ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe, who is also the Minerals Resources Minister, revealed on Tuesday how corruption and the decision to recall its former president Jacob Zuma had cleaved the governing party. He said that President Cyril Ramaphosa will provide the ANC’s primary evidence on State Capture to the commission which has been sitting in Johannesburg since August 2018.
Mantashe’s testimony before the commission showed how his attitude to the Gupta family network had radically altered. He had started from a position of defending criticism of the family as racial profiling to taking a far more activist position against State Capture.
Mantashe said that two Cabinet reshuffles (by former President Jacob Zuma) in pursuance of State Capture had “caused a lot of unhappiness” in the ANC. The two were the axing of former minister Finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in December 2015 and the recall of then Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan from London in March 2017, ahead of him being fired hours later, said Mantashe.
Mantashe said that Ramaphosa will tell all about how divided the ANC was about State Capture, in general, and on the party’s decision to recall Zuma, in particular.
“It’s like when a duck swims, (it all looks calm) but you don’t see the (mad) paddling under the water. The President will be able to talk to that (duck),” said Mantashe.
The party’s powerful chairperson said that the party had started worrying about State Capture in his second term as secretary-general, which started in 2012.
“This issue of State Capture had been a major issue of the ANC for a long time. (In the June/July 2017 diagnostic report) we noted the influence of the Gupta family among senior members of the ANC,” said Mantashe, who has swapped positions in the ANC and remains a part of its powerful Top Six group of officials. He said a careful reading of his reports from 2014 reflected a narrative of concern about the family’s growing sway over Zuma and other politicians.
The Guptas came to South Africa in the 1990s and cultivated political contacts. They are close business partners of Zuma’s son Duduzane whom they used to inveigle a much larger set of contacts.
In 2013, Mantashe became the first senior official of the ANC to speak out publicly about the rising influence of the Gupta family when he objected publicly to their landing a private jet at the Waterkloof military airport to take a planeload of family and friends from India to the family’s Bollywood styled wedding at Sun City. Until this point, Mantashe had defended the Guptas and accused critics of racial profiling.
In 2011, the Mail&Guardian reported:
“African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Gwede Mantashe on Tuesday dismissed criticism of the Gupta family’s political influence as ‘racial prejudice’.
“Why is it an issue when an Indian company partners with other beneficiaries of BEE? … That is where the racial prejudice is…,” the Mail&Guardian quoted him as saying, adding, “Mantashe said criticism of the Gupta brothers’ business empire and their partnerships with black business people were based on racism.”
A few years later, Mantashe came out swinging for Duduzane’s right to go into business with whomsoever he wanted. In repeated interviews, Mantashe said a distinction had to be made between the son and the father. But in various testimonies before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry, Duduzane’s role is central to the narratives of state capture.
Mantashe told the Citizen at the time that.
“The notion that families of politicians are proxies of politically connected individuals… is dangerous in that if you are a politician and you have children, you send them to school and they become professionals, they must not work until you stop being active in politics. It can’t work that way.”
In relation to ANC meetings with three banks – ABSA, FirstRand and Standard – to query why they had closed the Gupta family’s banking facilities, Mantashe denied that this amounted to political pressure. He said the meetings had amounted to lectures on how bank account closures worked. For the first time, Mantashe revealed just how critical the party’s various structures had been of the account closures. The party’s various committees had warned that the banks’ action had smacked of collusion because they acted around the same time; that the power to close accounts posed a threat and that this could be used to resist transformation.
In addition, the ANC had raised concerns about the international financial regulatory requirements for banks to mark certain accounts as belonging to “politically exposed persons”.
Mantashe also said that some in the ANC had raised concern that the action by the banks amounted to them “exercising the power of white monopoly capital (WMC) against black people”.
In the end, Mantashe told the commission of inquiry that the party had decided not to interfere in the banks’ decision and that the party had agreed that an independent body needed to probe the various allegations of State Capture that were being aired in the media and brought to the party.
This independent body is now the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture. DM
"We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings." ~ Ursula Le Guin