Let's Think

Foreign pressure could help save SA’s democracy

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Notwithstanding growing domestic pressure to bring an end to the catastrophic Zuma presidency it will still require sustained pressure to see the back of him. Pressure from outside the country could add extra weight and momentum.

President Jacob Zuma has proven repeatedly that he is a nifty political street fighter and survivor. Repeatedly he has shown that he can ride seemingly fatal political blows and bounce back stronger and more determined.

In no insignificant manner, the reason for his survival and seemingly unassailable position in the ruling ANC is the readiness of many party members, senior civil service officials, and senior board members and CEO’s of State Owned Enterprises (SOE’s) to become ensnared in a web of deceit and corruption.


Former minister Derek Hanekom talked codswallop when he told the audience at Daily Maverick’s symposium in Cape Town last week about the up-coming no confidence vote in parliament that: “When it comes to the vote I’m sure ANC members in Parliament will do what they believe is best for our country.”

Hanekom is, however, correct when he said: ”They (ANC MP’s) will do what they believe is best for our (ANC) organization.”

Not only has the ANC as a political party lost its moral compass a long time ago, but the clear majority of ANC MP’s will follow the instructions of the party’s hierarchy, and listen to their bellies rather than their conscience, and the oath they have taken as MP’s to “uphold the Constitution above anything else.”

The possibility that a significant number of ANC MP’s will do what is right for South Africa and vote for the motion of no-confidence in President Zuma, is zero – secret ballot or not. This, notwithstanding the fact that a survey found most ANC supporters think MP’s should follow their conscience rather than party instructions in the no-confidence ballot.   

External pressure

With the tide turning against Zuma and his cohorts, the Guptas in particular, external pressure could help to accelerate the tempo for change, limiting the scope of deceit, and the plunder of state assets.

Pressure from the outside can also help to relieve the pressure on the brave band of journalists and civil society organisations coming under increasing pressure and threats for their efforts to expose the full extent of corruption and state capture.

The effect of such pressure is shown clearly in the frantic efforts by the disgraced British PR company Bell Pottinger (BP) to try and limit the damage caused by their involvement with the Gupta business empire – playing the race card, blaming so-called ‘white monopoly capital’ (WMC) as the root cause for everything that goes wrong in South Africa.    

The storm that erupted around BP and the pressure placed on them also compelled the Guptas to break their silence to try and limit the damage.

One of the Gupta brothers, in an interview with the BBC, tried to sell the Gupta business empire as morally and ethically incorruptible, and as being victimised for being successful under challenging circumstances in a country where they are up against WMC.

Instead of dispelling the misgivings and allegations of unethical business practices of the highest order, he succeeded only in the opposite, questioning the authenticity of the #GuptaLeaks emails even though people identified in some of the emails confirmed their correctness.

The unconvincing show of Atul Gupta not only left the discredited family more vulnerable, and the arrogance, lack of ethics, and greed displayed by them and BP is highly unlikely to do them any good.

Enter the USA

It has also become known that the United States of America’s (US) Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) could deliver South Africa a great service by hitting the Gupta state capture network where it hurts the most – their pockets.                       

The #GuptaLeaks revelations allow US authorities to investigate the network and its US registered business associates if suspected of contravening US legislation. If guilty, the consequences could be costly.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) allows for investigation into suspected criminal financial activities in terms of wire transfers, emails, phone calls, mail, and travel.

In this regard a US company, Brookfield Consulting, owned by apparent US-citizen relatives of the Guptas, might be subject to criminal investigation as money accrued from shady Gupta transactions was reportedly wired to Brookfield in the US.

The Guptas have reportedly also used email services such as Gmail to communicate about dollar wire transfers. Because Google’s Gmail is hosted in the US, it allows US criminal investigators the right to investigate.

If the Guptas should become a subject of interest to US law enforcement agencies, and found guilty of any money laundering transgressions, they could face substantial fines and possible imprisonment. Additionally, funds and other property involved in money laundering activities may be frozen or seized by US enforcement authorities, or subject to forfeiture.

Although US law enforcement agencies have been tight lipped about the matter, it would be unusual if they show no interest against the backdrop of the vigilance with which such activities are normally treated.

We think

Sustained external pressure played a big role in bringing democracy to South Africa. A repeat performance might just go a long way in protecting the survival of democracy in the country going forward.

by Garth Cilliers

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