Former DGs seek Gupta probe
A powerful group of former directors-general (DGs) have written to Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and Public Service and Administration Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi, asking them to institute a public inquiry into how senior government officials contravened laws to benefit the Gupta family.
Their letter to the two ministers – which has also been copied to President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa – refers to “corrupt practices ... [that] have been brought to our attention that are tantamount to breaking laws”.
The list of 45 former directors-general – whose names include Themba Maseko, Barry Gilder, Mpumi Mpofu, Ketso Gordhan, Thozi Gwanya, Itumeleng Mosala, Roger Jardine, Siphiwe Nyanda, Alistair Ruiters, Ayanda Ntsaluba, Mo Shaik and Sipho Pityana – say theirs is not a party political intervention, but a principled one aimed only at promoting good governance.
Besides having served long tenures in government, most of them are veteran ANC activists and are active in party structures.
Maseko told the Sunday Times in March that he was approached by the Guptas, who asked that he channel government advertising to their newspaper. Maseko said that the president had instructed him to meet the family.
The former officials are hoping that an enabling environment can be created in which current directors-general, as well as senior civil servants and even ministers, can open up about how they were strong-armed into breaking laws and codes of conduct by their superiors and outsiders, including the Guptas.
“There are many who are willing to talk about their experiences, but are afraid. They want a space in which they are protected,” said one of the group’s members.
The SA Communist Party has called for a judicial inquiry into allegations of state capture by the Guptas.
On Friday night, during an address at the Gauteng ANC’s provincial general council, Zuma ridiculed those who complain about state capture.
“We talk about state capture; you don’t understand. Is the judiciary captured? ... Is Parliament captured? There are three arms to the state: executive, judiciary and legislature,” he said.
“If you say the state is captured, are all these three captured? You don’t understand. You are merely using phrases. You are using what people call – if they want to say things to the media – sound bites.
“Without meaning state, it is meaningless to say state capture. You do not understand. You cannot play around with state capture.”
In the letter sent to Gordhan and Ramatlhodi on April 22, the former directorsgeneral wrote that they were concerned about developments in the country which undermine confidence in state institutions.
“As former directors-general, we are concerned about reports that public officials, including heads of state-owned entities, are being pressurised by private interests to wilfully break procurement rules.
“In particular, we express concern at recent revelations of alleged state capture by the Gupta family, their apparent influence over political and administrative appointments, and their alleged involvement in the irregular facilitation, securing and issuing of government tenders and contracts.”
They added in the letter that these developments could undermine the state and its ability to accelerate service delivery, and breed a culture of corruption.
They warned that if something was not done, the country might be plunged into a crises of governance that could lead to the collapse of the public service.
The 45 former officials also called for the establishment of an independent inquiry, in terms of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, that would include representatives from the Public Protector, the AuditorGeneral, the Public Service Commission, and retired judges and experts on international financial flows.
The inquiry would investigate all senior political and administrative officials who might, in dealing with the Guptas, have contravened the Constitution, the Public Finance Management Act and the Public Service Act.
They also called upon National Treasury to start an investigation into the possible involvement of the Guptas and associated companies in illicit financial flows out of the country, and recommended that independent researchers be appointed to help.
Jardine, the former director-general of the department of arts, culture, science and technology, told City Press that as former highranking officials, they had reflected on where the country is and how they could play a role.
“We have come to the conclusion that, given our experience in public service, we can play a constructive role. This is not a party political initiative. It is squarely about how we strengthen the public service and our institutions,” he said.
“Recently, we saw how strong institutions are important considerations in a country’s sovereign credit rating.”
Jardine said the “intensity” of allegations of civil servants being asked to flout the finance management act warranted that the allegations be tested. “We call on the public service to support this and do the right thing to preserve their integrity,” he said.
Asked why they were not making submissions in a similar process undertaken by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, Jardine said: “As former directors-general, we are mindful of not falling into a situation where we conflate party and state.”
Ramatlhodi’s spokesperson, Advocate Mahlodi Muofhe, confirmed receipt of the letter, but said they were not sure about its legal standing, as it was not on the letterhead of any organisation. He added that the letter lacked “factual specifics”.
“While we appreciate their concern, we say that our former directors-general should know by now that ... Mantashe had a made a clarion call to all those who allege state capture to come and make proper submissions. This is the process we believe the former directorsgeneral should embrace.”
Gordhan’s spokesperson, Phumza Macanda, acknowledged receipt of the letter, saying that they had noted the concerns.
Jardine resigned from the arts and culture department after allegations that the then minister, Lionel Mtshali, was trying to use it to advance his Inkatha Freedom Party’s political interests. He said the former directors-general were not expecting any negative responses.
As former DGs, we are concerned about reports that public officials, including heads of state-owned entities, are being pressurised by private interests