On 24 April, 2017 the Mail & Guardian website carried an item attributed to a Staff Reporter entitled “What was Thabo Mbeki and Essop Pahad’s role in the rise of the Guptas?”
It is stated that the item is a “chapter … from Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s new book, The Republic of Gupta”.
One sentence in this “chapter” as reproduced by the M&G says: “One can only speculate as to why Mbeki and his friends seem so desperate to bury any notion that the former president was close to the Guptas.”
Recently, some in the United States, including the media, have raised serious concerns about what they have described as “fake news”.
The allegation in the chapter of the Myburgh book as reproduced by the M&G constitutes exactly such fake news.
We have said this before, and I reiterate this here, that I have never been “close to the Guptas”!
The Myburgh chapter includes a significant reference to a report allegedly filed in 1996 by then M&G reporter, Marion Edmunds, about a “secretive, 24-strong think-tank called the Consultative Council to give him (Mbeki) political advice”, which Myburgh suggests might have included Ajay Gupta.
Myburgh suggests that particularly Essop Pahad sought to hide the existence of this so-called “Consultative Council”, with the deliberate objective “to bury” from public knowledge my long-standing “close” association with the Guptas!
There was never any “secretive think tank” as reported by Marion Edmunds.
This is what happened.
Various members and supporters of the ANC I had worked with in the context of the execution of my normal ANC tasks before 1994 felt that there was a risk that because of time constraints as I served as a deputy president of the republic, I might lose contact with the views of the population at large.
They told me that they were willing to meet me periodically to inform me of the views informally communicated and discussed within their various social circles, thus to help ensure that our government always remained informed of and sensitive to the views of the electorate.
I agreed with this proposal and therefore arranged to meet this informal “focus group” periodically to listen to its reports, which briefing meetings took place at the Presidential Guest House in Pretoria.
This helped significantly to help ensure that our first 1994-99 democratic government had better access to the views of the electorate, adding to such information as reached government through the ANC and the media.
Later, the process to ensure that government had the possibility constantly to hear the views of the electorate was formalised through the establishment of various sectoral presidential working groups and the institution of the popularly-based presidential izimbizo process.
The Guptas were never involved in any of these three processes involving South Africans.
Our government also sought to access international opinion.
We, therefore, established two international advisory councils.
These were the Presidential Investment Council on Economic Policy, and the Presidential Advisory Council on Information Communication Technology.
The Guptas did not serve on any of these two international councils.
The suggestion made by Myburgh that I, both personally and as deputy and president of the republic, was “close to the Guptas” through the three processes I have mentioned, and any other, is nothing more than fake news!
Our media serves neither the interests of the general public it seeks to inform, nor its obligation to guarantee the integrity of the profession of journalism, to continue to participate in the reprehensible process of the propagation of fake news.