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ANC state capture – SA in very serious trouble

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When a request to the Minister of Public Service and Administration for an independent public inquiry about claims of undue pressure on official is directed to a political party’s headquarters, something is very seriously wrong.

That is what happened last week when Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi’s “special advisor” and civil servant, Mahlodi Sam Muofhe, while confirming that the request has been received, said they “should by now know that the secretary-general of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe, made a clarion call to all those who allege that the ‘state is or may be captured’ to come and make proper substantiated submissions on the issue in his office”.

While the request came from a group of 27 directors-general, asking for a commission of inquiry to investigate claims of state capture by the Zuma-aligned Gupta family, and considering that he himself acknowledged their status as former senior civil servants, Muofhe’s reaction has some shocking implications. Among these are that:

  • For the ANC, capture of the state’s apparatus has reached the stage where there is no dividing line between it, as political party, and the state; and
  • Its secretary-general, as a purely party-political functionary, has authority and implied jurisdiction over matters concerning the administrative powers of the state.

In this regard it is important to note that in their letter the former directors-general wrote that the “allegations should be attended to with urgency or the country would be plunged into a governance crisis and the public service would collapse”.

To the best of our knowledge the group is an informal one of concerned former senior civil servants. It even becomes a bit silly when Muofhe questions the “authenticity” of their letter because it “wasn’t on a formal letterhead”.

Even more dangerous

Even more dangerous are the implications of some of the facts, since revealed, behind last weekend’s reports about alleged plans to arrest Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan.

On Monday last week it transpired that, according to some reports, the original tip-off about the “imminent” arrest of Gordhan, together with the former Minister of Finance, Trevor Manuel and others, originated with one of the Gupta brothers. (Members of the family had apparently slipped into South Africa for meetings concerning their troubled local business empire.)

The Daily Maverick reported that at “… a meeting in Johannesburg on 6 May, Ajay Gupta allegedly informed people dealing with his family’s companies that the Hawks would soon be making a number of arrests in connection with the SARS spy unit. He said those who would be arrested included Gordhan, Manuel and (Ivan) Pillay.”

According to the report, Ajay Gupta even mentioned the names of those who would replace Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas, once they were removed by President Zuma.

The NPA has since denied that it had received a docket from the Hawks on the matter of an alleged ‘rogue unit’ inside the South African Revenue Service. The investigation itself, however, was confirmed.

About the investigation itself NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku said: “No docket has been handed over to the NPA for a decision. The matter is still under investigation. Our prosecutors are assisting in terms of guiding the investigation.”

What should be of great concern is the question: How did a controversial foreign national and business man get enough inside information to bring the investigation into the public domain – and with a slant that suits his and his family’s interest.

Zuma’s reaction

President Zuma described the “arrest reports” as the work of “dangerous information peddlers”.

He also, at another occasion, said about state capture: “If you talk about state capture, you're misleading people. You’re taking a small issue and making it a big issue.”

As it turns out, it was his own intimate friends who were in this instance the “dangerous information peddlers”. They were also again up to their old tricks of informing people who Mr Zuma would be appointing to cabinet – something that was at the core of what triggered the whole state capture issue in the first instance.

Dangerous results

How dangerous this situation has become, especially to the South African economy, was illustrated on Monday when, on only the “rumour” of Minister Gordhan’s possible arrest, the rand plunged to its lowest level in two months, and yields on government bonds rose by as much as 17 basis points.

The new political drama also erupted after the county has only just avoided a credit downgrade to junk status, and the representatives of the next ratings agency were about to arrive in the country.

Unless the perceived attack on Minister Gordhan is expeditiously and believably put to rest, it is a sure bet that South Africa will reach junk status before the end of 2016 – something that it would take a long time to recover from.

Then there is the deeper and longer term danger for the country that the group of 27 former directors-general warned about: a collapse of the civil service.

Under the state of capture that the ANC has place the civil service, the vast majority of those 27 former directors-general have been replaced over recent years by party deployees loyal to Mr Zuma.

Even if and when Mr Zuma has vacated the office of the president, that legacy will be with the country. To re-professionalise and re-establish the independence of the civil service will be a very difficult and protracted process.

The ghost of the Zuma administration is bound to linger for many years to come.

by Piet Coetzer

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