Zuma Watch

Stampede for cover from ‘House of Zuma’

Zuma’s last dance?

 As the walls of the political fortress President Jacob Zuma has constructed around himself are increasingly crumbling, his henchmen seem to have started a stampede in running for cover.

And it is also becoming clear that it is a case of each one for himself as some of them are shouldering one another out of the way in the run for safety and cover.

The latter was best illustrated in the spat between the head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Shaun Abrahams, and the acting head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks), Lieutenant-General Mthandazo Ntlemeza, that burst onto the public scene last week.

But then there also speculations that the retiring CEO of Eskom (the public electricity utility) and the man who started the dash for safety the previous week, Brian Molefe, might be planning to ‘turn state witness’ in prosecutions to follow in the wake of the Public Protector’s report on alleged state capture.

Besides Abrahams’ move to defend himself against a court application by the NGOs, the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) and Freedom Under Law (FUL), to have him suspended and investigated as to his fitness for the position he holds, and Molefe announcing his resignation, two members of the board of the public broadcaster (SABC) also resigned.

The latter move left Mbulaheni Maguvhe as the chairman of a board of which he is the only remaining non-executive director. 

Wider implications

That this process might be running wider and deeper than just these prominent individuals mentioned here is indicated by another resignation at Eskom that went by almost unnoticed. Less than a week after Molefe’s resignation as CEO, a non- executive director of Eskom’s board since 2014, Mark Pamensky, also resigned. 

Pamensky and Molefe have at least one thing in common – both were subpoenaed to answer to the PP during her anti-graft investigation into the alleged influence the Gupta family have over government appointments and contracts.

At the heart of the investigation and its report is the question whether, and to what extent, the Gupta family used their friendship and relationships with President Zuma to their own advantage.

Pamensky is a director of a company owned by the Gupta family and has ties with President Zuma’s son.

According to the PP’s state capture report it appears that Eskom last year forced Glencore into selling its Optimum mine to Tegeta Exploration & Resources, then part-owned by the Guptas and Zuma’s son.

New phase in state capture drama

To date it has been the perception that the top structures of the NPA and the Hawks are in cahoots in promoting and protecting Mr Zuma and his affiliates’ interests in the process of state capture.

However, in a detailed response of no less than 264 pages to the HSF and FUL’s court application to have President Zuma suspend him, Abrahams blames Ntlemeza for the abortive, embarrassing charges he brought against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

In a letter to Ntlemeza, included in the response, Abrahams effectively accuses him of withholding crucial information about an internal SARS memorandum from him.

In another indication that the battle surrounding Mr Zuma and allegations of corruption and state capture have entered a new phase, came from Mr Zuma himself, which seems to indicate either a change of tactics or him finally buckling under pressure from within the ANC.

To date his strategy has been one of delay and diversion, mostly through legal/judicial manoeuvres.

In reaction to the court application by the two NGOs, however, he wasted little time in following the correct procedural route by affording Abrahams, and two of his colleagues, the “opportunity to make written representation as to why I should not place you on suspension pending the outcome of the enquiry into your fitness to hold office”.

But then Abrahams himself might have made the first move for a next round of delaying tactics, when in his response to the HSF/FUL application he argues that it was unreasonable for them to give the president only three days to decide whether or not to suspend him.

It has also become an almost impossible task to try and guess who is on whose side in the whole messy saga. The fallout between Abrahams and Ntlemeza is open to a few interpretations, and so is the move by President Zuma. It has become fertile territory for those loving conspiracy theories.

To complicate matters even further, as we report elsewhere, indications are that the security establishment is still fighting hard in the Zuma corner, including keeping the ANC’s parliamentary caucus in line on last week’s motion on no confidence.

What triggered the new phase?

What exactly triggered the new phase in the battle, a single event or the culmination of a number of factors – including protesting, critical voices inside the ANC – is difficult to judge.

But that a new phase on the party political front, within the ANC itself , has indeed stated, might be indicated by the fact that deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa finally seems to have regained his voice on the matter – even if still just a soft and cautious one.     

Last week, delivering a keynote address to delegates at a summit of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) in Tshwane, he hit out at “self-serving leaders”. Not fingering anyone by name, he said: “We must not be afraid to be accountable. We must not run away and hide when accountability beckons. When the moment has arrived for you to be accountable and answer, don’t jika jika (dilly dally).”

While the fracturing of the ANC is still rife around pro- and anti-Zuma groups, it is still not clear if and when President Zuma will be appointing a judicial commission of inquiry into the question of state capture, as directed by the PP’s report.

One can expect the issue to become even more murky and confusing with predictions on when and how the book on the Zupta era will be closed, almost impossible.

by Bulletin Team

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