Subversion of the Hawks is most alarming evidence from Zondo inquiry
Former president Jacob Zuma's friends, the Gupta family, were running a shadow state.
Now even Zuma's most loyal supporters, who have spent almost 10 years refusing to accept this fact despite it being obvious to millions of other South Africans, are beginning to see the damage their leader and his friends have inflicted on our country.
From the three witnesses who have appeared before the state capture commission of inquiry so far, we have heard damning evidence that points to the perils of a government being run by remote control from the Guptas' Saxonwold compound.
After only two weeks of what promises to be a two-year process, it is clear that the Guptas were firmly in control of the Union Buildings. If they were not telling Zuma who to hire, they were instructing him on who he should fire. They had senior government officials running their propaganda machinery from inside the Government Communication & Information System (GCIS).
Those disagreeing with them or standing in their way - in the cabinet or elsewhere in the government - were cruelly dealt with.
Themba Maseko, the former head of GCIS, was unceremoniously removed from his position and given hours to pack up his office. He was replaced by Mzwanele Manyi, who appears to have been brought in only to help the Guptas loot state coffers.
Mcebisi Jonas was booted out as deputy finance minister after he refused to accept an offer from the Guptas to take over from Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister. That offer came with conditions: he had to assure them he would fire high-ranking National Treasury officials and replace them with people chosen by the Gupta family.
Phumla Williams, who replaced Manyi as acting head of GCIS, was passed over for the position not once, but twice - because she refused to assist the Guptas.
Today we have Siphiwe Nyanda, Zuma's first communications minister, going public about why he was relieved of his duties. He too said no to the Guptas when they attempted to gain access to the SABC's coffers.
But of all these shocking revelations coming out of the inquiry led by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, what should be of greatest concern is the evidence given by these witnesses showing the Guptas had taken charge of SA's elite policing unit.
Zuma appears - knowingly or unknowingly - to have appointed people into key positions whose sole intention was not to fight crime but to ensure members of the Gupta family were protected from prosecution. How else do you explain the actions of senior Hawks officials like Maj Gen Zinhle Mnonopi? Last week, Jonas told the commission how Mnonopi, the head of the anticorruption unit, paid him a visit to demand that he submit a false statement to "kill" the case against the Guptas. This was after the DA had opened a case with the police when Jonas went public with the family's offer of a ministerial job. The fact that Jonas was in the presence of his lawyer when Mnonopi arrived meant nothing to Mnonopi.
Mnonopi did not work alone. This week advocate Vincent Maleka SC of the Zondo commission's legal team told the judge that the team had already spotted a pattern of how the Hawks dealt with whistleblowers in state capture cases.
This is based on the evidence of only three witnesses - Jonas, former MP Vytjie Mentor and Maseko - who all testified about the conduct and behaviour of the Hawks. The pattern is clear. All state capture or corruption cases against people loyal to Zuma were targeted and evidence interfered with. Among these were cases brought by the DA, anticorruption crusaders and other like-minded NGOs.
That is why we must all welcome the move by the new Hawks boss, Godfrey Lebeya. Just days after Jonas's testimony, Lebeya wasted no time in suspending Mnonopi. Lebeya has his work cut out as there are many like Mnonopi within the Hawks. When he finds them, we expect him to move with the same speed and boot them out.