It goes on to knit a conspiracy that the Treasury is not beholden to the governing party, but to white business interests
December 9 earns the moniker “9/12”, after the US World Trade Center attacks named 9/11, which Treasury staff also experienced as an apocalyptic day. The term sticks, although different date formats means South Africa’s 9/12 is in December and the US’s was in September.
One official describes what happened over the next few days as “an attack”. The people who swooped in with Van Rooyen “came in with the approach that ‘we’ve taken charge’,” says another official.
We meet almost a year later, and he is sleeping so much that his doctor tells him it is because of posttraumatic stress from a tough year at the Treasury.
The Treasury’s officials are mostly brainiacs with long experience in public finance management, often with multiple degrees and with an almost zealous attention to the integrity of public finances. They say “no” more often than “yes”, which makes them few friends in the bureaucracy. Nevertheless, South Africa is most often rewarded on global rankings for the quality of public finance and national debt management.
These four days in December started the assault on the Treasury and the capture of key state institutions that was to follow. Over the following year, the anatomy of South Africa’s capture by a network of Mafia-like interests is exposed, and days later an anti-corruption movement is born.
The movement has support in the ANC and it ended this week with the president facing a revolt in what had always been his clear domain: the ANC national executive committee, the party’s nerve centre and inner sanctum. He has survived, but the ANC is shredded by state capture and the private interests that have come to influence policy and politics.
SPIDERS AND WEBS OF INFLUENCE
To understand state capture, we have to go back further than December last year. A document titled Project Spider Web crawls into the public. It surfaces in June last year from the email address of Dudu Myeni, who is the chairperson of both SAA and the Jacob Zuma Foundation. The 27-page document alleges a massive
PROJECT SPIDER WEB
conspiracy theory hatched in Stellenbosch and funded by apartheid business barons such as the Rupert, Oppenheimer and Rothschild families.
It reads: “The white establishment through the private sector has a huge influence in the running of the National Treasury ... The white establishment felt it was too risky to leave the running of the government solely in the hands of the ANC.” And so it goes on to knit a conspiracy that the Treasury is not beholden to the governing party, but to white business interests.
Former finance minister Trevor Manuel, who is at the centre of the alleged conspiracy, laughs it off because the document is a confection of bad spelling and worse grammar. But Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan takes it more seriously, with the themes of the document emerging again and again this year and Treasury getting attacked and criticised in Cabinet as it keeps parastatals on a tight leash.
Treasury guarantees R400 billion in spending by stateowned enterprises – making it a honey pot.
Though in life-cycle decline, commodities are also a honey pot. As Madonsela’s report would reveal, mining and the granting of mining licences is at the heart of the story of capture.
South Africa is still coal country, both for the export value of black gold, but also because it fires the power stations that keep the economy going.
In September 2015, months before Nene is axed, ANC veteran Ngoako Ramatlhodi is dethroned and replaced as mining minister by Mosebenzi Zwane, a provincial minister from the Free State. At the time, ANC members raise concerns about his links to Gupta family interests in the province. In December last year, Zwane helps facilitate big coal deals for the Gupta family, jetting with them to Switzerland to meet Glencore to buy the Optimum Mine, while Eskom gives the mines it buys preferential terms, reports show.
NOTES FOR THE ‘FM’
Forty-four days before Nene is fired, an executive in Illovo, Joburg, is furiously scribbling an important email on the morning of October 26. It is from Eric Wood to Salim Essa.
Later in the year of capture, the two will emerge as key lieutenants who are fabulously enriched by various contracts and deals that the Gupta family facilitate for them. In the email, Woods writes: “As discussed, I have quickly jotted down a few points for the FM. These are not comprehensive – in time, I’m sure I can develop a more comprehensive list.”
FM is short for finance minister and Nene has confirmed to City Press that the document, an eight-point work plan, was not commissioned by or for him.
A separate whistle-blower report reveals that later that morning, Woods briefed staff at Regiments Capital, the asset management company he and Essa own (later he and Essa would break away to form their own capital advisory company, Trillian), and told them Nene would be replaced.
Even before Nene is axed, this private sector financial whiz, who once worked at Investec, sees how money could be made by the ouster.
The whistle-blower writes: “[On] October 26 2015 I was informed by my direct line manager, Eric Wood at Regiments Capital, that the president of the Republic of South Africa was going to replace Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene. He subsequently sent me an email outlining National Treasury’s new initiatives and his proposed fees for each initiative that he had drafted.”
The whistle-blower continues: “On December 9 2015, the morning after the president had made the announcement to replace Nene with Des van Rooyen, Eric Wood informed me that Mohammed Bobat would be the new finance minister’s special adviser. Bobat was a principal at Regiments Capital…”
Bobat arrives at the Treasury on the morning of Friday, December 11, as much a stranger to Van Rooyen as he is to the shocked officials. The freshly inaugurated minister and his adviser exchanges numbers, indicating a new relationship. Bobat arrives at Treasury with Ian Whitley, who is ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte’s sonin-law, and with Malcolm Mabaso, who is a business partner of John Duarte, Whitley’s father-in-law.
Mabaso’s mother, Linda, is the chairperson of Transnet