Former president Thabo Mbeki   File picture: Masi Losi/Independent Media
Former president Thabo Mbeki File picture: Masi Losi/Independent Media

Red herrings and scapegoats

By Ray McCauley Time of article published Mar 29, 2016

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An independent judicial commission of inquiry is probably the best way to deal with the state capture scandal, writes Ray McCauley.

Alleged state capture, a euphemism for corruption, continues to haunt the soul of the nation. More people are being dragged into this scandal, namely former president Thabo Mbeki, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Trevor Manuel, Essop Pahad and Anton Rupert, among others.

According to weekend reports, Mbeki is said to have appointed one of the Gupta brothers into his economic advisory panel. That act, we're supposed to believe, is proof that state capture did not start with the current administration.

Also, Pahad was reportedly the one who introduced the Guptas to President Jacob Zuma during Mbeki’s presidency. That introduction, we are again seemingly supposed to believe, is what has led to the Guptas’ alleged tentacles into the state.

But these are such feeble arguments, classic examples of the politics of scapegoating - blaming another person for one's own failures.

Politicians are good at that.

When Mbeki was head of state, we never heard of the Guptas allegedly going around promising people cabinet positions. We never heard of senior civil servants allegedly taking calls from the president asking them to help the Guptas. We never heard of the Guptas landing at a national key point or using Mbeki’s name in vain. Therein lies the difference.

In a statement religious leaders issued last week, we were at pains to point out that the relationship between Zuma and the Guptas is in itself not an issue. Indeed, we would not arrogate to ourselves the right to choose friends for Zuma.

The friendship becomes problematic when his friends reportedly start using it to meddle in matters of the state or use his name in a manner that affects the Republic's well-being.

When that is alleged to be happening, those of us who belong in, and love, the country will object - and vehemently so.

The fact that Mbeki once appointed one of the Guptas into his panel of economic advisers is inconsequential. He would not have been the first or only business person to be so appointed.

Dragging Mbeki into this mess is a red herring. The ANC, rightly or wrongly, recalled him, so let us leave him out of this - unless people can come forward with irrefutable evidence that he did anything untoward, or untoward things were done by the Guptas in his name.

As for Pahad, it is public record that he severed his business ties with the Guptas a few years ago.

One is therefore not sure what purpose is being served by dragging him into this matter. Ramaphosa, Rupert and Manuel have denied ever meeting to influence the appointment or reversal of the appointment of the finance minister.

A charge has been laid, curiously by the son of the president, against Rupert for allegedly trying to influence matters of the state. Rupert is said to have flown in from London to express, to an ANC official, the market's unhappiness with the appointment of Des van Rooyen as the minister of finance.

This mysterious “ANC official” was thought to be Ramaphosa, though he has flatly denied ever holding such a meeting with Rupert. But let's suppose he had. Would that in itself amount to a crime or state capture? I doubt it. The rating agencies which often convey to us market sentiments towards South Africa would be guilty of a crime. But let's leave the police to investigate.

The ANC leadership must deal decisively with the allegations that have surfaced. Unfortunately, the way it is proposing to do this does not inspire confidence.

Asking people to go to Luthuli House to make disclosures of alleged state capture to the secretary-general has its own limitations and challenges. For starters, Luthuli House is not a law enforcement agency. What will it do with such disclosures, especially if they point to wrongdoing by some within the party? Will it escalate these to law enforcers?

And how does a whistle-blower go to Luthuli House when one of its prominent leaders, in the person of the ANC Women’s League chairwoman, has alluded to everyone in the ANC national executive committee having their own little skeletons in the cupboard and threatening that all hell would break loose if others’ skeletons are exposed?

Indeed, how does Luthuli House deal with public servants, who are not members of the ANC, who may want to come forward with information?

In the event, one cannot but agree with the SACP about the need for an independent judicial commission of inquiry.

Such an inquiry can investigate all these allegations independently of any political influence and give findings and recommendations to the public. That, I am afraid, is the only process that will enjoy credibility and public confidence.

The ANC may well go ahead with its own process, for what is a party political matter, but this issue has become a matter for the Republic.

* Pastor Ray McCauley is the president of Rhema Family Churches and co-chairman of the National Religious Leaders Council

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Star

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