Opinionista Brij Maharaj 2 December 2018

State Capture or Treason and Sabotage?

We have been observers of a silent coup d’état that happened while we slept for 10 years.

On 24 May 2014, Jacob Zuma took the following oath of high office:

“In the presence of everyone assembled here, and in full realisation of the high calling I assume as President of the Republic of South Africa, I, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma swear that I will be faithful to the Republic of South Africa, and will obey, observe, uphold and maintain the Constitution and all other law of the Republic; and I solemnly and sincerely promise that I will always: promote all that will advance the Republic, and oppose all that may harm it; protect and promote the rights of all South Africans; discharge my duties with all my strength and talents to the best of my knowledge and ability and true to the dictates of my conscience; do justice to all; devote myself to the well-being of the Republic and all of its people…”.

Later, when he was swearing in President Ramaphosa’s Cabinet, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng explained that the oath was an “allegiance to the Republic and obedience to the Constitution … a formal contract with the people of South Africa … to become a servant of South Africa … And may the oath or the affirmation judge most brutally any of us who is here for a show or any of us who will betray the constitutional aspirations of the people of South Africa after having an oath or affirmation administered to him or her”.

It is now common cause, with compelling evidence from the leaked Gupta emails; public protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report; “Betrayal of the Promise: How South Africa is being stolen”, a research report by academics; the South African Council of Churches’ Unburdening Panel Report, and outstanding investigative journalism, that Zuma and many in his Cabinet did not uphold their oath of high office obey and defend the Constitution and protect all South Africans.

In June 2017, Mpumelelo Mkhabela from the University of Pretoria argued that “Zuma’s concept of high calling was to sell the state to foreigners … He doesn’t obey, uphold or maintain the Constitution. He is faithful only to the Guptas. He obeys, observes and maintains their instructions … He protects and promotes the rights of Guptas at the expense of South Africans. He has effected a caste system in South Africa, giving the Guptas preferential treatment in everything that is within his control.”

Retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke was blunt in his criticism of the Zuma regime:

We went to sleep for 10 years and institutions were hollowed out. We all lost the guts to tell a bumbling fool who was sitting out there, acting as a president, [to tell him that] he is a fool, [to] tell him he’s incapable of doing the high ideals of our liberation struggle. As we failed to do that, we actually allowed so much devastation and poor people became poorer.”

Ivor Chipkin and Mark Swilling argued that the “Zuma–Gupta political project turned against the Constitution, the law and South Africa’s democratic processes and institutions … the leaked emails provide details of Gupta associates’ involvement in the day-to-day administration of key government departments – writing speeches, commenting on proposals, suggesting regulations. That is, they are witness to the evolving, silent coup d’état that was taking place”.

This silent coup d’état occurred, according to former minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi in his explosive testimony at the Zondo Commission, during a “season of madness” when paralysed NEC members in the ANC lost their tongues, while Zuma “auctioned executive authority” to the Guptas. He believed that Zuma had sanctioned the controversial Gupta-chartered civilian Jet Airways plane at the Waterkloof Military Air Force Base in Pretoria in April 2013.

He referred to the mysterious grip of the Guptas over Zuma, who “were like a python wrapped around him”. According to Ramatlhodi:

An old comrade Jabu Ngwenya once told me that the Guptas had a full-time secretary at their Saxonwold home whose duty was to handle the president’s diary. This made it possible for the Guptas to interrupt his official diary in the Presidency to summon him. And he would come running.”

Ramatlhodi explained that the Guptas were demonstrating their power and exerted similar authority over most government ministers and director-generals and could summon them at will to their house:

They had the power to summon Zuma to their home… and they would boast about it. Now, that is also a power to summon a minister who is wet behind their ears and will in effect run around to the Guptas… they called you to their home, not a hotel.”

Minister Ramatlhodi was “promoted”, and Gordhan and Nene were demoted by Zuma because they refused to comply with the crooked requests of the Guptas. When Zuma replaced Nene with Des van Rooyen as Minister of Finance in December 2015 the rand tanked to R15 to the US dollar. A Daily Maverick editorial described this as “an act of wilful sabotage, an act that will have catastrophic effects for everyone, but mostly the poor. It is the act of a leader who despises those he leads, a leader who has no respect for his office, a leader who is there to serve a closed network of friends, advisers, backers and loyalists. It is an act … that hews so close to treason that it becomes difficult to give it another name”.

The modus operandi of the Guptas was, through their grip on Zuma, to plunder the SoEs’ of billions by influencing the appointment of pliable deployees at ministerial, board and director-general levels. There was criminal mismanagement of SoEs – Eskom, SAA, Prasa, Transnet, Denel – and consequently, all are in dire financial straits.

Since 29 November 2018, South Africans are once again experiencing the inconvenience associated with load shedding by Eskom. The multiplier effects of load shedding on the economy run into hundreds of billions of rand, extending and extenuating the effects of the economic recession. The Gupta shenanigans with Tegeta and Glencore coal mines are well known. On 16 November 2018, National Treasury published Fundudzi Forensic Specialist’s final investigation report which … “questioned whether load shedding at the power utility may have been sabotage”. This sabotage was extended to destroy critical state institutions like SARS, the Hawks, and the NPA.

The word treason is derived from the old French word “traison” or the modern version “trahison” which means “a handing over, delivery, surrender”. Professor Raymond Suttner has argued that to cede state power “to non-state entities or individuals who do not bear state responsibilities is to undermine the functioning of the state and that is surely treason”.

According to Professor Piet Naudé from the University of Stellenbosch Business School, “When moral incoherence and systemic corruption set in… those in power commit moral treason against the nation”.

State Capture undermines the sovereignty of the state, subverts law and order, and sabotages the economy. There is compelling evidence that those implicated in the State Capture project in South Africa are guilty of treason and sabotage and must pay the ultimate penalty. DM

Brij Maharaj is a geography professor at UKZN. He writes in his personal capacity.

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