Bruce’s List: A daily guide to informed reads.
Another bad day at the office for the Zuptas yesterday. It seems that Thuli Madonsela, the outgoing public protector, has more power as she prepares to leave, and President Jacob Zuma has less. Funny thing, the battle between good and evil. Not only is she going to release a report into the Gupta family’s finances and the extent of its capture of the state before she leaves office in just two weeks, she’s now subpoenaed a raft of financial information from the entire cabinet as well. What, she wants to know, have you been paid by the Guptas? Are you captured?
Of course, anyone who has taken Gupta money isn’t going to tell the public protector just like that. But that is not the point. You see, the public protector has roughly the status in our law as a judge president. Having ordered the information from cabinet, they are legally obliged to give it to her. And yes, even if she is no longer there to receive it when it arrives, the fact is that an investigation is under way and should not be stopped until it is finished.
That leaves her questionable successor, approved by parliament after an interview of just an hour, to take up the baton. Will Busisiwe Mkhwebane complete the probe? It will be the first thing on her desk when she starts the job on October 3. It will be really the only test she has to pass and we’ll know quickly.
On the evil side of the battle, though, the Zuptas had a bad day. First the deputy commissioner at Sars had to be suspended after news leaked that his boss and Zuma acolyte, Tom Moyane, had known about suspicious payments to the deputy, Jonas Makwakwa, for months and had done nothing. Then the North Gauteng high court struck Zuma’s most loyal protector in the justice arena, Nomgcobo Jiba, off the roll of advocates, effectively disqualifying her from her job as deputy head (she’s really head) of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). Jiba has blocked just about every attempt to bring some sanity back into the NPA since Thabo Mbeki fired/suspended Vusi Pikoli back in 2007. She’ll appeal the ruling but things don’t look good for her. And Zuma’s running out of dependable allies. Judge Francis Legodi said Jiba and a senior NPA colleague, Lawrence Mrwebi, were not fit and proper persons to be members of the Bar. “I cannot believe,” said the judge, “that two officials of the court who hold such high positions in the prosecuting authority will [sic] stoop so low for the protection and defence of one individual who has been implicated in serious offences.”
You can almost see the life force draining from what remains of the Zuma presidency. Sure he may still use his power to do some really stupid things but he does them, increasingly, as a shattered and bewildered warlord who is surrounded by generals but has lost his army. The Jiba thing is huge. Here’s Stephen Grootes explaining why: Advocate Jiba, Advocate Mrwebi: not fit, not proper. And Marianne Thamm does a neat job of tying up the whole of Black Thursday: Terrible Thursday for Jiba, Mrwebi & Makwakwa: Who will be next to fall in Zuma’s Praetorian guard? And, please forgive me but you really won’t find a better exposition of the state of affairs at the NPA or of Jiba’s key role in destabilising it, than this magnificent piece by Rian Malan. He wrote it nine months ago but it is still the best I’ve seen: The strange case of Nomgcobo Jiba.
Worse for Zuma is that Moody’s, the ratings agency with the most rose-tinted view of SA, has begun to shift position. First it announced it was putting some important state-owned companies under review after Futuregrowth raised questions about the quality of their corporate governance. Then, yesterday, the agency dropped its growth forecast for SA for the year to 0.2%, making a fall in its rating more likely come December. Moody’s again warned that without a fundamental restructuring of state-owned companies a downgrade was likely. And that was before they would have read this jaw-dropping piece on how looting is actually done at our state companies. This is a Transnet story, but the behaviour is widespread, and the characters are often the same people, no matter which company it is. This is long, but make some time and read it: How to eat a parastatal like Transnet — chunk by R600m chunk