Zuma hears no evil in Par­lia­ment

As for­mal state cap­ture ev­i­dence mounts, the pres­i­dent bat­ted away on charges of cor­rup­tion in

Mail & Guardian - - News - Phillip de Wet

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma on Thurs­day an­swered al­le­ga­tions — con­tained in a new book — that he had re­ceived what ap­peared to be bribes by say­ing he had made full and proper dis­clo­sures. “I did not re­ceive any pay­ments from pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als or com­pa­nies dur­ing my ten­ure as pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic of South Africa other than those dis­closed or re­ported to the nec­es­sary au­thor­i­ties,” Zuma said.

Not all such dis­clo­sures are pub­lic, and Zuma has failed to ta­ble a full set in Par­lia­ment, de­spite at least one for­mal re­quest to do so. The Demo­cratic Al­liance had asked Zuma about the claim, in jour­nal­ist Jac­ques Pauw’s bookThe Pres­i­dent’s Keep­ers, that he had re­ceived a monthly “salary” from a busi­ness per­son even after tak­ing of­fice in 2009.

Zuma said books and ar­ti­cles were writ­ten about him all the time, and could only spec­u­late as to why that was. His ap­pear­ance in the National As­sem­bly came after a week in which cru­cial ev­i­dence of state cap­ture was put on the record in Par­lia­ment.

hhSome ANC lead­ers have con­sis­tently held that ev­i­dence of state cap­ture drawn from the #Gup­taLeaks emails could not be con­sid­ered, be­cause the source of the leaked emails was un­known and so their ve­rac­ity would al­ways be in doubt.

Par­lia­ment’s pub­lic en­ter­prises port­fo­lio com­mit­tee is con­duct­ing a probe into state cap­ture in­volv­ing state-owned en­ter­prises, and other com­mit­tees are do­ing their own piece­meal in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

The ev­i­dence from Mosilo Mothepu, for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive of Tril­lian Fi­nan­cial Ad­vi­sory and an early state cap­ture whis­tle-blower, be­fore the pub­lic en­ter­prises com­mit­tee was par­tic­u­larly damn­ing. Mothepu spent hours de­tail­ing how Eskom bent over back­wards to do busi­ness worth hun­dreds of mil­lions of rands with the Gupta-linked com­pany.

Mothepu said Tril­lian group chief ex­ec­u­tive Eric Wood had not only known weeks in ad­vance that then fi­nance min­is­ter Nh­lanhla Nene would be fired in 2015 but also emailed her de­tails of the strat­egy his re­place­ment, Des van Rooyen, planned to im­ple­ment.

De­tails about al­leged Gupta money laun­der­ing were also placed on the par­lia­men­tary record this week, al­beit in the United King­dom.

Bri­tish peer and anti-apartheid ac­tivist Peter Hain told that as­sem­bly he had handed over in­for­ma­tion. Hain did not dis­close his source, but the con­text sug­gested the in­for­ma­tion had come from a whis­tle-blower in global bank­ing group HSBC.

“This in­for­ma­tion shows il­le­gal trans­fers of funds, from South Africa, made by the Gupta fam­ily over the last few years from their South African ac­counts to ac­counts held in Dubai and Hong Kong,” said Hain.

“The last col­umns of each sheet [handed to the UK trea­sury] show the rel­e­vant banks in­volved. The records show all ac­count num­bers used. Many of the trans­ac­tions are le­git­i­mate. But many cer­tainly are not.”

The de­tails of how money flowed from South Africa to Dubai and back to South Africa have been ex­ten­sively doc­u­mented in the me­dia, com­plete with vis­its to the letter-box com­pa­nies used in the trans­fers. Th­ese reports have been la­belled spec­u­la­tion and even fake news.

Also on Wed­nes­day, a for­mer busi­ness res­cue prac­ti­tioner for Op­ti­mum Coal, Piers Mars­den, told Par­lia­ment how Eskom had helped the Gupta fam­ily to buy that mine — de­tails also pre­vi­ously pub­lished, which were also largely dis­missed.

While Mars­den, Hain and Mothepu were pro­vid­ing their ev­i­dence, some of those im­pli­cated main­tained their to­tal or par­tial si­lence, though their rea­sons for do­ing so grew ever more ten­u­ous.

In mid-Oc­to­ber the min­ing min­is­ter, Mosebenzi Zwane, re­fused to an­swer some ques­tions put to him by the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on min­eral re­sources, claim­ing that the is­sues were be­fore a court and so sub ju­dice and not open for dis­cus­sion. This week that port­fo­lio com­mit­tee re­ceived an opinion from the par­lia­men­tary le­gal of­fice that both stressed the com­mit­tee’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to hold Zwane to ac­count and dashed the sub ju­dice de­fence.

Yet the dif­fer­ent streams of in­ves­ti­ga­tion un­der way seem likely to be used as a shield by those im­pli­cated.

“In my view, the mat­ters raised by you in your en­quiry are currently sub­ject to a mul­ti­plic­ity of of­fi­cial pro­cesses. It is im­por­tant that th­ese pro­cesses be al­lowed to dis­charge their man­date,” Siyabonga Mahlangu said in re­sponse to the Mail & Guardian this week. Mahlangu was a special ad­viser to Malusi Gi­gaba, now the min­is­ter of fi­nance. In mid-Oc­to­ber for­mer Eskom chief ex­ec­u­tive Brian Dames told Par­lia­ment it had been Mahlangu who first in­tro­duced him to the Gupta fam­ily, or at least their rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Zuma on Thurs­day also cited the sub ju­dice rule, telling Par­lia­ment that was why he could not pre­vi­ously es­tab­lish a com­mis­sion of in­quiry into state cap­ture, as he had been or­dered to do by for­mer pub­lic pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela in 2016.

On Tues­day Zuma for the sec­ond time rad­i­cally al­tered his stance on the court case in which he is chal­leng­ing Madon­sela’s in­struc­tions, telling the high court in Pre­to­ria he would set up a com­mis­sion of in­quiry within 30 days.

How­ever, Zuma made no com­mit­ment that he would re­cuse him­self from se­lect­ing the judge to look into mat­ters fo­cused on him­self.

Op­po­si­tion par­ties have strongly ar­gued that al­low­ing Zuma to ap­point the chair of the com­mis­sion would be an af­front to jus­tice and would make it im­pos­si­ble for the pub­lic to trust the out­come. Zuma may, or may not, choose to al­low the chief jus­tice to se­lect the com­mis­sion chair — as Madon­sela had di­rected — Zuma’s le­gal team told the court.

If he chooses not to, those who ob­jected could re­turn to court and start a fresh process seek­ing to make him do so.

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma. Photo: Syd­ney Seshibedi

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