South Africa, Politics

State Capture: After a good day in the lawfare trenches, anti-Zuma momentum gathers force

By Marianne Thamm 2 November 2016

Crowds supporting the rule of law gathered outside the North Gauteng High Court on Tuesday as President Zuma, Minister of Co-operative Governance Des van Rooyen and Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane sought to stop the release of the Public Protector’s report on State Capture while the court ultimately granted opposition parties and former MP Vytjie Mentor the right to intervene. Meanwhile, in another significant move, the fraud case against IPID head Robert McBride and two others has collapsed. All this amid growing calls for President Zuma to step down. It appears the country is nearing a tipping point. By MARIANNE THAMM.

It’s in the air. It might not quite be THE tipping point, but momentum is gathering in South Africa for President Jacob Zuma to be called to account and to step down as a legal noose tightens around his destructive presidency and those who have aided and abetted him in the alleged capture of the state, by the Gupta family in particular.

South Africans vowed to take to the streets en masse on Wednesday, heeding a call by opposition parties as well as the Save South Africa Campaign to show support for a People’s Assembly Against State Capture. The march had been planned to coincide with the court appearance of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, former SARS Deputy Commissioner Ivan Pillay and Commissioner Oupa Magashula on charges of fraud and theft at a magistrate’s court in Pretoria.

However, the week kicked off dramatically when NPA head Shaun Abrahams was forced to backtrack and withdraw the charges against the three men. As it turns out, the planets were favourably aligned as a full bench of the North Gauteng High Court sitting in Pretoria will be hearing the merits of the Public Protector’s State Capture report as South Africans, united in disgust and anger, congregate in the streets of the country’s capital.

Organisers of the Save South Africa Campaign said the march was to ensure that the Public Protector’s report is made public and that its remedial action is implemented “to the very highest levels of government”. The show of civic strength also hopes to ensure that “decent and honest prosecutors, and other public servants, are supported in the fight against corruption and not undermined and marginalised”.

A full bench of the High Court on Tuesday dismissed, with costs, Des van Rooyen’s application, saying it was not urgent. Minister of Mineral Resources, Mosebenzi Zwane, who later filed papers joining Zuma and Van Rooyen’s bid to halt the release of the report, has asked the court to review and dismiss it entirely. His application will be heard next week.

However, Zwane’s court documents provided some insight into what might be contained in the State Capture report including that the minister may have violated Section 96 of the Constitution and used his position to attend a meeting in Zurich where he met with and facilitated the sale of Glencore’s Optimum Coal Mine to the Gupta-owned Tegeta Exploration and Resources.

Madonsela said that Zwane’s actions could be in violation of the Executive Ethics Act and that his conduct compromised the credibility and integrity of his office. Zwane’s papers to the court also reveal that Madonsela found that he was instrumental in securing access to the Waterkloof Airbase, a national key-point, for a Gupta family wedding in 2013.

While legal teams were arguing in court 6E, the National Executive of the National Health, Education and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), the largest and most influential of Cosatu’s affiliates, issued an unprecedented statement saying that the leadership of President Jacob Zuma in government “is now untenable” and called on him to “take the honourable and courageous decision in the interest of the ANC and our people by resigning as the President of South Africa”.

Nehawu said its NEC was unanimous in its condemnation of “the manipulation and use of state organs” as well as factionalism within the ANC which was driven by a “parasitic bourgeoisie”. The union also called for the SABC board to be dissolved as well as for NPA head Shaun Abrahams “to be relieved of his duties because of his lack of fitness to hold office”.

The national leadership of the ANC, said the union, should take a unified decision for Deputy President Cyril Rampahosa to succeed Zuma.

We are making this call whilst being painfully conscious of the poisoned climate of factional contestation within the ANC that would make it difficult for the ANC to arrive at a broadly supported solution to the current tragic impasse. Nonetheless, as Nehawu we expect the ANC and President Jacob Zuma to rise to the occasion in the interests of the ANC and the masses of our people.”

