South Africa

Days of Zondo

Don’t ‘Over-Zumanise’ State Capture; it’s much deeper – Mcebisi Jonas

South Africa should not ‘Over-Zumanise’ the process of State Capture, former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas told the Zondo commission of inquiry into State Capture on Friday.

It is bigger, it is structural, it is systemic,” said Mcebisi Jonas as he finalised his evidence before the commission ahead of being cross-examined by lawyers for Duduzane Zuma and Fana Hlongwane.

Jonas was the commission’s very first witness last year. He testified then that Duduzane Zuma (former president Jacob Zuma’s son and business partner of the Gupta family) and Hlongwane (an arms dealer and senior ANC cadre) facilitated the meeting with a Gupta brother who offered the deputy a promotion to finance minister in return for executing projects for the capture family and a bribe of R600-million.

Advocate Piet Louw for Duduzane Zuma began the first serious cross-examination by the alleged captor faction. He questioned the quality of a statement by Jonas to former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela; asked why Jonas had not laid charges straight after the alleged bribe meeting in September 2015; and also queried why Jonas left his protectors and his own state car at the Hyatt hotel in Rosebank. He was driven to the Gupta meeting by Duduzane Zuma. Jonas said he did not trust the police, the Hawks or the state intelligence structures as they were all compromised.

Ahead of this, Jonas analysed State Capture in an addendum to his earlier evidence.

We have an over-personalised political system. We hardly talk about structural issues. The danger of (investigating) the process of State Capture (is that) we over-Zumanise it,” said Jonas.

The former deputy minister also gave explosive evidence about how dangerous it became at the Treasury prior to his axing with former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan by Zuma in March 2017.

He said that the Treasury was under constant threat and attack. This was because of the push for them to sign off a nuclear deal which the former president was desperate to get inked before his term was due to end a year later. “We were essentially stalling or slowing down the pace of destruction. It helped to a certain extent,” said Jonas. The stalling and defiance campaign was not without risks.

Some of us were even worried for our lives. It was very serious in the way it was turning out to be. There were investigations of ministers and this and that,” said Jonas.

He revealed that there was a concerted effort to move the Budget Office out of the Treasury into the Presidency. The Budget Office sets spending by the state – it is a powerful but little-liked office across government.

There was a huge debate (in Cabinet) that said ‘take away the Budget Office from Treasury to the Presidency’. At the core of that was a need to place it where there is less regulation. If you manage the Budget, this thing of State Capture becomes very easy. It happened over an extended period of time before I got fired.

Before we (he and Gordhan) attended any meeting of government, we thought very hard what was likely to come out – it usually centred around nuclear (the R1-trillion nuclear deal Zuma wanted to ram through with then Energy Minister David Mahlobo). There was a time when we felt like we were ostracised and it was almost palpable. We were ostracised in a palpable manner,” said Jonas. DM


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