by Michaela Elsbeth Martin
As South Africa’s political and economic environment continues to deteriorate, the phenomenon of State Capture remains at the heart of its institutional decay. This came after an explosive cache of emails form inside the Gupta Empire (South Africa’s alleged captors), revealed how the family obtained several businesses from the government. The series of emails additionally revealed the extent of the Gupta family’s control over state owned companies and their CEOs, as well as their board members. This evidence could not have come at a more appropriate time. President Jacob Zuma’s political clock is quickly running out, amid mounting confirmation of state capture and growing opposition within the African National Congress (ANC).
The correspondence within the Gupta-compound provided insight into the critical role of the President’s son, Duduzane Zuma, in presidential matters. Mr D Zuma remains a close Gupta associate, even after reports last year circulated that he cut ties with the family. Moreover, President Zuma continuously defends his association with the controversial family, as well as his son’s business partnership with them. It is believed that Mr D Zuma has made billions through this strategic partnership.
The cache of emails reflected the following about the Gupta family’s influence within the South African government. Firstly, it became known that the résumé of Mr Mosebenzi Zwane’s, Minister of Mineral Resources, was emailed to the Gupta’s just a month before his appointment. The emails revealed that Mr Zwane had close ties with the family prior to his appointment in July 2015. Just three months after his appointment, the minister was on a working trip in Zurich where he helped to facilitate the sale of the Optimum Coal Mine in Mpumalanga to a company owned by the Guptas and Mr D Zuma. Since Mr Zwane’s appointment as Mineral Resource Minister, South Africa’s Mining Industry has been at its lowest, which is directly attributable to draconian labour legislation, corruption, political demagoguing, and the reluctance of organisations to adhere to the law.
Secondly, the leaked emails revealed that former Minister of Communications, now Minister of Public Services, Faith Muthambi, in 2014, directly forwarded a presidential proclamation to Tony Gupta detailing her powers before it was signed by President Zuma. The regulations listed in the email gave the communications minister wide-ranging power over the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, including the power to make policies, and issue policy direction and oversee applications pertaining to network licences, radio frequency plans and commercial broadcasting licences. Ms Muthambi was appointed Public Service and Administration Minister in the cabinet reshuffle in March this year. As Communications Minister, she was accused of allowing the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), to be plundered and run into the ground.
The emails additionally shed light on President Zuma’s decision to replace former Finance Minister, Nhlanhla Nene with Des van Rooyen in the autumn of 2015. Email correspondences show that Mr Van Rooyen repeatedly gave false testimony when he asserted to have paid for a private trip to Dubai, just shortly after his appointment to the cabinet in December 2015. However, the leaked emails revealed that the trip was financed and sponsored by the Gupta’s, and booked just a day before his departure on December 2015. Mr Van Rooyen however vehemently denied that this trip was planned in a short period of time, and asserted that it was planned long before his appointment as member of cabinet. Relatedly, on arrival as Finance Minister, Mr Van Rooyen was accompanied by advisers, Mohamed Bobar and Ian Whitley, who is said to be also affiliated to the Guptas. It is on this basis that it is claimed that Mr Van Rooyen’s appointment as Minister of Finance was influenced and instigated by the Captors of the South African state.
The leaked Gupta emails demonstrate how entrenched the family has become in the South African government. They reveal that President Zuma is not only incapable of leading the country, but also that he continues to place his own needs before those of the nations. This point is not an empty rhetoric as it speaks to the point that the Gupta family had bought President Zuma a R330-million retirement home in the upmarket suburb of Emirates Hills in 2015, in the same year that the President’s son bought an apartment valued at R18-million in the Burj Khalifa. Analysts concur that this approach of give and take between the two families in particular, emanates from the Gupta’s primary goal of gaining access, control and influence over South African state institutions and mechanisms.
From the above it is apparent that the once celebrated African nation, commended for its courage of fighting vigorously against an oppressed system, has now backslid into another classical example of an African state characterised by corruption, political, economic and institutional decay.