Earlier in the day the Nelson Mandela Foundation too issued a strongly-worded statement that it was “painful to bear witness to the wheels coming off the vehicle of our state” as well as the weakening of critical institutions such as SARS, the NPA and law enforcement bodies “due to political meddling for private interests”.

The legislative, business, and public service sectors of the country are severely affected, compromising the ability of the state to serve the people. A battle now rages to keep SARS attached to the vehicle of state. What public discourse has described as ‘state capture’ by private and political interests is, we believe, a real threat to the Republic.”

Co-incidentally then, and perhaps because of those generously aligned planets, the NPA on Tuesday was forced to withdraw charges of fraud and defeating the ends of justice against IPID head Robert McBride and lead IPID investigators Innocent Khuba and Matthews Sesoko.

Khuba had earlier provided the court with an explosive affidavit fingering current Hawks head Lieutenant-General Mthandazo Ntlemeza of conspiring against Anwa Dramat and that the Hawks were hounding McBride at the behest of “political principals”.

McBride was suspended in March 2015 by Minister of Police, Nathi Nhleko, after accusations that he [McBride] had tampered with evidence relating to an investigation into the apparent illegal deportation of five Zimbabweans suspected of murder and involving former Hawks boss Anwa Dramat and Gauteng Hawks head, Major-General Shadrack Sibiya. While a first investigation had implicated both Dramat and Sibiya, a second one exonerated both men.

McBride was reinstated to his position as Director of IPID last month after the Constitutional Court had found that his suspension by Minister of Police Nathi Nhleko (who is close to President Zuma and the man who invented the fire pool) was unlawful.

The back story to the dropping of the charges against McBride on Tuesday is that Werksmans Attorneys had been appointed to conduct a probe and issue a report. The report had formed the basis of all the labour and criminal cases against McBride and others at IPID.

The modus operandi is similar to that of the SARS panels and probes into the “rogue unit” including the KPMG report as well as the Sikhakhane and Kroon Committee findings in which those implicated are not provided with an opportunity of the right to reply.

In McBride’s case an attorney who was part of the probe was due to testify as a witness for the state but refused. The attorney’s actions strangely mirror those of SARS legal adviser, David Maphakela, in the Symington Memorandum matter and who refused on “ethical” grounds to be involved in the prosecution of Gordhan.

McBride’s is a hugely significant victory that will rattle and have ramifications further down and up the feeding chain. McBride’s case was required in order to prop up a case against Dramat.

Dramat was worked out of the system as he would have protected former KZN Hawks Head Johan Booysen who was investigating politically connected individuals including Thoshan Panday who has been linked to President Zuma’s son Edward.

General Shadrack Sibiya was shafted because of his handling of a kidnapping case and another with regard to tobacco smuggling. All these cases were too weak to stand on their own.

The snake’s tail loops back to SARS in this case and the alleged “rogue unit” allegations as it was Former Deputy Commissioner Ivan Pillay who made a public statement in 2014 that President Zuma would have to pay tax, just like everyone else. The High Risk Investigative Unit was, before it was discredited and disbanded, investigating several highly sensitive projects involving politicians.

This week Nhleko revealed that the Ministry of Police had wasted R17-million in public funds in legal fees hounding the likes of Booysen, McBride and Sibiya.

There have been many, many casualties on the road to Zuma’s and South Africa’s ruin. Many of these have been dedicated and hard-working civil servants, those the Save South Africa campaign has asked South Africans to support and ensure that they are not undermined in their fight against corruption.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation called on the ANC to “take the steps necessary to ensure that the vehicle of state be protected and placed in safe and capable hands. And we join the call for a national convention of stakeholders to begin to re-imagine South Africa’s future beyond the unsustainable stresses of the moment”.

On Tuesday night embattled ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe issued his strongest statement so far saying that while the ANC could not recall President Zuma the call by many for him to step down should “appeal to his conscience”. DM

Photo: South Africa’sPresident Jacob Zuma reacts during the opening ceremony of the 10th Boao Forum for Asian Annual Conference in Boao town, Hainan province, April 15, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Lee

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