South Africa, Politics

Get Guptas, duck Zuma: SACP’s obstacle race on state capture

By Ranjeni Munusamy 6 June 2016

The South African Communist Party is to seek legal and logistical assistance from the South African Council of Churches to pursue its complaints on state capture and the “venal conduct of the Gupta family”. The SACP central committee came out strongly against state capture and what it called “the most brazen forms of buying political influence and of even directly seeking to usurp executive powers”. The SACP now wants to embark on a “mass action” campaign against the Guptas, with the assistance of Cosatu. But it is also trying to avoid pointing fingers at the Guptas’ enablers and whoever gives them inside information on state affairs. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.

Out of a 2,386-word media statement on the SACP’s central committee meeting this weekend, 1,371 words were on the issue of state capture. Clearly the matter dominated discussions at the three-day meeting, and the SACP has no intention to back down on its criticism of the Gupta family. The SACP’s second deputy general-secretary Solly Mapaila has been throwing killer punches since the ANC announced it was shutting down its internal investigation into state capture, calling this a whitewash and declaring that the SACP could not be “in an alliance with factions and corrupt syndicates in the organisation”.

There was always the chance that the central committee would decide to tone down the SACP’s approach and seek a more conciliatory position to appease its alliance partner.

Instead, the central committee came out quite explicitly that it supported Mapaila’s “forthright” statements. “The CC commended in particular our second national deputy general-secretary, Comrade Solly Mapaila, for his forthright condemnation of those, like the Gupta family, involved in the most brazen forms of buying political influence and of even directly seeking to usurp executive powers.” The SACP said it was “misguided” for those in the ANC’s leadership “who now seek to dismiss concern about corporate capture as if it were just a marginal issue”.

SACP statements can sometimes be so swathed in ideological mumbo-jumbo that it is difficult to decipher what exactly they mean. Behold the following: “It would be surprising if monopoly capital and imperialist circles were not actively engaged in seeking to shape our unfolding South African reality. The CC secretariat political report advances the thesis that imperialism’s preferred strategic agenda is less about regime change in South Africa, and rather ‘neo-liberal regime perpetuation’.”

Or try getting through these paragraphs without the springs jumping out of your ears:

To make sense of the complexities confronting the progressive movement in South Africa it is useful to distinguish two broad camps within the bourgeoisie:

  • South African (typically trans-nationalised) monopoly capital, integrated into an imperialist agenda, together with the now relatively established (and often compradorial) first generation BEE stratum; and
  • A parasitic bourgeoisie based on state capture in its most brazen forms – seeking to influence appointing and dis-appointing Cabinet ministers, capturing the boards of key parastatals, illegal expatriation of capital to secret accounts in Dubai and elsewhere, tax evasion, money laundering, and much more. All of this is based on the direct corruption of government and party political officials.”

Perhaps the idea is to confuse the enemy – the Guptas and other “parasitic bourgeoisie”. But it leaves the rest of us quite befuddled too.

This central committee statement was fascinating for another reason. It aimed to forcefully confront the issue of state capture and the interference of the Guptas in government affairs while circling the question of how the family might have access to privileged information. The SACP speaks critically of the Cabinet reshuffle in December 2015, when Nhlanhla Nene was fired as finance minister, without referring to who fired Nene.

The parasitic bourgeoisie’s rent-seeking greed clearly knows absolutely no bounds. They are quite prepared to loot our economy into a Zimbabwean-style failed economic scenario. There are suggestions that, with insider knowledge, some have deliberately ‘shorted’ the rand – that is, speculatively driven down the rand’s exchange value. They are clearly prepared to cut-and-run to Dubai leaving behind the wreckage. This activity poses a threat to the livelihoods of the great majority of South Africans, wiping out the value of pensions and other savings, amongst other things.”

How would those who cut-and-ran to Dubai have had “insider knowledge” of Nene’s firing so that they could deliberately short the rand? There is, of course, only one person with the prerogative to hire and fire Cabinet members. When asked this, SACP deputy generalsecretary Jeremy Cronin said the Guptas “boast a great deal” about their knowledge of what is going to happen. The SACP general-secretary Blade Nzimande then clarified: “We are not saying the Cabinet reshuffle was inspired by the parasitic bourgeoisie… There are those who saw it as opportunity to capture Treasury.”

