South Africa

Analysis: The crumbling edifice, brought to you by President Jacob Zuma

By Marianne Thamm 18 September 2017

The publication by journalist and broadcaster Redi Tlhabi of the life story of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo, or Khwezi as she became known, arrives as a full stop, perhaps even a tombstone, to the brutal and destructive decade-long Zuma presidency. Three years after Zuma was acquitted of raping Kuzwayo, he was sworn in as the country’s fourth democratic president. The edifice of the Office of the President of the Republic of South Africa has been deeply tarnished by Zuma. So too the reputations of global private sector companies that have aided and abetted the estimated plunder of R100-billion from the state with Zuma, his supporters and cronies at its helm. By MARIANNE THAMM.

To qualify as an edifice, a structure, whether solid or organic in nature, must be “important” and “long-standing”. In that sense then the African National Congress is such an edifice.

At 105 it is the oldest of a set of institutions that have come to be associated with the extraordinary end-times of the Presidency of Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma currently unfolding on a front or home page near you.

Worldwide management consulting firm McKinsey and Company has been around since 1926, global software giant SAP was established in 1972, KPMG in 1987 and Bell Pottinger in 1998. The Gupta family made South Africa their home in 1993.

While not exactly an “important” – in the positive sense of the word – or long- standing entity, UK “public relations” firm Bell Pottinger was the first to crumble completely for dirtying its hands in South Africa’s treacherous political waters.

SAP’s entire South African executive was placed on “administrative leave” after the #GuptaLeaks revealed the company arranged kickbacks for a Gupta-linked company, CAD House, in exchange for securing tenders for SAP with Transnet.

McKinsey and Company is being charged with knowingly facilitating the diversion of funds from Eskom to Gupta-linked company in order secure a $78-million to advise Eskom.

And then there is KPMG which, apart from enabling the theft of R30-million of taxpayers’ funds to bankroll the Gupta family’s Sun City wedding, and providing Gupa-linked companies with clean audits for over a decade, has wreaked the most devastating systematic damage to the South African state by acting, in part, as a blunt instrument for the purging of the entire SARS executive on spurious charges that a covert “rogue unit” had been set up to spy on Jacob Zuma and other politicians.

KPMG on Friday retracted the findings of its R23-million report (paid for by South African taxpayers) and which made recommendations, directed by SARS’ own legal firm, Mashiane Moodley and Monama, that former commissioners Pravin Gordhan and Ivan Pillay be charged for the establishment of this covert unit. KMPG has offered to repay the R23-million to SARS and to donate a further R40-million to charities.

Eight top KPMG South Africa executives, including CEO Trevor Hoole, resigned on Friday because of the firm’s work for the Gupta family as well as its role in the SARS investigation.

On Monday SARS Comissioner Tom Moyane came out to battle saying SARS was considering taking legal action against KPMG for “aberrant and unehtical behavoiur” in issuing its public statement on Friday, claiming that the auditing firm had breached its contractual obligations to SARS. Moyane, confusingly, told the media that SARS considered the findings as solid while KPMG itself has denounced these findings.

In October 2015 the KPMG report was leaked to the Sunday Times which in turn published a series of damning articles about the “rogue unit”. The Sunday Times became complicit in a black ops campaign aimed at capturing SARS and was forced later to apologise to Gordhan, Pillay, group executive Johann van Loggerenberg and others who were all purged from the key institution.

At the time, and peculiarly in retrospect considering Moyane’s statement on Monday, SARS made no attempt at the time to uncover who had leaked the draft KPMG investigation to the Sunday Times. He confirmed that at the time SARS had considered the report, authored by KPMG auditor Johan van der Walt, to be final.

Ironically and somewhat symbolically, on Sunday, two days after KPMG’s startling apology, the building in Rosebank, Johannesburg that once housed the Sunday Times (as well as other former Times Media, now Tiso Blackstar, titles) was imploded, obliterated, razed, its real edifice rendered dust by the dynamite.

