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The thieves of South Africa aren’t sleeping so well anymore


The wheels have started to turn. It may not be as big as we want, yet, but something shifted in the national life last week. The thieves that have looted South Africa into recession and state-owned companies into bankruptcy are having a few sleepless nights. As they should! This may just convince some investors we are worth a chance.

It all started with former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede being raided by the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority in Durban. We have not seen any raids by that office in a long while. Interesting stuff was unearthed from one of the luxury houses raided at uMhlanga.

Among other things, R415,000 cash was found, according to Natasha Kara, the provincial spokesperson for the NPA, as told to Durban’s Daily News. The paper added that motor vehicles including a Lamborghini, two Porsches, two Jaguars, a Mercedes Benz GTS, a Land Rover and an Audi were found in one of the properties.

Vehicles fast enough for a thief!

But that’s not all the property recovered from this humble servant of the people. In total, assets worth about R50-million were recovered from Gumede, who as mayor of the city that includes Durban, earned R1.35-million in annual salary.

Said Kara:

All properties belonging to the accused in various areas, including Zimbali, uMhlanga, eManzimtoti, Chatsworth and Inanda were seized. A number of other vehicles like VW Polos and Toyotas were also found on the properties.”

Gumede is one of numerous municipal councillors and officials accused of corruption and money laundering in a waste removal tender worth more than R230-million.

These assets, which the state contends are the proceeds of crime, will be preserved in the care of the Asset Forfeiture Unit until the state is confident it will secure her conviction in the criminal matter before disposing of them, in a public sale.

The Asset Forfeiture Unit, as well as the NPA, have been missing in action for a very long time while South Africa was being stolen in broad daylight by government officials and their friends masquerading as business people.

The less said about the South African Police Service and its Hawks priority crimes unit, the better. They still have to find their way out of the pockets of the thieving businesspeople and their political masters.

The raids on Gumede’s properties follow her being charged with the crimes earlier this year — and later fired as mayor by the ANC.

She told television news channel ENCA that the raids were “painful”.

Gumede is definitely not the only one having “painful” days recently.

Her ally Jacob Zuma will this week finally answer to the charges of corruption that he has done everything in his power to avoid ever answering to. Among others, when he was president, Zuma gifted Mxolisi Nxasana, then the national director of public prosecutions, R17-million to walk away from his job.

Zuma had been fearful that Nxasana, whom he had handpicked for the job only three years earlier, would finally perform the job of prosecuting criminals. When Nxasana seemed reluctant to confirm he would not prosecute the president, the president abused his powers and gave Nxasana a golden handshake to walk away, thereby breaking the law. Again.

Firing Nxasana was one of Zuma’s last desperate acts to avoid the courts.

Together with the ANC, the ruling political party that still claims to be fighting corruption, Zuma killed off the Scorpions in 2008, then a unit answerable only to the national director of public prosecutions. The Scorpions’ crime was to do the job for which it was established.

In 2005 Zuma’s “financial adviser” Schabir Shaik had just been convicted and jailed for the crimes for which Zuma will now be arraigned.

Those include a R500,000-a-year bribe for Zuma, to be paid by French arms manufacturer Thales, and 783 crimes involving corrupt payments to the former president from Schaik, who masqueraded as a businessman.

It was all in vain. Three judges at the Pietermaritzburg High Court have ruled the case will go ahead, after Zuma alleged that his trial would be unfair after such a long delay. A delay for which he has been most responsible.

Of course, the native of KwaNxamalala at Nkandla may yet appeal and delay the case once more.

But that means he would also have a lot more things to worry about, including finding cash to support his own litigation.

Let’s not forget: these charges for which Zuma is now being tried precede his economically and politically disastrous presidency that began mid-2009.

Many more crimes were committed by some members of his family, his friends and many government officials during this period of nine years. Of course, many of these would have occurred at Zuma’s direct instruction and with his participation.

Hence, last week, the government of the United States of America, through its treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), blacklisted the notorious Gupta brothers whom Zuma proudly calls his friends. Any of their assets that fall into, or cross paths with companies registered and doing business in America, and US citizens anywhere in the world, must be reported and seized.

In other words, it is now a crime for any person or company that has operations in the US to deal with the Guptas anywhere in the world.

The Guptas and (Salim) Essa have used their influence with prominent politicians and parties to line their pockets with ill-gotten gains,” said Sigal Mandelker, treasury under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence in a statement announcing the sanctions.

Essa, who is said to have brokered many of the deals that resulted in the Guptas and members of Zuma’s family illegally enriching themselves at the expense of South Africa, has also been added to the list.

The American sanctions against this group of Zuma cronies is only the start.

I am aware of at least four people who were interviewed in Pretoria by the Federal Bureau of Investigations in late 2018 and in 2019 on matters involving the Gupta family at various state-owned South African companies.

American justice literally has no borders and no jurisdiction. Anyone, anywhere, is fair game under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977.

The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, under which the Guptas have been charged with corruption, only serves to add more pressure and close more loopholes in the original statute.

It goes without saying that the Gupta brothers, Tony, Rajesh and Atul, the real governors of the Republic of South Africa while we thought Zuma was president, and their minion Duduzane Zuma, have not been able to travel freely to countries in which the US may get hold of them for a while.

Now that our justice minister Ronald Lamola has finally confirmed that South Africa had asked for the co-operation of eight countries in bringing the Guptas to book for corruption in South Africa, their options have really shrunk.

It is not only the Guptas, however, who must be having sleepless nights about the law-enforcement agencies finally getting their act together.

These streets are swamped with thieves that belong in jail. Only last week did the SABC receive a cash bailout of R2.1-billion. That is money to replace billions stolen from the broadcaster during the reign of Hlaudi Motsoeneng and his successive chairmen Mbulaheni Maguvhe and Ben Ngubane.

That is not to say thieving of public funds at the SABC started or ended with them.

We, the people, will still be paying hundreds of billions for many years to come to replace the hundreds of billions stolen by the executives who worked at Eskom over the past decade. Much of that money followed the Guptas to Dubai and Hong Kong.

Neither Transnet, nor any of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa, nor arms manufacturer Denel escaped the thieving cadres. PetroSA has been totally bankrupt for about seven years. All victims of wide-scale corruption that has gone unpunished for far too long. Not even the South African Revenue Service was spared.

Even small-scale thieves have felt emboldened to steal a whole bank.

The thieves who committed these crimes still strutt around freely, and nurse ambitions of high office, where they hope to continue their thieving ways.

If there’s any justice in the world, they should not just have sleepless nights.

The US Justice Department may just be our last hope, and it will hopefully embarrass our inept prosecutors and corrupt government into action. BM


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