news hit front pages that the South African government bribed football officials with R120-million. Unbelievably, we were expected to believe all was above board, even though:
l South Africa forked out money to “support the African diaspora” in the Caribbean – with zero publicity;
l The manner of payment was not unlike money laundering; and
l It was handed directly to Jack Warner, one of football’s most notorious bosses.
No, insisted Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula. “The fact that later they turned gangsters, that is not our problem. We were not sniffer dogs.”
Telecoms firm Neotel got into hot water when it paid millions in “commissions” to a letterbox company called Homix to clinch deals worth R2-billion from Transnet.
At the heart of the scandal was the Transet finance boss Anoj Singh (now redeployed to Eskom) and a former “Gupta man”, Ashok Narayan, the “chief executive” of Homix.
Neotel was to provide Transnet with a suite of telecom services but, before the main deal was signed in December last year, sources claimed, negotiations between Transnet and Neotel stalled.
After meeting Singh, the telecoms firm’s chief executive, Sunil Joshi, told his staff to approach Homix and a 2% success fee was agreed to.
Soon, Transnet was ready to talk business and Homix laughed all the way to the bank and back.
Cocaine worth hundreds of thousands of rands has disappeared from the police forensic services
over a three-year period and not a single officer has been brought to book.
A report leaked to amaBhungane revealed that, in 2005, cocaine went missing without a trace on three separate occasions and, in 2009, an exhibit of cash amounting to R41?650 also vanished.
The public prosecutor has refused to prosecute the case, saying that there were no identified suspects.
Well, there was CCTV footage of a police officer taking the bags from the forensic division, but someone taped over the footage.
Nongovernmental organisations raised their eyebrows when Chancellor House, the ANC’s investment arm, was revealed as a shareholder in a proposed R18-billion power project slated to be built at Colenso in KwaZulu-Natal.
After all, the ruling party has been warned many times not to do business with the state as it represents a conflict of interest.
The project is not the party’s first gig with Eskom. Back in 2007, Hitachi Power Africa, in which Chancellor House held a 25% stake, was controversially awarded the boiler contracts for Medupi and its sister station, Kusile, each worth more than R20-billion.
The man behind the new project, John James, said the Chancellor House stake was small, but the risk was driven home when, two weeks later, Hitachi copped a $19-million fine for the earlier deal.
MTN owns a company in Mauritius that has no staff, desks or computers. It does nothing but rake in billions from mostly poor African countries.
A handful of those African governments are kicking back, believing MTN is using Mauritius to avoid paying tax.
Is that so? “Nope,” says MTN.
But why does it shift all this money to Mauritius? “Oh, it’s to pay for centralised group management services.”
But … there’s no one in Mauritius. Surely that company can’t possibly provide any service? “Oh, the staff are in Dubai and South Africa.”
But, but, why does the money go through Mauritius? “Money is paid from Mauritius to South Africa.”
Huh? All of it? “Uh, no.”
But … “Thanks for your questions, bye.”
Tasked with rescuing SAA, its chairperson, Dudu Myeni, has achieved the opposite. The national carrier is nose-diving into bankruptcy, and South Africa’s “first friend” seems to be immune to consequences.
Managers accuse her of interfering in complicated financial negotiations and flouting public finance laws. Her latest stunt, aimed at overturning a R9-billion aircraft deal and inserting an obscure third party into a new deal, flew in the face of treasury approvals and caused a head-on collision with the then finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene.
But, like her previous smashes, Myeni taxied away unscathed, leaving a wrecked Nene on the side of the runway. The return of Gordhan could see her finally fall to earth.
Enter Mr Dezember: Jacob Zuma.
Days after Myeni fell out with Nene, Zuma abruptly axed him and elevated nobody David Douglas ‘Des’ van Rooyen to the critical ministry. The rand went into a tailspin. Markets fell. South Africans swore and spat. Bankers, communists and unionists were united in denouncing the move. Even loyal ANC cadres broke ranks to speak out.
It seemed Zuma’s capture of the state was complete but, two days later, he blinked – four times – blurting out a panicked series of statements: “Stop the malicious rumours about a reshuffle”; “I had to sack Nene because he might get a job somewhere else”; “It was my prerogative”; “I did not have a child with Dudu Myeni!”
Four days later, he folded, replacing Van Rooyen with Gordhan.
Conclusion: Zuma lost the plot and should fall.
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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.