Bruce’s List: A guide to informed reads.
With former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report on state capture now published and downloaded tens of thousands of times, the big question is: What Happens Now? A quite wide consensus suggests President Jacob Zuma, deeply implicated in the report, will seek a judicial review of its recommendations. Mainly the report recommends that the president establish a judicial commission of inquiry into his own relationship with the Gupta family. Madonsela directs Zuma to request of the chief justice that he furnish Zuma with the name of the judge (not a series of names Zuma can pick from) who will run the inquiry and that it be properly resourced by national treasury.
What a day yesterday was, but I don’t believe this is the end for Zuma. The people who do simply aren’t looking at the facts. If he resigns, his patronage network will collapse and he will then almost certainly have to face the 700 or so counts of fraud that were dropped in 2009 to enable him to become head of state. They are virtually the same counts that Schabir Shaik was found guilty of and for which he was sent to jail. Zuma would be extremely lucky to escape the same fate. So why would he simply allow that to happen to him without a fight?
Rather, I think he will try to put as much distance between himself and the Guptas and their minions (some in his own cabinet and others appointed by him under Gupta direction) at our large state-owned companies. He will try to buy time to save himself. Zuma is famously disloyal and, quite frankly, the Guptas have put him in an impossible situation. So he will dump them. Obviously there will be complications. Zuma’s son, Duduzane, is deeply compromised by his partnership with the Gupta family. His signature will be attached to just too many dubious documents and transactions. But it is not too late for him to step out into the light, either as a state witness in an eventual corruption trial, or simply to co-operate with the inquiry Madonsela has ordered in such a way that he does not incriminate himself. Whatever has to be done, Zuma will do it to save himself and his son.
The biggest obvious victim of the report is the chief executive of Eskom, Brian Molefe. He is a mere manager, a supplicant, and Zuma would throw him under the bus in a heartbeat. He has been exposed by Madonsela as a servant to Ajay Gupta. His unprincipled relationship with the Gupta family, and his breathtakingly venal management of Eskom’s finances to favour the Guptas, would feature large in any coming inquiry and/or subsequent trial. I hope he’s made enough money, stretching back to his stewardship of Transnet, to afford a brilliant legal team. A few weeks ago in this column I apologised to Molefe for insulting him in a headline. I’m still glad I did that, because I was wrong to be rude and you know what they say about picking fights with people who like to play in the mud.
There is no point me wading here through the Madonsela report. The entire thing is at the end of this column. Try, if you have the stomach, to read the bits, starting around page 150, on how Molefe strained to get the Guptas ownership of the Optimum coal mine and the desperate attempts by Optimum’s Business Rescue managers to keep things clean. It is nauseating stuff. If I were Molefe I’d resign today. And turn state witness too.
My friend Alec Hogg wrote this pithy piece this morning summarising just about everything I wanted to say after reading the report. And Carol Paton at Business Day goes into some detail not only about Molefe and Eskom but the role played by public enterprises minister Lynne Brown in populating the Eskom board with Gupta employees or proxies. She’s in big trouble too. A commission of inquiry would be a breeze. All these people are going to have to ’fess up and quickly: And I loved this short clip of Molefe addressing parliament’s public enterprises committee, in which he tries to infer that he vaguely knows the Guptas but that there isn’t anything special about their relationship. It is hilarious in light of Madonsela’s evidence abut the intense relationship that emerges in her report, contrary to Molefe’s assertions.
Stephen Grootes runs his political eye over yesterday’s revelations and rightly concludes that the ANC has to do something about Zuma or face losing control of the government in 2019. Yes, I thought while reading it, but what? We know two things for certain about Zuma, based on what he always does under pressure. He will abandon his “friends” and he will seek refuge in the KwaZulu stronghold, which carries with it the risk of ethnic strife. The only way out of that dilemma is to find another Zulu to replace Zuma. I see a lot of Zweli Mkhize in our future.
And here is the full report, if you haven’t seen it already.