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

CityPress - - News -

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

PHOTO: MUNTU VI­LAKAZI

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

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