“It’s costly to take a stand,” the Reverend Frank Chikane told the Zondo Commission on Tuesday.
He was referring to the apparent willingness of government employees to go along with state capture-enabling activities, even if they were aware that misconduct was afoot.
“If you did take a stand at that point, like some of us did, you paid dearly,” Chikane said.
Chikane told of how he’d had a private-sector job lined up, not specifying the business or industry in question. He said that after he spoke out against state capture, individuals within government saw to it that this job opportunity disappeared.
“A delegation was sent to London [where Chikane’s future employer was headquartered] to say if they give [Chikane] a job their business will disappear,” Chikane testified.
“The company was approached in December and by January I didn’t have a job.”
Chikane’s major purpose in appearing before the Zondo Commission was to corroborate evidence previously given by former Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) head Themba Maseko. Maseko told the inquiry he was removed from his position as government communications boss after refusing to comply with former president Jacob Zuma’s wish that he assist the Gupta family with the launch of their newspaper.
Chikane explained that, as a result of his own extensive history in the South African public service, he frequently acted as a confidante to Maseko. The veteran clergyman said Maseko confided in him directly after being approached by the Guptas in 2010.
“He had been asked to go and meet the Guptas and he was worried about the implications. At that stage I think there were already indications that there were problems,” Chikane said.
“He came to ask me what he should do because the President asked him to meet the Guptas.”
Chikane advised Maseko that he could not refuse “unless there is prima facie evidence” of wrongdoing.
“When he came back later, he said: ‘Well, now I’ve been there and they are asking me to do something that is irregular in terms of my portfolio’,” Chikane recalled.
“I said: ‘Now you have the right to say no’.”
Chikane said Maseko subsequently informed him of an ultimatum he’d been given: assist the Guptas or lose his job.
“Indeed, by Thursday that week [Maseko] called me and said, ‘I’m no longer DG of GCIS’,” said Chikane.
“At that point I said: ‘Well, Mr Maseko, we now have enough evidence. You are living evidence of this corrupt activity’.”
Chikane’s evidence in this regard to the Zondo Commission further contradicts former president Zuma’s testimony to the inquiry in July. Zuma denied putting any pressure on Maseko to assist the Guptas and denied any involvement in Maseko’s removal from his post.
Chikane prepared an affidavit for the Hawks in this regard in November 2017, but, to his evident frustration, no action was taken by the authorities.
“It went dead. Nothing happened afterwards,” he told the commission.
Chikane believes, in retrospect, that the manner in which the Gupta family arrived in South Africa in the mid-1990s and proceeded to establish connections with exactly the right people was no accident, but part of a wider intelligence operation.
“I am now convinced that the Gupta family was not an accident of history,” he said. The effort to reach out to specific individuals within the ruling party “suggests there was a more intelligent operation [underway] to create relationships or corrupt them in preparation for a larger project to capture the state”.
South Africa’s intelligence agencies, Chikane added, must have been aware.
Commission chair Judge Raymond Zondo took advantage of his witness’s long history within the liberation struggle and the ANC to ask him a question over which the judge has clearly been musing for some time.
How can it be, asked Zondo, that people who played such a heroic role in the anti-apartheid movement “have got themselves into serious matters of crime, corruption and doing things that are very much contrary to serving the people for whom they were prepared to sacrifice so much before”?
Chikane replied: “Not everyone who was in the struggle was really about justice”. DM
The French lost more soldiers in battle in the American Revolution than the Americans did.
Daily Maverick © All rights reserved