In other words, they are not pointing fingers at President Jacob Zuma. But there was also some fuzziness and subtext later in the statement.

The SACP says it played a leading role from within the alliance “in exposing the Guptas (and other instruments of parasitism) and in defending Treasury without simply becoming the cheerleaders for factions of monopoly capital or their comprador BEE associates”.

It is precisely this positioning by the SACP that has also prevented monopoly capital from walking away with a clear-cut victory from the events of December when the president was compelled to replace the newly appointed Minister of Finance with a former Minister of Finance, Comrade Pravin Gordhan.”

So whose interests was the president serving when he appointed Des van Rooyen before he was “compelled” to replace him? And how would the Guptas get control of the Treasury without political assistance?

Nzimande revealed that Zuma phoned SACP and Cosatu leaders before announcing that he was firing Nene on Wednesday, 9 December. He also confirmed that alliance leaders met with Zuma two days later to discuss the “effects” of the firing. This was among the meetings that weekend that led to Zuma announcing on the Sunday night that Gordhan was the new minister of finance.

Gordhan, incidentally, addressed the SACP central committee meeting on “current global and domestic economic challenges”. The Hawks investigation against him regarding the special investigating unit operating at the South African Revenue Service when Gordhan was commissioner was apparently not discussed.

But Cronin said the SACP found it “extremely distasteful that comrades we worked with in the ’70s and ’80s are being targeted by operatives of apartheid regime, particularly the security branch”. He said it was “hurtful” that struggle activists were “targeted by dark forces”.

Regarding the closure of bank accounts of Gupta companies, Cronin said while the SACP was not a fan of the big four banks, it appeared their actions were motivated by “unusual behaviour”. He said the SACP had strong reasons to believe that the banks were under pressure of “serious sanction” being imposed on them from international and domestic financial regulatory authorities because of the type of transactions in Oakbay and other Gupta companies. Cronin said the Guptas had the option of recourse through the courts if the banks acted illegally.

But clearly the Guptas want the matter to be resolved through political intervention, not through the proper legal channels.

The SACP statement did not make it clear what the party would do next to pursue the issue of state capture. In response to questions, Nzimande said the principal way forward was mass action. “On state capture, mass action is important, not palace consultations and engagements. Those are not going to solve the problems.” The party would not give details about whether this entailed marches to Gupta companies or any place else but said it intended to rope Cosatu into this campaign.

While the SACP has been on a crusade against the Guptas and has been strongly backing Gordhan and the Treasury, Cosatu has taken exactly the opposite position. It will therefore be interesting to see whether the SACP will be able to convince its labour ally to change its position or whether they will stay the course alone.

Meanwhile the central committee mandated the SACP secretariat to seek the assistance of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) to process its complaints against the Guptas. The SACC has made resources and a legal team available to deal with the issue of state capture. Because the ANC national executive committee decided to abort the investigation led by its secretary-general Gwede Mantashe into the matter, the SACP has been forced to look elsewhere for help. It is perhaps ironic that the party will look to the churches for help when it has previously been critical of civil society organisations intervening in political issues.

No matter how much the SACP tries to duck and dive around the issue, the fact that they are pursuing the state capture matter, and the Guptas in particular, sets them on a collision course with the president. Zuma definitively rubbished the concept of state capture when he spoke at the Gauteng provincial general council last month, saying those who were raising it were “misleading people”.

Nzimande says it is not only the president but others in the ANC who were also disputing that state capture existed. He said the SACP had been under the impression they were all in agreement at last year’s alliance summit about the existence and pervasive effect of state capture.

We don’t want to come across as if we are attacking the president,” Nzimande said, explaining that the SACP would seek to discuss the matter with the ANC.

When the long-awaited bilateral meeting between the ANC and SACP eventually does take place, there are bound to be some awkward moments in the discussions. While the SACP does not want to point fingers at the president publicly, it remains to be seen whether they will do so to his face.

The SACP will effectively be asking Zuma to choose between them and the Guptas. It could prove to be a costly gamble on their part. DM

Photo: Atul Gupta, President Jacob Zuma, SACP’s Blade Nzimande (Both photos by GCIS)


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