Max du Preez

Defending the Guptas; attacking Gordhan: Who benefits?

2016-10-17 11:05

Max du Preez

The titanic battle between President Jacob Zuma and his enemies in the ANC, now clearly in its final stages, is not about ideology or even primarily about political power. It is about money. Billions and billions of it.

Follow the money, was the advice the Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein who exposed the Watergate scandal got from their secret source, Deep Throat.

But it is a principle laid down more than two thousand years ago by the Roman philosopher and jurist Marcus Tullius Cicero: cui bono, meaning "who benefits?"

The suspicious Gupta transactions worth some R7bn that were exposed in court by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on Friday are really the tip of the hippo’s ears, as the Afrikaans saying goes.

The last few months I have been told by sources whose information has proved to be utterly reliable so far that there are dossiers containing information of a host of international bank accounts and the transferal of billions of rand to banks in Dubai and elsewhere that Zuma, his children and family members, a few Cabinet ministers, the Guptas and other business people close to Zuma will find very difficult to explain.

Dubai, the Gupta family’s other home, surfaces regularly. Just last week former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela asked Zuma if it was true that his son Duduzane owned property in Dubai, paid for by the Guptas.

Zuma did not delegate his powers of appointing some Cabinet ministers and senior officials to the Guptas for political or ideological reasons. It is about money. Billions of rands.

Cat's nest of corruption

When Cabinet ministers, civil servants, politicians and public figures publicly defend the Guptas, attack Gordhan and his associates and start singing in the choir that wants to sidetrack us, the “Rupert is the real state capturer” choir, we need to ask: cui bono?

And the dark cloud hanging over this is the plan to build extremely expensive nuclear power stations. Investigators watching this matter closely wonder whether vast amounts of money had not already been paid as bribes.

Pravin Gordhan, assisted by officials of the national treasury, is at the forefront of the battle to expose this cat’s nest of corruption, money laundering, racketeering and theft.

That is why, and it is clearly the only reason why, Zuma has set his rottweilers on him, using every trick in the book to discredit and intimidate him.

As a journalist, I am ashamed at the role the journalists at the Gupta mouthpieces, ANN7 and The New Age, are playing in this assault on Gordhan. Cui bono?

Gordhan is not alone in the ANC and the Cabinet. Deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa’s weekend statement pledging his “moral and political” support to Gordhan is very significant.

The knives are out

Other senior Cabinet ministers who had done the same include Aaron Motsoaledi, Naledi Pandor, Ebrahim Patel, Derek Hanekom and Blade Nzimande. The SACP and senior Cosatu leaders are on his side, as are the ANC’s chief whip, Jackson Mthembu, and the party’s head of economic transformation, Enoch Godongwana.

The long knives are out and flashing.

The question asked in ANC ranks now is when and how the other candidate in the Zuma succession race, Zweli Mkhize, will put his foot down.

Mkhize is a key figure in the internal conflict in the ANC, probably more influential than Ramaphosa and secretary general Gwede Mantase.

The question is no longer whether Zuma could survive next December’s ANC electoral congress, but whether he will still be president in a year’s time.

Zuma was successful in stopping Madonsela from releasing her clearly deeply damaging report on state capture by the Guptas, but that report will not disappear. And there is little doubt that much more information on Zuma’s dealings with the Guptas and that of other cabinet ministers will surface in the weeks and months ahead. Those dynamite dossiers will eventually be made public.

A more important question is how much damage Zuma and his cabal can do to South Africa and its economy before he goes.

What we’ve seen so far indicates that he may launch a scorched earth campaign. That’s how much is at stake. If that is going to be the case, we may ask: will he relocate to Dubai after that?

It wasn’t a coincidence that the first “Hands off Zuma” rally was held in Durban and not elsewhere a few days ago.

Zuma's survival

There have long been fears that Zuma was going to push the dreaded ethnic Zulu button when he is finally cornered.

It was at this rally that the leader of the ANC Youth League, Collin Maine, called on Zuma supporters and MK veterans to take up arms for Zuma. Cui bono?

Another bright red light flickering right now is the role the state security services are going to play as this saga continues. The minister, David Mahlobo, clearly sees Zuma’s survival as his priority mission and his whole department is managed to achieve this. Cui bono?

The state security agencies have extremely wide powers and a huge budget, not all of which have to be publicly accounted for.

Deeply troubling is the recent appointment of Arthur Fraser as director general of this department. He was in charge of a covert project in 2014 when he was deputy general of intelligence, the Principal Agent Network (PAN), which had misspent R1bn in three years. See the background to that story here.

PAN apparently did little more than buying large numbers of luxury cars and properties and farms for spies and their families. When PAN was exposed after a forensic audit, Fraser resigned. Now he’s back, as the boss.

Cui bono?

- Follow Max on Twitter.

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