Sunday Times

Zondo’s one big question for Cyril

- By MAWANDE AMASHABALA­LA

● Was President Cyril Ramaphosa complicit in the alleged capture of the state by the Gupta brothers when he was deputy president?

This is the question Ramaphosa is expected to face when he appears before deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, pictured right, next month.

The commission into state capture indicated this week that it was interested specifical­ly in Ramaphosa’s story on his role in stopping or abetting state capture while he was deputy to Jacob Zuma.

The commission will also question the president on what steps he has taken to uproot remnants of state capture, fraud and corruption in the government and organs of state since taking charge at the Union

Buildings.

Ramaphosa is expected to speak of how, upon becoming president, he appointed new leadership at critical institutio­ns such as the National Prosecutin­g Authority, the Hawks as well as the State Security Agency.

Ramaphosa will appear a week after the ANC national chair, Gwede Mantashe, returns to the commission on April 14.

Mantashe, who will go to the commission after party secretary-general Ace Magashule, asked not to be the one who represents the party there.

He is expected to brief the commission on the party’s parliament­ary oversight and its cadre deployment policy.

But it is Ramaphosa who is expected to hog the headlines a week later.

Ramaphosa will have to explain why the

ANC looked away while the state and its institutio­ns were collapsing.

The question of the president’s links to the Gupta family is one he has already addressed under oath when he filed an affidavit in 2019.

This time, he will be asked to elaborate on it.

Ramaphosa denied having relations with the controvers­ial Indian family or having had private meetings with them.

“The only occasion on which matters of substance were discussed was when the Gupta brothers requested a meeting with ANC officials to discuss their situation in relation to the closure of their bank accounts, and at which was also raised the controvers­y around them and their relationsh­ip with then president Jacob Zuma,” wrote Ramaphosa in his affidavit to the commission.

From the affidavit, Ramaphosa will be pressed to explain what he meant by saying that at the same meeting he confronted the Gupta brothers about their controvers­ial landing of wedding guests at the Waterkloof Air Force Base, saying their action put Zuma in “an invidious position”.

Among other aspects the commission will attempt to seek assistance from Ramaphosa is what he did to stop the influence of the Gupta family and other private entities on Zuma and Zuma’s decisions.

On this question, Ramaphosa will likely refer to how he spoke out against Zuma’s 2017 sacking of finance minister Pravin Gordhan.

At the time, Ramaphosa publicly distanced himself and other ANC leaders from Zuma’s decision, which was “not a consultati­on because he came with a ready-made list”.

“I raised my concern and objection on the removal of the minister of finance‚ largely because he was being removed based on an intelligen­ce report that I believe had unsubstant­iated allegation­s about the minister of finance and his deputy going to London to mobilise financial markets against our country,” Ramaphosa said in March 2017.

On the controvers­ial 2017 reshuffle, Ramaphosa will most likely be asked to explain how and why he and other ANC officials objected to Brian Molefe’s appointmen­t to replace Gordhan.

At the time, Molefe had been forced to resign as CEO of Eskom following damning findings against him by then public protector Thuli Madonsela.

Ramaphosa will probably say that although they failed to stop Zuma from sacking Gordhan, they succeeded in stopping Molefe’s appointmen­t. Malusi Gigaba ended up being the replacemen­t.

Since most of the commission’s work has been focused on how the Guptas and other businesspe­ople linked to Zuma collapsed stateowned enterprise­s to advance their business interests, Ramaphosa will be asked about his role.

He will be asked about claims by Popo Molefe, who told the Zondo commission that he had warned the ANC top six about rampant corruption at the rail company Prasa but was ignored.

“Thank you, Mr Molefe. Why what was known in the public domain and what you told the top six at that meeting is important because the top six are the top leaders of the governing party and most of them would have been in government as well,” Zondo commented last June.

“And for me, the question arises, if they are told by the chairperso­n of a board of a government entity such as Prasa that there is a lot of corruption that we see has been happening, and we are taking steps to investigat­e, I want to know what they did after that about what you told them.

“I want to know when they come here, I want to know what they did about that.”

Ramaphosa is also expected to respond to allegation­s by Brian Molefe that he might have been providing political protection to mining giant Glencore.

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