The ramifications of KPMG withdrawing its report are far-reaching, still unfolding and a turning-point in understanding the multitude of layers involved in the massive web of state capture and how politics and business intersected to accomplish this.

Should KPMG and SARS face a stand-off in court, as Moyane suggested on Monday, none will come off the better and both edifices will begin to buckle under the intense legal scrutiny of legal cross-examination.

The unpicking of how this unholy alliance developed and thrived will no doubt form part of future studies of 21st Century global corporate and political criminal collusion.

It is important to bear in mind that British American Tobacco (BAT), another global multinational, has also been implicated in the original attack on SARS. It was Pillay and the high risk investigative unit under Van Loggerenberg that were investigating the tobacco industry, its tax obligations, as well as the links to prominent politicians and underworld figures in this realm. It was attorney Belinda Walter who lobbed the first handgrenade into SARS and it was Pillay who commissioned first the Kanyane and the the Sikhakhane reports that were used by KPMG in its final report.

The SARS edifice under Commissioner Tom Moyane appears to be crumbling in spite of the fight back. Whether it can hold depends on how much protection he enjoys.

There is always the law and Gordhan, Pillay, Van Loggerenberg and others are still considering their legal options in relation to KPMG’s startling adimission.

The edifice of the Office of the President of the Republic of South Africa is only 23 years old and no one has done more to weaken and damage it than Jacob Zuma, enabled by the current crop of ANC leaders who have aided and abetted him in undermining and criminalising institutions of the democratic state.

Zuma has been found to have violated his oath of office by the Constitutional Court, and has spent millions on legal fees dodging the reinstatement of 783 charges of fraud and racketeering. He is plagued by so many scandals, citizens have trouble keeping up.

To date, however, it is the edifice of the 105-year-old ANC that has suffered the most in the Zuma’s 10 years in power. It is a shell of its former self (or parts of its former self) and barely resembles the party of its illustrious leaders who were globally revered. Jacob Zuma and the current crop of ANC leaders have reduced it to just another predatory post-liberation political party devoid of scruple or ethics and which uses violence to settle scores.

Redi Tlhabi’s biography of Fezekile Kuzwayo – the account of how she was hounded by the ANC itself after charging Zuma with rape – appears at a critical time in the party’s political history. It will stand as a testimony of all that went wrong and how the edifice of the party began to crumble with the arrival, full throttle, of Zuptanomics. This sorry chapter, from which it will take South Africa years to recover, if ever, will take a new turn in December when the governing party goes to its elective conference.

The thing about an edifice is that it takes the right amount of pressure at the right time and at a right angle for the entire structure to come tumbling down.

Around 17:00 on Thursday 31 May, 2001 on the 40th anniversary of the old Republic Day, as it was celebrated back in apartheid South Africa, a monument to former Prime Minister JG Strijdom which had stood for 29 years in central Pretoria came crashing down.

A colossal bronze head of Strijdom, balanced on a pedestal and shielded by a concrete dome, was swallowed by the earth as it tumbled through a fissure in the concrete and into a gloomy parking lot below.

It was a serendipitous event, the collapse, occurring as it did on 31 May.

Those who erected the monument believed it would be an eternal tribute to Strijdom and a reminder of the edifice of the apartheid state which appeared inviolate between 1948 and 1994. After almost 30 years of lording it in a public square, chunks of concrete peeled off from the dome of the Strijdom monument and a short while later the entire edifice, bust, pedestal and all, disappeared from public view forever.

Something, somewhere was worn out,” the Pretoria director of city planning said at the time.

Ultimately it was “structural fatigue” that crushed the monument to the mighty “Lion of the North”, as Strijdom was known.

At present, the ANC and South Africa’s young democracy are buckling under the structural fatigue caused by the endemic corruption that has flourished under Jacob Zuma. One by one, edifices are imploding. Who, and What, in the end, will be left standing? DM

A crumbling wall photo by John Schneider via Flickr.

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