Gupta heist was an inside job, but the insiders are about to get away with it

20 May 2018 - 00:00 By barney mthombothi

The state capture scandal is so daring, so audacious, it's hard to get your head around it. The chutzpah is breathtaking. How did they pull it off? How does one begin to explain to a stranger that a foreign family arrived in the country with nothing but a few belongings in a portmanteau and proceed to rob the entire country?
The whole thing is highly perplexing and infuriating, but one also has to admire the genius of it, the audacity. We still don't know how it happened. We meet and share nuggets of information and shake our heads in disbelief. Totally befuddled.
South Africans on the whole pride themselves on being clever and smart, always ahead of the curve. But the Guptas (it now sounds like a swear word) have shown us to be a bunch of moegoes.
How could strangers steal our newly liberated country from under our noses if we were such bright sparks?
We had just emerged from years of discrimination and conflict in which many people died. Many spent years wasting in exile. Nelson Mandela and his comrades spent years breaking rocks on Robben Island. The country was a furnace. Those who just about survived, which is the rest of us, often seem like they need a session with a shrink. We've been through a wringer.
Having overcome all that, we then proceeded to hand the country over to strangers to do with it as they pleased. All the deaths, the sacrifices, the scars and the wounds we still carry seem to have been in vain.What exactly is wrong with us?
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan told parliament this week that R100-billion might have been lost to state capture. It's a lot of money, but even that is a conservative estimate. Months after the Guptas and their lickspittles had surreptitiously left town, we still don't know how much was stolen, or the scale of the damage that has been wrought on the country. We're left scratching our heads and wondering what hit us. We've been had.
The truth, though, is that the Guptas wouldn't have been able to pull off such a heist without the assistance and acquiescence of leaders democratically elected to take charge of the state.
In other words, our public representatives did this to us. They willingly handed the keys of the vault to the Guptas. It was the classic inside job. The ultimate betrayal.
The Guptas' prowess was in their ability to identify, exploit and then profit from the weaknesses and inadequacies, and the greed, of our leaders. That is genius.
What is hard to understand, though, is how young men with seemingly bright futures could willingly become the Guptas' useful idiots.
Brian Molefe's name comes to mind. His role in allegedly enabling state capture at Transnet and Eskom has yet to be fully understood. He was eulogised for saving us from the dreaded blackouts. We were blindsided. We didn't fully understand the machinations behind his appointment.Malusi Gigaba fast-tracked the family's naturalisation, thus opening the sluice gates. Many others in key positions right across the state apparatus happily participated in feeding the beast.
But what is even more exasperating is their arrogant denial of any wrongdoing. There's neither shame nor remorse.
For instance, Jacob Zuma, the Guptas' meal ticket, has sauntered into the sunset protesting his innocence. His foot soldiers in this despicable project are likewise singing the same song. Like the three wise monkeys, they see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.
Many of the flunkeys will be paraded before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture where they will confess their sins, point out where the bodies are buried and probably return or refund their ill-gotten gains. As usual, they will take the blame. But those involved in engineering this debauchery will get away with it; their careers may even blossom. We're a gullible lot.
And because Zuma, the villain of the piece, is gone, we're now encouraged to wake up to a new dawn. It's a confession of sorts. Dawn is preceded by darkness. The suggestion is that we're emerging from a nightmarish, dark place into a glorious sunshine and that we should be grateful to our saviour.But hang on a minute. Not so fast. To suggest that state capture is all Zuma's doing is not only a lie but a complete cop-out. It's akin to arguing that Hendrik Verwoerd alone was responsible for apartheid. That's pulling the wool over our eyes. The entire party, especially the top leadership, is complicit.
What is missing - and what those who smugly sat in the inner sanctums of power with Zuma want to avoid - is full and honest disclosure. During the Watergate scandal in the US, a high-ranking Republican senator put this seminal question to Richard Nixon: what did the president know, and when did he know it? President Cyril Ramaphosa and his cohorts need to respond to such a question. What was their role in the state capture debacle and why did they choose to stay silent, which was itself a criminal dereliction of duty.
Ramaphosa needs to level with the public. He should take it into his confidence. Be honest with us. Opening up is not a sign of weakness. To the contrary, it may strengthen his position. Trust is an important component in leadership.
The ANC spurned numerous opportunities to remove Zuma. It stood by him. Those who called for his scalp were mocked and disparaged. Now they've made a U-turn and are urging everybody to join in their thuma Mina kumbaya.
A pig with lipstick is still a pig...

There’s never been a more important time to support independent media.

From World War 1 to present-day cosmopolitan South Africa and beyond, the Sunday Times has been a pillar in covering the stories that matter to you.

For just R80 you can become a premium member (digital access) and support a publication that has played an important political and social role in South Africa for over a century of Sundays. You can cancel anytime.

Already subscribed? Sign in below.

Questions or problems? Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.