South Africa

South Africa

Corrupting the country’s soul, Zupta style: South Africa, you are on your own

Who you gonna call? The Public Protector? Nah, she tripped up on a typo while trying to capture the Reserve Bank. Shaun Abrahams? Thieves have just broken into the NPA head offices and he hasn’t raised an ample eyebrow or even made a public peep. The Hawks? They’re still circling the outer tundra of inertia and indifference. SAPS? They’re too busy investigating inside jobs at OR Tambo. The Minister of Police? He’s tweeting. We’re on our own, compatriots. By MARIANNE THAMM.

It was inevitable that it would get to this point. The great unravelling, the lacuna, the interregnum between one epoch and the next. Now is the time that all the President’s men and women – those shifted into place since 2009 (and before) and who have survived and still lurk in the shadows – prepare to launch their final offensive to protect Jacob Zuma.

The parallel ship of state with its lawless and toxic crew of fools, fiends, thieves, counterrevolutionaries, vagabonds, Twitter bots and kamikaze Zuma loyalists has set sail, borne on an ill-wind of grand corruption, plundering and no consequence.

The series of break-ins at some of the country’s key institutions in the criminal justice system including the offices of the Chief Justice, the Hawks, the NPA (an inside job, says the NPA), the State Security Agency as well as lobby group the Helen Suzman Foundation, has hardly registered as a crisis for the government.

There has been no categorical condemnatory public statement from the Commissioner of Police, the Head of the Hawks, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Police, the President or the ANC itself.

In the case of the break-in at the Offices of the Chief Justice, 15 computers with the private information of the country’s judges were stolen. There has been one arrest but the case has been postponed in court several times.

Meanwhile Police Portfolio Committee Chairperson, Francois Beukman, has undertaken to summon Acting Hawks Head, Yolisa Matakata, to provide a briefing on the raid on the NPA offices. The Democratic Alliance has written to Beukman to request that Minister of Police, Fikile Mbalula, also be summoned to inform Parliament “of his intended action as Executive Authority of the Police portfolio to this unprecedented string of break-ins”.

Thieves in the NPA computer heist, EWN reported, specifically targeted the offices of prosecutors dealing with the case involving Crimes Against the State Unit head, Brigadier Nyameka Xaba. Xaba, under former Hawks head Mthandazo Ntlemeza, was implicated in the Vlok Symington hostage drama and was the lead attack dog in the Hawks investigation into Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. IPID is also currently investigating Xaba.

In any other constitutional democracy this disturbing series of high-profile break-ins at key security institutions – including the State Security Offices in Pretoria in December 2015, when R17-million in foreign currency was carted off – would be regarded as an attack on the state.

The difference in our case is that this, in all likelihood IS an attack BY the state, well at least elements of a shadow or parallel state to the democratic state.

Which is why the Democratic Alliance’s Shadow Ministers of Police and Justice and Constitutional Development, Zakhele Mbhele, and Advocate Glynnis Breytenbach demonstrated outside the NPA’s headquarters in Pretoria on Tuesday morning.

Breytenbach and Mbhele have called on Mbalula and Abrahams to brief South Africans on the “progress, or lack thereof, in investigating the high-profile criminal charges which the DA has laid over the past 10 months, including 9 cases which relate to the Gupta family; and the progress in making arrests for the various high-level break-ins which have occurred in recent months, including the break-in at Parliament’s Marks Building where laptops of journalists were stolen and the latest break-in at the Gauteng North Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) offices two nights ago”.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane also wrote to President Zuma on Tuesday calling on him to “immediately” suspend Abrahams pending an inquiry into his fitness to hold office.

Since his appointment in 2015, Abrahams has overseen the complete politicisation of the National Prosecuting Authority, whereby an entrenched culture of selective prosecution has seen looting and theft of public money on a scale never seen before. Instead of ensuring the law applies equally to everyone, Abrahams has safeguarded certain individuals from prosecution and from facing the full might of the law. His complete silence and lack of action regarding clear acts of grand corruption and state capture by a small political elite – spearheaded by the Guptas – shows he is both unfit and unable to hold the office of NDPP,” said Maimane.

Little wonder there is a general sense that all those who for years have managed to duck and dive the coils of justice are now hiding out hoping we won’t notice that they are, in essence, empty, beholden suits.

In March this year President Zuma announced that he would not be suspending Abrahams, North Gauteng Director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Sibongile Mzinyathi and acting head of the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit Dr Torie Pretorius pending an outcome into an enquiry into their fitness to hold office. This after the HSF and Freedom Under Law had raised concerns with regard to the manner in which Gordhan had been relentlessly pursued, only for the charges to be dropped by Abrahams in October 2016.

Gareth Newham, head of the Institute of Security Studies governance, crime and justice division, told Daily Maverick that there is a perception, also held by senior individuals in the criminal justice system, that the ongoing deterioration of agencies such as SAPS, the Hawks and the NPA “is the consequence of a deliberate strategy to prevent accountability for grand corruption linked to the President”.

