Johannesburg – The level of corruption in government has left some senior ANC leaders and cabinet ministers in President Jacob Zuma’s government bewildered, in the wake of the cache of Gupta emails.
As South Africans reel from ongoing revelations of the powerfully connected family’s influence on the running of the government and the economy, some ANC national executive committee (NEC) members have expressed shock at the grand scale of corruption that seems to pervade departments and parastatals.
“We are astounded. It’s something that no human being will ever wish on their worst enemy, no matter how much you hate the country. It’s very difficult times. This is overwhelming,” said an NEC member. “This (corruption) is wrong, that’s our position as a party. Our image, our integrity from the years of Mandela, have been tarnished. It’s obviously undone everything we have built as a nation.”
Another NEC member and cabinet minister said: “You can’t have one family controlling the economy. It’s very painful. There’s no way anybody can say they are not worried about corruption."
Revelations in the leaked chain of emails include that:
* The Guptas’ company, Sahara Computers, sponsored trips to Dubai for Tshepiso Magashule and his brother, Thatho. Shortly afterwards, they paid for a trip for President Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane. The latter’s trip was booked on December 4, 2015, shortly before his father fired Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister on December 9.
* Anoj Singh, the current Eskom CFO, was whisked off on at least four suspiciously timed Gupta-funded trips to Dubai. This was during the period Transnet awarded a R1.8 billion tender to Neotel, resulting in a R36 million kickback to a Gupta company. Singh was Transnet’s CFO at the time.
* Singh was also treated to a nine-day trip to Dubai in December 2015, shortly after the Guptas’ Tegeta obtained Optimum Coal Holdings, which supplies Eskom with coal, from Glencore. The deal was worth more than R2bn. From June 6 to 9, 2014, Singh stayed at the Oberoi Hotel in Dubai with Tony Gupta.
* Zuma’s son, Duduzane‚ a shareholder in many Gupta-owned companies‚ bought an apartment worth nearly R18m in the iconic skyscraper Burj Khalifa building in Dubai two years ago.
Another ANC NEC member and cabinet minister said the latest revelations left most cabinet ministers shocked and frustrated. It had eroded whatever was left of public confidence in government and its ability to fight corruption and ensure economic growth.
“Corruption and development don’t happen simultaneously. You can’t develop any country where corruption is out of control. You can’t bring an end to poverty, you can’t bring an end to unemployment, but at the same time have massive corruption. The two things are completely incompatible. So there’s no way any South African can say they are not worried by corruption.”
Despite the ongoing dissent, Zuma enjoys a lot of support from many in the NEC who rushed to his defence when another “motion of no confidence” was tabled against him by NEC member Joel Netshitenzhe at a party meeting last week. The motion of no confidence came on the same day two Sunday newspapers published the first of a cache of emails allegedly between the Zuma and Gupta family members apparently detailing how they were enriching themselves at the expense of the country.
The two NEC members agreed the failed motion of no confidence in Zuma was a missed opportunity. “Remember, in Polokwane, when we declared five very important priorities, it was education, health, crime and corruption and an end to poverty and unemployment. It’s the ANC itself that says corruption must fall."
They attributed Zuma’s stranglehold on power despite the controversies surrounding him to fear among NEC members. “Many fear him. Remember the saying that if you aim at the king, you must never miss. When we removed Thabo Mbeki, he wasn’t in the meeting and was no longer the party leader. It was easy. This one (Zuma) was seated there in front watching.”
DA leader Mmusi Maimane said the emails provided “solid evidence” the ANC at all levels shared a “close beneficial relationship with the Guptas”. The SACP has said the Guptas emails were confirmation of a “silent coup". However, two political analysts and another NEC member warned a power vacuum at the top of the ANC would plunge the party into chaos, and with it the country, if Zuma was removed.
Constitutional law expert Shadrack Gutto said unseating the president before the ANC’s December conference would unleash forces that possibly no one could contain. Political analyst Thabani Khumalo agreed. “If he is removed, those aligned to him will revolt and if he is removed internally we could see the ANC splinter. Remember he still enjoys support on the ground.”
Gutto said removing Zuma would mean the cabinet, including deputy ministers, would have to resign. “Added to this is that those who are ‘ready to die for Zuma’ would create chaos which would be very sad for the country. His recall could also ignite tribal conflict.”
Head of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal, Sihle Zikalala, who is also on the NEC, said the upcoming vote of no confidence in Parliament would be shrugged off. “The ANC took a decision that members are going to vote for the president to remain as president of the country. No member will deviate from that.”
Zikalala said of the emails: “Whoever was behind the leaks knew there would be an NEC meeting and tried to influence it. But we do not want to speculate, hence we support the view that there must be an investigation into this.”