Blockbuster of a story ranjeni munusamy

2016-03-23 06:00

SOCIETY is always fascinated with brazen acts of criminality.

Think of the Great Train Robbery, the Stander Gang and the R31 million SBV heist. All these audacious crimes had intriguing back stories and daring characters behind them.

They were all captured on film for those of us who live within the normal bounds of society to see how the crimes were plotted and played out.

The Gupta family’s capture of the state through their friendship with President Jacob Zuma is proving to be just as fascinating.

There has been discomfort for several years about the Gupta family’s influence over the president and senior government officials.

In 2013, their abuse of the state was exposed when they landed a jet carrying their wedding guests at Waterkloof Air Force Base, in contravention of laws governing national key points.

They faced no repercussions and continued to enjoy unfettered access to the president and wield undue influence over decisions and appointments in government.

The involvement of the Gupta family in the firing of former Finance minister Nhlanhla Nene was confirmed this week when Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas revealed that they offered him the ministerial post.

It could not have been easy for Jonas to come out into the open on the matter, considering that Zuma maintains his close relationship with the Guptas and the president makes changes to the Cabinet based on their wishes.

Rumours were rife this week that another Cabinet reshuffle was imminent and that Jonas would lose his job to a new Gupta-sanctioned member of Parliament (MP).

Jonas did not provide details about how the approach to him was made but it is believed that Zuma’s son Duduzane acts as the intermediary to summon ministers and government officials to meetings with the Guptas.

It is still difficult to imagine how this family could be so cheeky to call people to their home, offer them senior posts and then instruct them to act improperly, and perhaps corruptly, for their financial benefit.

It sounds too inconceivable to be true, even though numerous people claim to have experienced it.

This week, former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor explained how exactly the approach was made to her.

First on her Facebook page and then in a radio interview, Mentor said she was summoned to Johannesburg from Cape Town in 2010, on the understanding that she would be meeting the president.

Instead, she was driven by the youngest Gupta brother Rajesh (who goes by the name Tony) to his family compound in Saxonwold.

Mentor said the Guptas told her that a big Cabinet reshuffle was on the cards and that she could have the post of Public Enterprises minister if she arranged for the family to secure the South African Airways flight route to India.

Mentor said she was outraged by the offer and declined. Most astounding was her revelation that Zuma was in the next room when this discussion took place and he then walked her out of the Gupta home. The Guptas have denied that this ever took place and Zuma denies even knowing Mentor. But in her Facebook post, Mentor describes parts of the Gupta home that she could only know about if she had been in there.

There is growing anger in the ANC about how the Gupta family has commandeered control of the state and it is implausible that Zuma is not aware of what they have been doing.

What has not been fully explained is why the president has surrendered his presidency, the integrity of the state and the reputation of the ANC to this family.

His son benefits greatly from his relationship with the Guptas, making billions of rands from their business deals.

But what hold do the Guptas have over the president that he is willing to sacrifice his presidency and his legacy for them?

It is an intriguing story that will perhaps also someday become a Hollywood blockbuster.

• Ranjeni Munusamy is a political journalist and commentator for the Daily Maverick.

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