/ 2 November 2016

#StateCaptureReport wrap: Zuma central to Gupta patronage

President Jacob Zuma will attend China's September 3 military parade to celebrate Japan's surrender during World War II.
President Jacob Zuma will attend China's September 3 military parade to celebrate Japan's surrender during World War II.

President Jacob Zuma has been instructed to appoint a commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture but has to leave the selection process to Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.

The report, which has been at the centre of a Pretoria high court battle, details numerous dubious situations where Zuma and members of his executive acted in a questionable manner, often seemingly to the advantage of the Gupta family.

The commission of inquiry is part of the order by former public protector Thuli Madonsela in her final report titled State of Capture which focuses on the Gupta family’s degree of influence on the highest office and other state-owned entities.

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Those implicated in the report include Zuma and his son Duduzane, Eskom board chairperson Ben Ngubane, Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe, Ajay Gupta, the Gupta-controlled Tegeta company, Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown, former minister of finance Des van Rooyen and Minister of Minerals and Resources Mosebenzi Zwane.

And in a neat pivot, sidestepping Zuma to ensure the commission is unfettered, Madonsela quotes the president from a previous case involving the Economic Freedom Fighters.

“I could not have carried the evaluation myself, lest I be accused of being judge and jury in my own case,” Madonsela quotes Zuma.

In her report, Madonsela gives Zuma 30 days to appoint the commission of inquiry, with Mogoeng required to offer a single name to head this body to the president.

The commission, to be financed by treasury, will have the same powers as that of the public protector.

The commission will have 180 days to complete its investigation and present a report with findings and recommendations to the president. Zuma will then have 14 days in which to report to Parliament on how he intends to proceed.

Parliament has also been given 180 days to review the Executive Members’ Ethics Act to tighten loopholes for potential conflicts of interest and also to address how whistleblowers should be dealt with.

The presidency will also have to update the Executive Ethics Code, in line with Parliament’s review.

In cases “where it appears crimes have been committed”, the national prosecuting authority and the Hawks will be notified by the public protector.

Among the explosive findings in the report, Ajay Gupta is said to have personally offered deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas an amount of R600 000 to join the family empire in its quest to milk state coffers.

The report documents Madonsela’s interview with Jonas, who first spilled the beans about the Guptas having offered to promote him to the position of finance minister, on March 16.

In the interview, Jonas details how he had received a call from controversial businessperson Fana Hlongwane who wanted him to meet with President Zuma’s son, Duduzane.

Aware of Duduzane’s Gupta connections, Jonas said he was hesitant at first but then later agreed for Hlongwane to share his telephone number with Duduzane.

On October 17 he received several text messages from Dududzane who casually invited him to the Gupta family’s South African of the Year event which was scheduled to be held the next day.

Due to his busy schedule, Jonas declined and agreed instead to meet Duduzane at the Hyatt Hotel in Rosebank, Johannesburg.

Duduzane deemed the hotel too crowded and suggested they move to a more private place for “a discussion with a third party”. Jonas was not told where they were heading, but found himself at the Gupta family’s Saxonwold mansion, for the first time.

“They arrived at a compound-like residence with security guards,” the report states.

Now joined by Hlongwane, they entered the property, and Ajay Gupta emerged. Jonas said he recognised Ajay from press reports.

After some small talk, Ajay informed Jonas that they have been gathering “intelligence” on him and those close to him.

Then the bombshell: “Mr Ajay Gupta informed Mr Jonas that they were going to make him finance minister.” Jonas was irritated by this statement and declined, telling Ajay that only the president of the country can make such decisions.

Duduzane Zuma and Fana Hlongwane were told to sit outside while Ajay addressed Jonas further, now offering him the cash.

“He asked [if] Mr Jonas had a bag which he could use to receive and carry R600 000 in cash immediately.”

Despite Jonas again declining, Ajay then offered to transfer an additional R600-million into Jonas’s bank account of choice.

At that point, Jonas asked Hlongwane and Duduzane to take him to the airport. During the trip he asked them why they didn’t tell him they were taking him to a meeting with the Guptas.

He later called Hlongwane to tell him about his unhappiness about the meeting.

According to his statement, Jonas wasted no time telling then-finance minister Nhlanhla Nene immediately and later also Pravin Gordhan and ANC Treasurer General Dr Zweli Mkhize.

Jonas first went public with aspects of this encounter on March 16 2016.

Former MP Vytjie Mentor said in an interview with the public protector, on July 22 2016, that she travelled from Cape Town to Johannesburg “believing she was going to meet with President Zuma”.

She was met at the airport by two strange men holding her name tag. She was driven to the offices of Sahara Computers first, and later to the residence of the Gupta family in Saxonwold, where she was offered the job of minister of public enterprises.

She was told she could become a minister “within a week or so, if she assisted with influencing the South African Airways cancellation of the India route”.

Mentor declined.

“Ms Mentor stated that Zuma emerged minutes later from another entrance.”

According to Mentor: “the president was not angry that she declined the offer, he apparently said to her in isiZulu something like ‘it’s okay Ntombazane (girl)…take care of yourself’.”

A few days after the proposition was made to her, there was a Cabinet reshuffle.