There is a legend that is currently doing the rounds in South Africa, writes Sechaba ka’Nkosi.
The story involves a monster called white monopoly capital that has embarked on an investments strike in South Africa.
Rumour has it that this monster is sitting on a heap of billions of rands worth of investments and is refusing to invest because it does not particularly like the current administration.
It is said that the monster would rather prefer another regime for it to splash its hard-earned cash into the country.
Now let me confess that I do not have the slightest idea of what white monopoly capital or the monster is. Neither can I verify the authenticity of the brain behind the legend nor the accuracy of its claims.
Suffice it to say that the peddlers of the tale count among their adherents and proponents one Andile Mngxitama (what a waste of what was once a brilliant mind!), who, in his wisdom, says the office of the public protector must investigate this monster for stashing billions of rands away from South Africa into overseas bank accounts.
But there could be a grain of truth in their claims. For how else can we explain the rampant unemployment and disparities in the country when we are said to be Africa’s most sophisticated economy?
How do we fail to attract investors when our road and freight infrastructure is considered among the best in the world?
So for now the legend will remain just that - a tale told to our children to while away the time. But last week this popular folklore assumed a face when Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan let us in on the shenanigans that take place in the intricate world of the monster.
In a damning affidavit on why the government should not intervene in compelling South African banks to re-open the Gupta accounts, Gordhan lifted the veil on a trail of suspicious transactions that the controversial family business empire had been involved in between February and April.
According to Gordhan, the dubious transactions, totalling a staggering R6.8 billion, involved a complicated scheme in which monies were moved between 70 bank accounts held by members of the family, their associates and companies. The information is based on a certificate issued by the Financial Intelligence Centre to assist Gordhan in his application.
Included in some of these shady dealings is R10 million moved into an account held by Mabengela Investments, a company that is partly owned by President Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane. It does not end there. There is also R1.5bn of the family-owned Optimum mine rehabilitation fund, which was moved to India’s Bank of Baroda with the consent of Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane.
Zwane’s involvement in what appears to be an illegal activity is made more interesting by the fact that he has remained one of the Gupta family’s most trusted acolytes - going as far as lying about the cabinet decision to investigate the banks for refusing to do business with the Guptas.
So while Gordhan prepares to answer to the charges that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has put to him, Zwane’s star continues to rise in the government.
There is not even the slightest of interest from the NPA or the cabinet to question him on how such a huge amount of money could have left our shores when another arm of the state, the Financial Intelligence Centre, had raised alarm bells over the transaction.
He remains one of the president’s most trusted men in the cabinet, while Gordhan appears isolated and left to rely on a few of his comrades who have rallied behind him as he faces a criminal charge for what most people see as a norm in the civil service.
Therein lies the problem, the story does not have a happy ending.
Confidence at lowest
The SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry said as much almost two weeks ago when it reported its monthly barometer revealed that business confidence in South Africa had fallen to its lowest in three decades in September. The chamber said the confidence was unlikely to improve soon given the grave concerns surrounding Gordhan’s ongoing spat with the NPA.
It warned that unless the country worked together in advancing the well-being of the business and economic concerns of the investors, South Africa was unlikely to see capital inflows any time soon.
It is a message that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has tried to sell to his cabinet colleagues in the past two months to no avail.
He has gone from one corner to the next telling his cabinet colleagues that it will be difficult to find investors who will be willing to plough their money into a state that is at war with itself. But the internecine wars continue and show no signs of abating.
Just last week, as former public protector Thuli Madonsela was planning to release her report on allegations of state capture by the Guptas, Zuma rushed to court to interdict the report ostensibly because he had not been given a chance to apply his mind on the findings.
Zuma was joined in his bid by another of the suspected beneficiaries of the Gupta benevolence, Co-operative Government and Traditional Affairs Minister Des van Rooyen, in a move that was seen by many as attempts to block the lifting of the lid on the family’s influence in South Africa.
This as the Gupta lawyer, Gert van der Merwe, was telling the nation that the family never benefited Zuma nor members of his family and the cabinet. So the merry-go-round continues.
One day when folks sit around the fire to tell their children about the legends of the monster called while monopoly capital, the Gupta name will not be missing in their tale. The children will then understand why one family came to be so reviled by most South Africans.
They will in turn tell their own children about how the Guptas took advantage of South Africa’s hospitality and enlisted the support of the likes of Zwane and Van Rooyen to leave her children forever maimed, like the mythical giant ogre in another popular folklore.
And that is the tragedy of the legend of the monster called white monopoly capital.
* Sechaba ka’Nkosi’s column - The Shake-Up - is published in Business Report.