Newham said there is more than enough evidence implicating the Guptas, the President’s son Duduzane Zuma and a raft of Cabinet ministers including Faith Muthambi and Mosebenzi Zwane in serious crimes, yet there was no indication that the Hawks or NPA were serious about investigating or prosecuting the alleged perpetrators.

On Tuesday the NPA confirmed that the Specialised Commercial Crime Unit had been handed 60 files by the Hawks with regard to allegedly corrupt Prasa contracts worth billions.

Prosecutors were directed to furnish the head of [the] SCCU with a report by the end of July on whether the investigation is complete and a decision if so,” NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku told investigative journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh.

On 13 February this year Popo Molefe, then Chair of the Prasa board and who was ousted and then reinstated in May after a court victory, wrote to then Hawks head, Lieutenant-General Mthandazo Ntlemeza, complaining that the DPCI had done “nothing tangible” and that the Hawks had “failed reasonably to comply with its constitutional and statutory obligations to investigate matters and bring the investigations to a finality”.

That was, of course, #BGL (Before the #GuptaLeaks), which has subsequently confirmed or at least joined the multiple dots to reveal the biggest inside job ever in the history of democratic South Africa.

Newham said it is not surprising that the Hawks and the NPA were phantom institutions as “appointing and protecting dishonest and incompetent people such as but not limited to Mdluli, Ntlemeza, Phiyega, Jiba, Mwrebi to these and other agencies such as SARS has been a defining feature of the Zuma presidency”.

This week the Public Service Commission undertook to investigate a complaint by the DA about the delay in finalising former Crime Intelligence head Mdluli’s six-year suspension (on full pay).

Newham said that Mdluli’s was “a particularly astonishing case. There is a mountain of hard evidence against him. When his second-in-command Maj-General Solly Lazarus was fired from the SAPS, the chair of his disciplinary hearing asked why Mdluli was not standing beside him. This was because the evidence that resulted in his dismissal firmly immediately implicated Mdluli in wrongdoing. Despite this former Police Minister not only reportedly halted all investigations and disciplinary proceedings against him but tried to grant him additional resources and areas of responsibility as head of SAPS Crime Intelligence.”

Newham added that if it had not been for the court’s finding that there was enough evidence to support his suspension and disciplinary hearing, “he may very well have been appointed as SAPS National Commissioner. Many other police officials have been fired for far less. It has been reported that he receives various perks of his post, has been flown business class on police budget, and has been linked to the SSA. Why is Mdluli being protected, what is he doing and for whom? This needs to be thoroughly investigated. Also look at the allegations against the current acting head of Crime Intelligence, Maj-General Makushane, reportedly a Mdluli ally. Why has he been appointed if there is a concern with the public credibility and effectiveness of the SAPS?”

Mdluli as well as President Zuma’s key allies, former acting head of the NPA Advocate Nomgcobo Jiba and director of specialised commercial crimes, Advocate Lawrence Mwrebi (who were both struck off the Roll of Advocates in September 2016 after an application by the General Bar Council) still feature in this long-running drama.

In 2007 Jiba was suspended from the NPA while facing charges of dishonesty after abusing her powers in an attempt to undermine an investigation into the disgraced late police commissioner Jackie Selebi. She was also a key driver of the investigation and arrest of Gerrie Nel in 2008. Nel was prosecuting Selebi.

Jiba’s husband, Booker Nhantsi, had had his 2005 record expunged by President Jacob Zuma in 2010. Nhantsi, a lawyer, had been been found guilty of stealing R195,000 from a trust fund.

Jiba later made a triumphant return as the acting NDPP.

Jiba and Mwrebi both challenged the September 2016 decision to strike them from the Roll of Advocates and are currently on “special leave”. Daily Maverick has reliably learnt that Jiba is still very much in the loop and is kept abreast of what is being investigated by whom at the NPA.

Jiba, Mwrebi and Mdluli played an important role in revealing that SAPS had bugged the offices of then Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy before Jacob Zuma was elected to the highest office of the land. Those tapes eventually led to the withdrawal of 783 corruption and racketeering charges against Zuma.

But that was then, this is now.

It is thanks to the efforts of opposition political parties, the DA and the EFF, many civil society organisations including Corruption Watch, CASAC, FUL, HSF, Accountability Now, OUTA, Section 27, R2K, the South African Council of Churches as well as academics and not forgetting media and the #GuptaLeaks, that South Africans have been able to excavate the extent of the plunder and corruption on Zuma’s watch to the benefit of the Gupta family and various other proxies.

Also in this bloody battle, the courts have proved a reliable ally of the South African people.

The #GuptaLeaks emails have revealed the audacity and the scale of corruption that has corroded the body politic and that will take decades to repair.

The only glimmer at the end of the tunnel the country currently finds itself in is that there are good investigators and prosecutors, decent, honest South Africans in the Hawks, the SAPS and the NPA who have not been captured and bought. That is why thieves (on behalf of their masters) need the cloak of criminality to try to undermine them. DM

Photo: Mangaung, Free State, South Africa, 20 December 2012. President Zuma gave the closing address at the ANC’s Mangaung conference Friday. Photo Greg Nicolson/NewsFire