Opinion

A case is building before judge Raymond Zondo of something even more heinous than state capture

09 September 2018 - 00:00

It is hardly surprising that former president Jacob Zuma is reluctant to participate in the state capture commission. His lawyers wrote to it saying he was "satisfied" that the evidence presented to judge Raymond Zondo did not implicate him in any infringement of statutes, policies of government or ethical codes.
This is not true.
Zuma is compromised by the evidence, including that of former government spokesman Themba Maseko who said the ex-president instructed him to help the Guptas.
But wild horses could not drag Zuma to the commission to clarify his relationship with the family. It would probably be difficult for him to explain things like how the Guptas knew about his cabinet appointments before he announced them, where he got the bogus intelligence report he used to fire Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas, and what he wanted Nhlanhla Nene to do on the nuclear deal.
It would be interesting to hear if Zuma ever felt debased by the way the Guptas treated him. He is a generally affable man who was able to laugh things off - including serious questions about corruption, bad leadership and improper conduct. But he should surely feel sickened by the way the Guptas used him to make obscene amounts of money and then cut and ran when they realised their political protection had lapsed.
Judging by their submissions at the inquiry, the brothers do not intend to ever come back to SA.
Zuma is meanwhile on trial for corruption and is using surreptitious methods to try to claw back from political irrelevance.
As the state capture inquiry unfolds, a caricature will be built of a weak, servile man prostrating himself and the state before the Gupta brothers.
There is as yet nothing to suggest that Zuma objected to the Guptas' actions or felt compromised by them. Responding to questions in parliament in June 2013, after the Guptas landed their jet at Air Force Base Waterkloof, Zuma said he was entitled to be their friends.
"Every human being has a right to have friends . We are not in the state that bans people because they have friends with others," he said.
As allegations mounted over the years of the Guptas' interference in executive decisions and of their prodigious looting, Zuma refused to change his stance.
There are people who knew Zuma during the anti-apartheid struggle who are baffled by how he sacrificed the ANC and turned on his old comrades for the Guptas.
Zuma has, of course, always played fast and loose with legal and moral prescripts, and is well known to be awful at managing his personal life and finances.
He did, however, dedicate his life to the ANC and even declared publicly while he was president that his organisation came before the country.
"I argued one time with someone who said the country comes first and I said as much as I understand that, I think my organisation, the ANC, comes first," Zuma said in November 2015.
Ultimately, it was the Guptas who came first.
The former head of the National Intelligence Agency, Gibson Njenje, is struggling to understand why Zuma turned on people he trusted for decades.
"I would still want to talk to him and ask him what happened," Njenje said as he explained how the intelligence bosses tried to warn Zuma that his relationship with the Guptas was undermining national security.
Njenje said Zuma was not interested. He instead told them how the Guptas had come to the aid of his children Duduzane and Duduzile.
Last year, Brent Simons, a chief director in the department of public service and administration, submitted an affidavit to the speaker of the National Assembly detailing how Zuma had allegedly influenced the awarding of contracts to his family. Simons said he had been present when Zuma sent members of his family to see the late minister Collins Chabane. Simons said there was "a clear instruction to help these family members secure contracts where possible".
A former cabinet minister who aided the state capture project confided to his close friends how Zuma introduced him to Duduzane and explained in Zulu that he would be the son who buried him. This meant Duduzane was his favoured child.
Zuma told him that Duduzane would come to meet with him and he therefore opened doors for the Guptas.
It would seem that Zuma saw the state as a funding scheme for his family and their benefactors, and to this day does not believe that his facilitation of their access to taxpayers' money constituted criminal or ethical wrongdoing.
But Zuma was not duped by the Guptas. While he allowed them to use him as their tool, he could not have been oblivious that he was breaking the law, violating his oath of office and betraying his own organisation in the process.
The collusion between the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority to quash state capture cases shows a broader conspiracy to undermine justice.
The Zondo commission could soon be faced with evidence that what occurred was not just state capture but high treason...

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