Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s camp is working on a detailed counter-campaign to clear perceptions that he is in the pockets of the Guptas.
Gigaba’s consistent denial of involvement with the Guptas is proving difficult to sustain as evidence suggesting that he has deep ties with the family keeps piling up.
City Press understands that supporters of the embattled Gigaba are working on compiling favourable evidence dating back to the time when he was public enterprises minister.
This is to demonstrate that he had, on many occasions, taken decisions that did not favour the Guptas’ interests and at times talked to President Jacob Zuma about his discomfort.
Recently published emails indicate that Gigaba appointed Gupta-friendly board members in state-owned entities during his tenure as public enterprises minister, abused his power as minister to naturalise members of that family and played a role in the awarding of Transnet’s locomotive tender that benefited the Guptas.
However, a close Gigaba ally said new evidence that is being put together in the form of a “dossier” would, among other things, show that he blocked the sale of the Carlton Centre in Johannesburg, agreed to a decision to fire an official at Broadband Infraco for giving a deal to the Guptas and personally played a role in getting rid of a Gupta-aligned board member at SAA.
He had also been unhappy with the leadership of SAA and made his views known at the highest level of government.
The ally said that Gigaba had, for some time now, been working to sever ties with the Guptas, but that he was caught up in a balancing act of trying not to fall out of favour with Zuma in doing so.
“I am not denying that there was a time when he thought that these [the Guptas] are stakeholders that he must manage because of Number One [Zuma].”
The associate said Gigaba had not always had the best relationship with Zuma because of his previous allegiance to former president Thabo Mbeki. As a result, Zuma was suspicious of him for some time.
“It is also not strategic [for] a KwaZulu-Natal politician to be in [Zuma’s] bad books. Look at where the likes of Zweli Mkhize [ANC treasurer-general] are now after they fell out of favour with him,” the source said.
“Malusi is a facts guy. If your president or someone prominent comes to you and says, put this guy here, he will play the game. He is a political animal.
"But if it doesn’t make sense, he will not do it. He has been asked for things that don’t make sense and, as far back as 2013, he has said no where it didn’t make sense.”
"There is a campaign against us"
Citing an example of how Gigaba had previously defied the Guptas, the source said that when Gigaba was instructed to make Iqbal Sharma chairperson of the Transnet board, he did not agree with the decision and so he found a way to “manage it”.
There were unfavourable perceptions about Sharma at that time and that ultimately torpedoed the push for him to become chair.
“Gigaba had the upper hand to say he can be on the board, but he can’t be chairperson.”
This week, Gigaba said during a media briefing that there was a campaign to tarnish his name and de-focus him from his work as finance minister.
“My family has not been spared. My wife has been rubbished‚ my father has been rubbished. There is a campaign against us‚ people are being paid to run this campaign against us‚” he said.
The “smear campaign” was also apparently linked with the ANC Youth League’s decision to snub Gigaba when it earlier this week announced its preferred leaders for the ANC at the upcoming national conference in December.
Ahead of the youth league’s national executive committee sitting last week – which decided on their preferred officials – one official told City Press that Gigaba did not stand a chance as there were tensions between the current leadership and Gigaba, who is a former president of the league.
“Gigaba thinks he is the youth league. You can’t still consider yourself president of the youth league while there is a sitting president [because] it is not good for relations.
"He wants the last legacy to be recognised to be his, but what about the legacy that [youth league president] Collen [Maine] is building? You will not find him on our list,” the official said.
The youth league nominated former AU commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as president.
The league also wants the ANC to create two new deputy secretary-general positions to be held by Jessie Duarte (monitoring and evaluation) and police minister Fikile Mbalula (organising and campaigns).
But the league’s lobby for Mbalula to “serve in a position that does not exist” was an insult, said a person close to Mbalula.
He said Mbalula was more senior and more capable to run the ANC than most of the people the league had placed ahead of him on its slate.
He said Mbalula’s comment on Twitter this week that Gauteng Premier David Makhura would be a better secretary-general than Free State Premier Ace Magashule was intended to show the youth league that they were being factional.
“There is an agenda to eliminate both Gigs [Gigaba] and Mbaks [Mbalula], so that they do not think they stood a chance to lead just because opposition parties are led by young people,” he said, referring to Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema and DA leader Mmusi Maimane.
Gigaba’s lobbyists have tipped him for the position of deputy president.
It is understood that his campaign is led by Ekurhuleni Mayor Mzwandile Masina, who last week told Zuma to ask the Guptas “to give the ANC space to conduct the revolution”.
However, insiders both for and against Zuma say that it is too late for Gigaba to extricate himself from the Gupta web.
“The emails are damaging to Gigaba and the Hawks will start making arrests by December,” said one insider.