The Guptas, SA’s first family
As SA sinks under the which has become a hallmark of the Zuma years, there is one name on everyone’s lips
Fortunately for the ANC, there was no shortage of talent in its ranks. From Jabu Moleketi to Nhlanhla Nene to Pravin Gordhan to Tito Mboweni to Enoch Godongwana to Zweli Mkhize to Mcebisi Jonas to Paul Mashatile and a host of others, the party had its pick of fine individuals to step into Manuel’s shoes. This certainty of succession and policy continuity was telegraphed to the markets ahead of Manuel’s 2009 departure and Gordhan’s 2014 exit. The management of these changes was impeccable and there was a hardly a ripple in the markets.
This week was something else. Zuma fired Nene as if he was getting rid of one of his herdboys at the Nkandla homestead and finding another unemployed youth at the neighbouring village in his place.
The fact that his entire Cabinet was in the dark about the move and that his party’s top six were taken by surprise gives a lie to the fact that this was a considered decision about a key portfolio.
What happened on Wednesday was informed by discussions that took place far away from the formal centres of power. It was a product of state capture.
The great irony of this creeping state capture by private interests is that it was one of the key reasons advanced by the Left for the removal of former President Thabo Mbeki.
It was alleged then that big capital was wielding undue influence over the policy direction of the ANC and the government. Mbeki and his trusted ministers and advisers were accused of being the architects of the 1996 class project, a term for the conservative economic policies that his administration adopted from that year to stabilise an economy that was threatened by apartheid-era indebtedness.
Opponents of the policy claimed this shift was due to Mbeki listening too closely to blue-shirted white men in Joburg, Stellenbosch, London and New York.
The 2007 Polokwane revolution, as the removal of Mbeki was dubbed, entailed restoring this power to the tripartite alliance, comprising the ANC, Cosatu and the SA Communist Party. After Polokwane, the alliance was going to be the centre of decision-making power and the government would dance to its tune.
But these dreams had obviously missed a letter that the Scorpions found in a raid on one of fraudster Schabir Shaik’s properties. In the letter, written to him by his businessman father-in-law, there was a line that revealed the investment the family was making in the KwaZulu-Natal economic affairs MEC. “When your man becomes deputy president, we will be in the pound seats,” he wrote.
Zuma did go on to become deputy president. He did do favours for Shaik and others who had invested in him. But mistakes and circumstances saw law enforcement agencies raining on their parade early into Zuma’s term. It is now common cause that once Shaik was convicted and sentenced, others moved into the space and invested in Zuma.
And once he became president of the republic, he made the multiple investments in him a more important debt to repay than his debt to the country.
So was born the state capture that is the defining feature of the Zuma years. Instead of big capital doing the state capture, it is disparate interests – some decidedly dodgy – getting their grips on the running of the government.
This week marked an important phase in this state capture. With the capture of Treasury by these interests, power has now well and truly left the supposed centre. An institution that was once the nerve centre of policy certainty will now become the playground of those wanting to harvest the South African fiscus.
Critical decisions requiring big expenditure will be taken at dinner tables and dachas in distant lands instead of the Cabinet room and Luthuli House boardroom.
It is not alarmist to fear that the process of setting monetary policy, which has been done by wise individuals who run one of the finest central banks in the world, will be vulnerable to selfish private interests.
The 24 months leading up the ANC’s next electoral conference will be the most important in the nation’s history, perhaps as important as the period leading up to the establishment of the democracy.
This will be a period in which the governing party decides whether to reclaim its soul and the soul of the republic or to allow the capture to be complete.
SIDE BY SIDE
Jacob Zuma and Ajay Gupta at a gala dinner at the Gupta home in June 2005
MAIN MEN From left: Ajay and Atul Gupta (seated), Duduzani Zuma and Jagdish Parekh (standing) at The New Age newspaper offices in Midrand outside Joburg