Tue, 11 Dec 2018
13
Melbourne

Guptas also stole our dignity

News24
23 Sep 2018, 14:37 GMT+10

A common refrain from President Cyril Ramaphosa and other ANC leaders when asked why they kept silent during the corruption-infested tenure of his predecessor is that they were not aware just how grave the situation was. They argue that, until the #GuptaLeaks exposes, they thought this state capture thing was bad, but not really that big a deal.

Speaking to the SA National Editors' Forum in May, Ramaphosa said that, prior to the #GuptaLeaks, the state capture phenomenon "looked like isolated incidents ... at Eskom and elsewhere".

"But when the Gupta emails came out, it was clear that the wheels were coming off completely. Many of you had already raised a number of issues on a piecemeal basis ... that is happening and that is happening ... then we had this and that. But when you finally prised open the whole thing, it became patently clear that we were dealing with a much bigger problem than we had ever imagined."

So the president thought that it was an "isolated incident" when the Guptas tried to steal the lucrative Sishen mine in the most brazen heist back in 2011? What did he make of Fikile Mbalula's emotional declaration in an ANC national executive committee meeting - of which Ramaphosa was a member - that he had learnt of his Cabinet appointment from the Guptas? What did he make of the well-orchestrated 2013 landing of the Gupta wedding party at Air Force Base Waterkloof and the family and their guests being escorted to Sun City by a large official security convoy? What of the regular televised breakfasts where the Guptas, using state money, hijacked a prime slot on the national broadcaster and laughed all the way to the bank?

Is the president being serious when he says the muscling out of a highly successful black company in favour of the Guptas by Eskom and the systematic siphoning of parastatal coffers by them was "piecemeal"? Was the methodical population of parastatal boards with Gupta acolytes really "piecemeal" and "isolated"? The same with Cabinet and the higher echelons of the public service?

What exactly wasn't glaring about their operations, such as the Trillian group, which was set up purely for the sake of milking state money? Just how minor an incident, in his view, was the firing of Nhlanhla Nene, who was replaced by a Guptarite who came with his own Guptarised advisers to effect the total capture of Treasury? And the well-planned capture and destruction of the SA Revenue Service? Did these incidents also strike him as "just one of those things"?

One could go on and on about the incredible operation that the Guptas undertook, with the connivance of treasonous South Africans, to turn the state into their close corporation. The media diligently and loudly kept the nation and the world abreast of all of this throughout that dark decade, so it is disingenuous to claim to have only realised in May the extent of the Guptas' control over our country.

What the leaks certainly did was lay it all bare and reveal all the nooks and crannies of state capture. It was the peak of the mountain in terms of reporting on state capture. Those emails made the blood boil as they made you realise that the Guptas' other great crime was stripping our leaders of their dignity. They revealed to us the craven deference to the Guptas that was exhibited by powerful people and just how beholden they were to this family.

The ANC likes to give the impression that the sale of South Africa to the Guptas was the rogue work of the double-headed individual, pockets of leaders and other guns for hire. It would have us believe that the ANC is "not on trial" at the inquiry into state capture. Sure it is not, but its conduct definitely is.

This week's testimonies by the country's four big banks showed that the influence of the Guptas was so pervasive that even those who were not on their payroll were willing to do their bidding. Never mind the actions of Mosebenzi Zwane while trying to bully the banks to reopen the Guptas' noxious accounts.

But the fact that Gwede Mantashe, Jessie Duarte and Enoch Godongwana felt compelled to go to bat for the Guptas in the way they did left the bitterest of tastes.

Standard Bank's Ian Swinton told the commission how a delegation headed by Simpiwe Tshabalala, the bank's chief executive, was forced by the ANC leaders to respond to accusations that "it was colluding with white monopoly capital to oppress black-owned businesses" like the Gupta entities. Absa's Yasmin Masithela told the commission that, during their meeting with Absa, "the issue of alleged collusion among the banks to close the Oakbay and related parties accounts" was raised.

The party had a similar meeting with a Nedbank delegation led by chief executive Mike Brown, where concerns were raised about the ability of banks to "just close accounts unilaterally".

What is patently clear is that the ANC, at the highest levels, was prepared to intimidate the nation's top bankers on behalf of the nation's dirtiest family.

As Swinton put it: "The fact that the ANC requested the meeting at the behest of Oakbay evidenced the extent of Oakbay's political influence at the highest echelons of political office-bearers in South Africa. It moreover shows the willingness of the Gupta entities to bring their influence to bear to reverse lawful and good faith decisions taken in compliance with legal and regulatory obligations."

It also showed the ability of the Guptas to force the most powerful in our society into an undignified bow of obeisance.

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