Johannesburg - The ANC has denied its deputy secretary-general (DSG) Jessie Duarte had anything to do with the appointment of her son-in-law as the chief of staff for David (Des) van Rooyen, South Africa’s shortest-serving finance minister and now co-operative governance minister.
Ian Whitley has come into the spotlight following allegations published by UK-based publication Africa Confidential that he was one of the two “advisers” who attempted to take charge of the Treasury when Van Rooyen was appointed finance minister in a shock move in December.
It has since emerged that Whitley, a former banker with Absa, Standard Bank and African Bank, and alleged by Africa Confidential to have strong links to the controversial Gupta family, is married to Duarte’s daughter.
While Van Rooyen’s stint as finance minister lasted only four days, Africa Confidential alleges Whitley and another adviser, Mohamed Bobat, turned up at Treasury headquarters and introduced themselves as people who would be able to “sign expenditure and other authorisations” on behalf of the new minister.
The publication said the two were linked to the Gupta family and that their appointments as Van Rooyen’s advisers was influenced by them in a bid to “take over” the Treasury.
Read: Guptas gamble on nuclear
Bobat and Whitley moved with Van Rooyen to the Local and Co-operative Government Ministry when President Jacob Zuma was forced to reverse the appointment just days later.
The alleged influence of the Guptas over Zuma and some members of his cabinet has become a divisive issue in the ANC and the tripartite alliance. Not only has this become an issue within the alliance, but opposition parties are exploiting the influence of the Guptas as indicative of how compromised Zuma and the ANC have become.
The party has been vocal about what it terms “state capture” of the government and its institutions by people outside the state, and the Guptas are seen as having captured a significant part of these through their vast business interests through which they have contracts with state-owned enterprises.
The ANC yesterday confirmed Whitley was married to Duarte’s daughter, but insisted this relationship did not compromise her in any way.
“Ian Whitley is indeed married to the DSG’s daughter. However, that is where it ends. The DSG did not introduce Ian Whitley to the minister, nor was she involved in his appointment.
“We don’t see how the DSG could be compromised in any way by this relationship,” said ANC spokeswoman Khusela Sangoni.
The London publication reports the Guptas influenced Zuma to appoint Van Rooyen as their intention was to secure uranium contracts for the nuclear plants that would be built as part of the government’s nuclear build programme, in a similar fashion to the way they secured a coal mine that supplies about a sixth of Arnot power station’s coal needs.
It also reports another part of the Guptas’ strategy was to place two of their allies, which it names as Bobat and Whitley, as advisers to Van Rooyen.
“Whitley is a former head of small and medium enterprises at the defunct African Bank. When Van Rooyen was replaced at the Treasury, the two men went with him to his new portfolio of local government and traditional affairs, and appeared with him when he was sworn in on December 10,” claimed the publication.
The ANC’s alliance partners, the SACP and Cosatu, are holding a bilateral meeting on Friday to discuss the inordinate influence of the Gupta family, among other issues.
The Star understands the meeting will be discussing the role and influence of the Gupta family on the political economy of South Africa, their links to the efforts to capture the Treasury, and their influence and proximity as providers of goods and services to key state-owned companies.
It was the SACP that raised the issue of the Guptas and state capture during the ANC’s recent lekgotla when new Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan presented the implications of the economic crisis facing South Africa and its impact on state expenditure.