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Wed Jun 01 01:50:58 SAST 2016

The Big Read: Who's running this country?

Justice Malala | 01 February, 2016 00:17
Justice Malala. File photo
Image by: SUPPLIED / Times Media Group

Who appoints our cabinet ministers? If it is President Jacob Zuma, with whom does he appoint them? With the ANC deployment committee? With the ANC's top-five leaders?

Or does he do it with his benefactors, the Gupta family? If he does do it with the Guptas, as seems clear from his last two cabinet appointments, it means that he has again betrayed the 11436921 (that's nearly 11.5 million) people who queued to vote for the ANC in May 2014.

At its lekgotla last week the ANC discussed the influence of the Gupta family in the "capture" of state institutions. ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said a strong message from the lekgotla was for the government to "deal decisively" with "people outside the state" heavily influencing government decisions.

You have to laugh. Mantashe should have turned around to Zuma, who sat next to him, for an explanation of this phenomenon. For, at the end of the day, a conversation about the Guptas is really a conversation about how Zuma has sold his presidency to this family.

Here's a question to illuminate this: Who appointed Mosebenzi Zwane, the Mineral Resources Minister, and Des van Rooyen, the near-miss finance minister? The evidence strongly suggests it was Zuma, as instructed by the Gupta family.

Let's start with the process. Thereafter we will look at how Zuma has deviated from accepted and known ANC processes.

Former president Thabo Mbeki's letter on Monday last week gave us a clear idea of how cabinet appointments are made in the ANC.

He wrote that, when appointing his cabinet, he would "prepare the list of persons I proposed should occupy these various positions.

"I would then submit this written proposal to each of the other five ANC national office-bearers for them to consider my proposals, ahead of the collective national office-bearers' meeting which then took the final decision about who would serve.

"Subsequently, each of the ministers and deputy ministers was individually informed of [his] appointment by me as the president of the republic, sitting together with the secretary-general of the ANC. The same procedure was followed in the event of a cabinet reshuffle."

We also know how the cabinet prepares for key portfolio changes. In December, after the shock firing of Nhlanhla Nene, former finance minister Trevor Manuel wrote: "I was in the cabinet when Mr Tito Mboweni was moved across from the Department of Labour to the SA Reserve Bank, and when Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma left the cabinet to take up a position as [chairman] of the African Union Commission. In both those instances, the ground was properly prepared and the cabinet was apprised of developments."

Was this done in the case of Des van Rooyen, who was plucked from obscurity to run the finances of SA Inc? Not according to Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe, who said at that week's post-cabinet briefing: "At the conclusion of the cabinet meeting, there was no new finance minister and there was no way we could have predicted [the appointment]."

So who knew about Van Rooyen's and Zwane's appointments? Zwane, who has been mired in two scandals involving the Gupta family, was hustled into the cabinet in the most secretive manner. City Press newspaper reported in September that no announcement about his departure from his MEC position in the Free State was made.

City Press wrote then: "It also emerged that Zwane was flown to Cape Town by [Premier Ace] Magashule's office, catching off guard the troop of parliamentary officials who are usually involved when a new MP is to be sworn in. A source in the National Assembly table (senior parliamentary staff) told City Press that officials in parliament were surprised when Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli told them that Zwane, the new MP, was already in his office.

"It subsequently emerged that there was a last-minute rejig of the party political list of those eligible to become an MP. This was highly unusual, according to the source."

Except for his ties to the Guptas, who are mine-owners, Zwane had zero mining or national experience. Whom is he working for now?

Zwane's spokesman this week confirmed to the Financial Mail that "Zwane travelled with a delegation from Gupta-owned Tegeta Exploration and Resources to visit Glencore in Switzerland to negotiate the purchase of Optimum Colliery."

Van Rooyen's appointment was even more puzzling. The ANC's top officials, from Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to Mantashe, seem to have known nothing about him. His friends knew, according to newspaper reports.

Plus, there were allegations that he arrived at his new office with two advisers - allegedly supplied by a certain family - whom he allegedly told Treasury officials to hire on the spot.

So, President Zuma, tell us: Who is running South Africa? Is it the ANC or the Gupta family?

From the ANC's discussions at its lekgotla last week, there is growing concern that the Guptas are in charge.

As EFF deputy leader Floyd Shivambu has said, the Guptas "have de facto colonised South Africa, with Zuma being the chief colonial administrator".

Cry, the beloved country.

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