OP-ED Opinions 

News24.com | Adriaan Basson: Connecting the dots of the Zupta fightback

2019-08-19 07:01

The actors enabling Jacob Zuma and the Guptas to have their way are desperate to divert attention away from their own sins to whatever mud they can throw at Cyril Ramaphosa, writes Adriaan Basson.

Public
Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, the EFF, two controversial Sunday Independent journalists and a
sophisticated social media bot campaign are the main actors at the heart of the
Zuma faction’s fightback against the Cyril Ramaphosa presidency.

Although it
is still unclear at this point whether the fightback campaign is orchestrated, centrally
driven or linked to current or former intelligence operatives, events of the
past two months have shown an intensity in targeting Ramaphosa and his public
enterprises minister, Pravin Gordhan.

There has
rarely been a week during which Ramaphosa and/or Gordhan has not been publicly
attacked by one or more of these actors. The
background to this is the intensity with which Advocate Shamila Batohi, the
national director of public prosecutions, is assembling a strategy and team to
arrest and prosecute the biggest benefactors of the Zupta era’s state capture.

At this
stage, it seems that the Zuma fightback squad has been faster out of the blocks
than Batohi, who has had to make peace with the fact that she was handed a
limping NPA. Batohi had to apply Dettol and band-aid to people and systems to
recover quickly from a lost decade of political interference in the work of the
NPA.

She is down two
deputies with the early retirement of Advocate Silas Ramaite over the weekend
and needs to strengthen the team around her expeditiously to make up lost
ground.

What is she
up against?

It is
estimated that South Africa lost more than R100bn during the reign of Zuma and
his friends, the Guptas. Through a litany of dubious transactions and political
machinations, billions were siphoned off state-owned enterprises like Transnet,
Eskom and Denel.

No wonder
the latter can no longer pay its staff’s salaries.

The actors
enabling Zuma and the Guptas to have their way – from Brian Molefe to Matshela
Koko, Ben Ngubane, Anoj Singh, Malusi Gigaba, Dan Mantsha and Salim Essa – are
desperate to divert attention away from their own sins to whatever mud they can
throw at Ramaphosa.

They’d much
rather have us talking about Gavin Watson’s R500 000 donation to the CR17
campaign for many more months than putting the focus back on where it was
before Ramaphosa took over (and the EFF still supported the Zuma-must-go
movement).

This is
where it becomes murky. Because nobody can legitimately argue that Mkhwebane’s
focus on Watson’s donation to Rampahosa’s campaign doesn’t justify a legitimate
investigation by the Public Protector.

It
ultimately comes down to a question of priorities. There is a reason that
Mkhwebane chose to focus much more of her time and energy on the Gordhan and
Ramaphosa investigations, flawed as they may be, than the Estina probe that
implicates ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule.

Her role is
ultimately to protect the public against rogue state organs, not the accounting
of private political candidate campaigns.

Magashule is
firmly in the Zuma faction and his role in Free State capture as former premier
deserves Bosasa-like scrutiny from Mkhwebane and her office (remember that his
sons were employed by the Guptas; he assisted the family in “legitimising”
the landing of a private jet at Waterkloof; he approved the Estina project and
directed millions of the province’s advertising spend to the Guptas’ New Age
newspaper).

Which brings
me to the Sunday Independent,
the anti-Ramaphosa faction’s favourite leaking ground. After their careers came
to a crash with the Sunday Times’
mea culpa over multiple wrong stories about what they dubbed the “Sars
rogue unit”, journalists Mzilikazi wa Afrika and Piet Rampedi have
reinvented themselves as frontpage writers of the Iqbal Survé-owned Sunday
Independent.

Coincidentally,
Survé hired them around the same time as he realised that the
Mpati Commission into the Public Investment Corporation was not going to be
kind to him or his businesses.

Week-after-week,
Wa Afrika and Rampedi are fed bank statements, emails and inside information
about Mkhwebane’s investigations into the president. Of course, there is
nothing wrong about publishing these details if they are in the public interest
– I would have done the same (and have published some of the emails on News24).

But context
matters and the two gentlemen in question have to this day refused to accept
responsibility for their anti-Sars stories that contributed significantly to
the breaking-down of the taxman’s investigative capacity. Rampedi uses his
Twitter account to denigrate other journalists who don’t agree with his world
views and calls them a “cabal” (I am number 28 on his list).

What remains
to be said about the EFF, that has flip-flopped more than a Russian acrobat at
the prime of her career? They are firmly driving the anti-Ramaphosa,
pro-Mkhwebane narrative on social media and in public for political gain.

It basically
comes down to this: for as long as Batohi and her colleagues at the NPA don’t
make arrests, the fightback will continue unabated and Ramaphosa will
increasingly look like a lame duck.

– Basson
is editor-in-chief of News24 and author of the forthcoming book Blessed by
Bosasa.

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