Adriaan Basson

The two signatures Gordhan won’t give Zuma

2016-08-29 07:11

Adriaan Basson

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s refusal to sign two treasury guarantees – one for a R1-trillion nuclear project and one for a R5bn SAA loan – is at the heart of efforts by President Jacob Zuma to have him removed from office.

This is the view of senior government officials who are privy to the latest “open war” on Gordhan, who was appointed finance minister in December after Zuma had unsuccessfully catapulted unknown ANC MP Des van Rooyen into national treasury.

City Press reported on Sunday that Gordhan will be charged criminally in the next week or two for setting up an investigations unit in the SA Revenue Service (Sars) and agreeing that Sars’ former deputy, Ivan Pillay, be paid an early pension.

The treasury capture playbook – allegedly masterminded by Zuma and the Gupta family – goes something like this:

  • First arrest Gordhan. Even though the charges against him may eventually fail, he must be placed in an untenable position and forced to resign. Even his biggest supporter will agree that it is undesirable to have a finance minister on trial (although, technically, Zuma is also facing “active” corruption charges).
  • Then replace Gordhan with a pliable candidate who will listen to Zuma and execute his wishes. The names of Sfiso Buthelezi, ANC MP and former Prasa chair and ex-adviser to Zuma as MEC in KwaZulu-Natal, and Van Rooyen are mentioned in this regard. Zuma still believes Van Rooyen is a deserving candidate and the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister recently made a presentation on Sars to the ANC’s national executive committee. Van Rooyen urged Gordhan over the weekend to cooperate with the Hawks.
  • The incoming finance minister will then be expected to quickly sign two pieces of paper: the government guarantees for nuclear and SAA. This effectively means treasury takes full responsibility for a) paying Russia’s Rosatom (although the tender process has officially not been formalised) R1 trillion plus interest and b) repaying the financial institution who lends SAA money if the national carrier (in all likelihood) defaults on its repayments. “This effectively also means bankrupting South Africa,” say some.
  • The new minister’s second task will be to put on hold all investigations into Gupta-linked companies and the state. This includes Tegeta Exploration and Resources’ lucrative coal contract with Eskom; the controversial Denel deal with VR Laser in Asia, and Transnet’s contracts with Trillian.

Where do Zuma and the Guptas fit in all of this?

Secret agreements

Zuma’s son Duduzane is a major shareholder in Shiva Uranium, owned by the Gupta family’s Oakbay Resources and Energy. Zuma jr and his friends will be producing uranium when, coincidentally, South Africa builds Russian-sponsored nuclear power plants that need uranium to run.

In short: the Zumas need nuclear power plants to become very, very rich.

Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson all but sealed the deal in September 2014 when she signed a secret agreement with Rosatom in Vienna that commits South Africa to contracting with Russia. Joemat-Pettersson’s department later downplayed the agreement, stating it was signing similar deals with other interested vendors namely China, France and Japan.

Former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene allegedly refused to sign a further agreement with Russia in November 2015 on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Turkey – three weeks before he was fired by Zuma.

Zuma and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have a curiously close relationship and have visited each other at least four times between 2013 and 2015. This includes a mysterious low-key visit by Zuma to Moscow in August 2014, only being accompanied by State Security Minister David Mahlobo and Nomaindia Mfeketo, the deputy minister of international relations and co-operation.

The Sunday Times reported previously that Zuma underwent medical treatment during this visit to Moscow after being poisoned – reportedly by one of his wives, Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma, who had since been banned from Nkandla. Rumours about success fees promised and paid by the Russians for the nuclear tender abound.

Gordhan is further refusing to sign a R5bn loan guarantee for SAA as he configures a new board and management structure for the beleaguered carrier. This puts him in conflict with Zuma who is firmly backing his close associate Dudu Myeni to remain as SAA chair and de facto CEO.

Myeni is a founding director and chairperson of the Jacob Zuma Foundation. In the past she paid money to Zuma’s kids and received money from Zuma’s Absa account. Her son, Thalente, lived in Zuma’s Forest Town house.

Negotiation between treasury and the presidency over the future of SAA is at an “advanced phase”, as the carrier risks losing its Hong Kong route due to the failure to submit annual financial statements.

Suspicious timing

Last week SAA director Yakhe Kwinana resigned from the board, citing frustration with the lack of a guarantee by treasury and that the carrier may have to apply for business rescue if Gordhan do not sign urgently.

Where do the Hawks and Shaun Abrahams, the national director of public prosecutions, fit in?

Addressing his treasury staff on Friday, Gordhan directly linked the case against him to the “attack” by the Guptas. They are attacking me because of what you do daily, he allegedly told his staff.

Abrahams must now decide whether the Hawks have gathered enough evidence against Gordhan and his former colleagues at Sars to justify a criminal prosecution. The timing, in light of the guarantees sought and treasury’s imminent action against Gupta-owned entities, looks suspicious.

And the question remains why Brigadier Nyameka Xaba, the head of the Hawks’ crimes against the state unit (Cats), is spearheading an investigation into essentially administrative matters and the early payment of a pension when he could, for argument’s sake, be investigating alleged state capture by the Guptas?

- Basson is editor of News24. Follow him on Twitter: @adriaanbasson

Read more on:    hawks  |  duduzane zuma  |  shaun abrahams  |  dudu miyeni  |  jacob zuma  |  pravin ­gordhan  |  vladimir putin

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