Mondli Makhanya: Zuma, this be treason

Former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: Deaan Vivier
Former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: Deaan Vivier

In his statement to the Zondo Commission of Inquiry, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan speaks of state capture and corruption as being the “consequences of the unleashing of the worst human instincts: self-enrichment, neglect of the higher mission and placing one’s self-interest before the community’s interests”.

He then goes on to recount how he was an “unwitting member” of a Cabinet that was “misled, lied to, manipulated and abused” to “release the worst forms of corruption” for the benefit of a few families and individuals.

In the process, he says, much damage was done to the economy and the institutions of state, and ordinary people were robbed of schools, clinics and education.

“The real cost of state capture is the damage it has done to the institutional fabric of the state. Good people lost their jobs, families were put through trauma and vilification for standing up, and the lasting impact of the past decade weakened and hollowed out our state. A culture of malfeasance was legitimised and tolerated with increasing impunity and a lack of accountability,” writes Gordhan.

Much of what is in Gordhan’s testimony is not entirely new, but its richness lies in the connecting of the dots.

What shines through – and makes the blood really boil – is the role of the then president in hollowing out the state, he being the chief enabler of the state capture project and the recklessness that landed us in the mire that we are currently in.

Like several others who have testified before the commission, Gordhan puts Jacob Zuma at the scene of the crime. He paints a picture of a president who is at the beck and call of the Gupta family, and who will do anything and everything to facilitate smooth rides for this family.

Gordhan speaks in detail about Zuma’s rogue behaviour, which, in places, shows just how uninterested he was in running the country properly, but just how totally committed he was to helping parasites suck the last drop of blood from the fiscus.

By highlighting several lucrative pet projects – nuclear procurement; the bid by PetroSA to buy Malaysian company Petronas’ stake in Engen; the proposed setting up of Denel Asia with a Gupta-linked company; and the mess at SAA – he shows that Zuma was interested in the minutiae of affairs that affected his circle of cronies, benefactors and bed-warmers.

“Suffice to say that at least two of these projects share similarities with respect to their size and monetary value and the level of interest shown by former president Zuma in them,” says Gordhan.

But the bottom line is that for 10 years we had a president who hated South Africa and its citizens.

With nuclear he did not care how much it cost, as long as he honoured the secret, dirty deals he had made with those who would benefit from our misery – including his thug friend in Moscow.

Despite being warned about the complexities of the deal, the costs that would most likely be incurred and the processes that would have to be lawfully followed, Zuma just wanted to plough ahead.

If he’d had his way, today we would find ourselves more than a trillion rands in the dwang and a servant to the Russian establishment for decades to come.

If he’d had his way, Denel’s valuable technology and intellectual property treasure trove would be accessible to people who have no interest in South Africa’s goodwill.

Similarly, if he’d had his way, his bed-warmer would have indebted us – via the national airline that she helped dig deep into crisis – to capital markets for years and years.

We would not have the Financial Intelligence Centre Act amendments needed to bring us in line with global norms and to better protect us from launderers and other movers of illicit money.

The Guptas would still have their bank accounts in which they were ferreting ill-gotten gains and then channelling them in suspicious ways to who knows where.

The list goes on and on.

But the bottom line is that for 10 years we had a president who hated South Africa and its citizens.

This country was run by someone who, despite swearing “to be faithful to the Republic of South Africa”, was selling our sovereignty.

In a piece for City Press last July, former political activist, unionist and public servant Cunningham Ngcukana called for civil society to set up a fund for the private prosecution of Zuma and his acolytes on treason, espionage and money laundering charges.

This, he argued, should take the place of a commission of inquiry, which would take too long.

“For treason to occur there must be intent, as well as concomitant action, to violate a country’s legal order. In other words, treason is a breach of the allegiance that a citizen owes to his country. It becomes more serious when committed by those entrusted by the Constitution, and by law, to prevent it and to prosecute those guilty of committing it. As with any crime, wrongful intent is a crucial element of treason,” wrote Ngcukana.

It is obviously too late not to have a commission. Besides, the Zondo commission has been extremely useful in shedding light on the corrosive behaviour of Zuma and those around him.

The lessons we will learn from this commission will be useful to future generations, who will be able to detect early signs of state capture and act accordingly.

One cannot pre-empt the findings and recommendations of the learned justice, but from the seat of this lowly newspaperman, this be treason.

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