Zuma faces tricky commission decision
THE Guptas might hold the reins on his administration, but it’s President Jacob Zuma who has the final say in appointing the commission that could lead to his downfall.
A trail of leaked emails made public this week has been cementing perceptions of the Gupta family’s hold over the state, leading to widespread calls for a commission of inquiry to investigate.
Investigative reporters from several media outlets are wading through an estimated 100 000 to 200 000 missives made available on an internet platform.
Even the ANC has expressed concern at the leak of emailed correspondence purporting to be between the Gupta family, their associates, government ministers and Public Enterprises Board members. It called on the government to verify the claims, and for individuals whose names appear in the emails to explain.
ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa said the party was seriously concerned about the allegations.
“It is causing great damage,” he said.
The emails have linked Zuma, through his son Duduzane and sev- eral cabinet ministers, including Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, with the Guptas in governance and state institutions. Some of the emails related to situations where tenders worth billions of rand were involved.
“Such matters cannot be allowed to fester in the public domain. Accordingly, the ANC calls on government to urgently seek to establish the veracity of these claims and explanation from those implicated,” Kodwa said.
He added, in line with the decision of the ANC national executive committee, the party wanted a commission of inquiry set up without delay.
Zuma is constitutionally empowered to establish such a commission.
But some analysts argue the president is so deeply implicated that the credibility of such a body would be severely compromised if he was involved in setting it up.
Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos, of the University of Cape Town, said the constitution allowed for the deputy president to step in if the president was unable to fulfil his duties of office.
De Vos is one of a number of legal and political analysts to warn of a looming constitutional crisis over the mounting claims of state capture following the publication of the emails.
One of the recommendations by former public protector Thuli Madonsela was that Zuma should ask Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng to appoint a judge to lead an inquiry into allegations of state capture.
Professor Somadoda Fikeni, of Unisa, said a commission could be set up by Zuma and its terms of reference drafted by the chief justice, the Judicial Service Commission or another body.
Meanwhile, Gigaba is in the eye of the email storm.
One email addressed to Gigaba when he was still minister of home affairs was an early naturalisation request for the Guptas’ mother, Angoori Gupta.
“Your favourable consideration of our request for early naturalisation into South Africa will be highly appreciated – we have made this country our home already,” it read.
The Daily Maverick cited a chain of emails in which it is claimed Gigaba ordered officials to be placed in Mumbai and New Delhi to fast-track visas for the Guptas as they shifted assets and employees between India and South Africa.
The SACP called on the minister to resign, saying he had lost the benefit of the doubt it was prepared to give him when he replaced Pravin Gordhan.
“Quite clearly, the majority of those who are affected, they should not hold public office on our behalf. And I think it is as easy as that. That includes the current minister of finance, Malusi Gigaba,” the SACP’s second deputy secretary general, Solly Mapaila, said.
“Otherwise, there’s no way that our people can trust government with such people at the helm.”
Yesterday, Gigaba insisted he had done nothing wrong.
“Nobody has given me these emails. Nobody has told me how these emails were obtained – whether it was through proper means or whether they have not been fabricated.
“I don’t know,” Gigaba said during a media briefing.
Other leaks suggest Salim Essa, known for trying to buy a bank after the Guptas’s accounts were closed and for heading Denel’s red-flagged joint venture partner VR Laser Asia, was allowed to vet Ben Ngubane’s first public statement as Eskom chairman. Molefe arrived at Eskom weeks after Ngubane and won credit for ending
load-shedding. But last year his reputation dimmed after the public protector’s report on state capture homed in on Eskom’s coal contract with the Gupta family’s Tegeta Exploration.
Gordhan recently suggested the Eskom board should step down and also raised questions about dealings between the Guptas and Transnet, which has been at the centre of the week’s leaks, during Molefe’s earlier tenure at the freight company.
From the leaked emails, the amaBhungane investigative reporting team gleaned details of how the family apparently came to pocket almost R10 million for every R50m Transnet paid for a Chinese-built rail locomotive.
This reportedly flowed from a contract given to Tequesta, a company set up by Essa and mandated to help China South Rail win a contract to supply 359 locomotives to Transnet.
As with VR Laser Asia, Essa was the sole shareholder in the company.
Essa succeeded and secured an advisory fee of 21%, or R3.8 billion, of the R18.1bn deal.
The emails back up reports that international PR company Bell Pottinger was paid to cast criticism and suspicion of the Guptas and their ties to Zuma and the state as a plot by “white monopoly capital”.
The term has become common political rhetoric, usually used by members of the major- ity party.
On Thursday, the president told Parliament state capture was simply a rumour.
It remains for forensic investigators to discover if the emails released are genuine or have been altered.
Cyber investigator Jacques van Heerden said a subpoena could produce the original emails or reveal evidence had been tampered with.
“You would subpoena the company’s server and they by law have to keep records for five years,” said van Heerden.
The logs stored on the server will reveal when the emails were sent.
“Even if the logs were deleted, there would be evidence of this,” he said.