Guptas, Nkandla still dominating the political news

2016-03-27 13:30
Atul Gupta and his nephew were appointed as advisers by former Lesotho prime minister Tom Thabane. PHOTO: Felix Dlangamandla

Atul Gupta and his nephew were appointed as advisers by former Lesotho prime minister Tom Thabane. PHOTO: Felix Dlangamandla

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Johannesburg - It has been a turbulent week for the ANC as allegations of "state capture" by the politically-connected Gupta family continued to dominate headlines and the public discourse.

Prominent business people, party stalwarts and former Umkhonto we Sizwe  generals have called on President Jacob Zuma to step down in light of the allegations regarding the family's political influence.

This while Zuma waits for the Constitutional Court's ruling on whether he must pay back money for non-security upgrades to his Nkandla home.

New reports surfaced on Sunday that state money was used, despite the president denying this.

According to the Sunday Times, a dossier compiled by the former public works department deputy director general, Rachard Samuel, contained invoices showing that state money had been used to pay for things such as thatching, meranti and aluminum doors and window frames, tiles, paint, plastering, air-conditioning and unexplained extras.

Zuma has told the Constitutional Court that he will pay back a portion of the money however, the Economic Freedom Fighters wants the court to rule on whether the president breached his oath of office.

The controversy over the Guptas' alleged influence is also believed to have divided the ANC with each camp, those in support of Zuma and those against him, drawing daggers and looking to discredit the other.

This week, allegations surfaced that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa had met with wealthy businessman Johann Rupert and other business leaders when Des van Rooyen was appointed finance minister.

Media reports this week suggested that Rupert had flown out from London to persuade Ramaphosa and other powerful business leaders to oppose the appointment of Van Rooyen.

Van Rooyen was appointed by Zuma to take over the position following the removal of Nhlanhla Nene in December. Zuma removed Van Rooyen from the post a few days later and put Gordhan in his place.

According to The Sowetan newspaper the meeting in question between Ramaphosa and Rupert was  brought to light by Zuma during the ANC's national executive committee (NEC) meeting last week.

Zuma reportedly made allegations that there were business-influenced leaders within the party. He claimed that there was an ANC leader who had met with Rupert and was advised to influence the reversal of Van Rooyen's appointment.

Although Zuma did not name anyone while making the allegations, Gupta-owned newspaper The New Age, published similar claims against Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa on Saturday issued a statement denying that he had met with Rupert, former finance minister Trevor Manuel and Maria Ramos to discuss cabinet appointments.

FULL TEXT: Ramaphosa denies meeting Rupert

Speaking to Netwerk24 earlier this week, Rupert implored Zuma to resign.

"Step aside and go back to your ANC branch", he said.

He also denied allegations that he had met with Ramaphosa over Van Rooyen's appointment.

Comments this week by Rupert prompted Zuma's son Edward lay a charge of corruption against the millionaire.

TimesLive reported that Edward Zuma had opened the case at the Nxamalala police station near Nkandla.

Corruption charges have also been laid by the Democratic Alliance against another of the president's sons, Duduzane Zuma, and the Guptas. The Hawks this week confirmed that the matter had been referred to it for investigation.

Earlier this week, Ramaphosa spoke out against the alleged state capture at a ANC Gauteng's summit for academic and business on Wednesday night.

Ramaphosa issued a stern warning to those attempting to use their deep pockets to influence leaders within the ruling party.

"The ANC is not for sale. The ANC refuses to be captured... Those who want to capture the ANC and influence it... you have come to the wrong address," he said.

Ramaphosa told attendees the ANC had set up a structure that was going to tackle the issue of state capture.

He said a people were already streaming into ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe's office with information.

The ANC NEC meeting last week announced that Mantashe's office would investigate all allegations against the Guptas and called on members to come forward with any information.

Zuma himself also spoke about his relationship with the Guptas this week during an interview with the SABC while in France for the launch of the United Nations High Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth

The president defended his relation with the Guptas saying he did not feel he needed to distance himself from them.

He said he was not sure that the allegations meant the family was corrupt.

"I don't think so. I think what people are talking about is... they [the Guptas] talk to people and they say whatever they say, like all business people say a number of things to people in government. But with them there is a particular focus which is given to them..."

Zuma reiterated that the ANC was discussing the matter and dealing with it, which included engaging with the Guptas on the allegations.

Asked whether he felt he needed to distance himself from the Guptas, Zuma said no.

"That family has been closer to many people in the country. I don't think it has ever caused a problem.

"Of course others have their views about it. It's not a matter of individuals taking a decision. I don't think you can just take decisions because they are allegations. The matter is being discussed and handled."

New allegations surfaced in the Sunday Times about how Zuma allegedly organised a "secret meeting" between his son Duduzane, the Guptas and Equatorial Guinea president Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

The allegation was made by former Congress of SA Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.

Vavi alleged that he was part of a delegation to the country, which was invited by the president to attend an independence day celebration in 2008.

According to Sunday Times, Vavi said he believed the meeting was held to discuss "private business interests".

Vavi reportedly said he would report the incident to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

Madonsela is investigating Zuma's links to the Guptas.

Netwerk24 reported that she had approached Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan for more funds for the investigation.

The Dominican Order of Catholic priests and the DA had approached the public protector to investigate.

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