The state capture commission reveals the passion of Mcebisi Jonas and the betrayal of the ANC
Mcebisi Jonas wasn't at the ANC's 54th national conference at Nasrec in December. Apart from the security threats that would have made his movement at a mass event difficult, he had another problem.
Jonas did not align with either of the factions facing off at the elective conference. He was not interested in joining the shootout between those supporting either Cyril Ramaphosa or Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to be president and, as a result, saw no way to meaningfully participate in the conference.
Watching Jonas give testimony at the state capture commission of inquiry on Friday, it was understandable why he felt so politically isolated.
Jonas's decision in March 2016 to expose the attempt by the Guptas to appoint him finance minister and pay him a R600m bribe alienated him from many of his comrades in the ANC. At the time, the ANC was still doing everything in its power to cheer on and protect the then president, Jacob Zuma.
By the time Jonas spoke out, Nhlanhla Nene had been fired and Zuma had tried to hand the finance ministry to the Guptas via their hired hand Des van Rooyen.
It was three years after a Gupta-chartered plane landed at Air Force Base Waterkloof.
It was five years after the heads of SA's intelligence agencies, Gibson Njenje, Moe Shaik and Jeff Maqetuka, resigned because their warnings about the Guptas' undermining of state security were ignored and they had become political targets.
The ANC national executive committee (NEC) had been told that the Guptas had prior knowledge of Zuma's 2010 and 2011 cabinet reshuffles. In fact, the Gupta-owned The New Age in 2011 published an accurate prediction of Zuma's cabinet changes before he announced them.
These were just some of the signals that the Guptas had commandeered control of the state and captured the ANC's highest deployee.
Yet the ANC did not question the usurping of its political power, did not come out in support of Nene when he was fired, and allowed Jonas to dangle in the wind when he exposed the Guptas.
The ANC NEC shut down an internal investigation into state capture and buried its head in the sand.
Not even the great Zuma vanquisher, President Cyril Ramaphosa, had anything to say about the Gupta infestation in the state until he was ready to make a bid for the ANC leadership.
Jonas told justice Raymond Zondo on Friday that Ajay Gupta said the family had the ability to destroy his political career, and, when he refused his offer of a bribe, threatened to kill him if he disclosed what had transpired.
He also described how difficult it was to confide in anyone at the time, apart from Nene and Pravin Gordhan, because of the hostility facing senior staff in the National Treasury.
"The whole state was in favour of state capture," Jonas said. He said the Treasury was utterly dependent on political support, particularly from the president, but it did not have it.
He testified about how Gupta bragged that he and his brothers were the de facto rulers of SA. "You must understand, we are in control of everything," Jonas alleged Gupta told him, citing the NPA, the Hawks and the intelligence services. "The old man [Zuma] will do anything we want him to do."
There is no indication that this was not true. Zuma made no attempt to distance himself from the family or to act to protect the state from their looting spree.
Several questions now need to be asked.
Why did the ANC surrender its electoral mandate to private individuals and not act to halt the wholesale plunder of the state?
After all the evidence that the Guptas were running the country, why did it allow billions to be drained from the fiscus, and not intervene to stop the collapse of state-owned enterprises?
Why did the ANC act against the man who betrayed it and our nation only after he was no longer its leader?
Possibly the most important question now is whether the ANC leadership will appear before Zondo and explain how the state was stolen on its watch.
It is not acceptable for the ANC to wash its hands of accountability for state capture simply because it removed the chief enabler from power.
Almost three years after the bribe attempt, Jonas was still carrying the state capture burden on his own on Friday.
Where was his organisation?
He served in the government because he was sent to parliament by the ANC. Where is its outrage that one of its senior members was threatened with death if he acted according to his constitutional duty to report a crime?
Why is the ANC not enraged by the blatantly racist attitude that informed the Guptas' behaviour?
Next year, the ANC will swamp us with election campaign messages about how it will serve our interests. It will beg us to return it to power. Judging by how it failed our nation and let down those who showed courage under fire, why should we believe it?