Pieter du Toit: Gordhan meeting the Guptas is a sideshow, the real story is Zuma
The crux of Pravin Gordhan's 68-page statement to Zondo: the crucial, central and clear role Jacob Zuma played to facilitate the grand and intricate project of capturing the state, writes Pieter du Toit.
Expect much to be made of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan's admission that he, too, met the Guptas while he was finance minister in former president Jacob Zuma's Cabinet.
In a sworn statement before the judicial inquiry on state capture Gordhan admits he met the Guptas a couple of times, that they invited him to the Sun City wedding and demanded a meeting in Saxonwold (he refused).
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The EFF, who has suddenly gone into full attack-mode on National Treasury, Gordhan and anyone remotely associated with proper financial management, have already issued a breathless statement accusing the former finance minister of being a Gupta stooge because the Guptas "gained traction" during his first term as finance minister.
It is, of course, total hogwash. Gordhan's admission is nothing like that of Nhlanhla Nene, who recently resigned after it emerged he met the Guptas numerous times as finance minister and that he lied about it on national television. Gordhan's liaisons with the controversial capture clan were much fewer than Nene's, with the one formal meeting arranged by Zuma and held at the presidential compound at Bryntirion Estate in Pretoria.
And that's the crux of Gordhan's 68-page anatomy of capture: the crucial, central and clear role Zuma played to facilitate the grand and intricate project of capturing and repurposing the state for narrow, rent-seeking ends.
Zuma looms large in Gordhan's statement, intervening when his close friend Dudu Myeni couldn't get her way with SAA and when a shady deal to pay almost R6bn more than what it was worth for a stake in Engen was stalled. To Gordhan it was also clear that Zuma was dead-set on giving Russia the nuclear deal, a fact confirmed by Nene in his colourful testimony where he detailed Zuma's repeated attempts to force Russia down South Africa's collective throat.
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During his second stint as finance minister – between December 2015 and March 2017 – Gordhan and Treasury became targets from within and outside Cabinet. His appointment stalled the attempts to capture Treasury, which was central to the success of the capture project. Treasury, whose functions are codified in the Constitution, regulates government expenditure and procurement and if the rent-seekers wanted to loot with gay abandon, it would have to be brought to heel.
Gordhan prevented this and Zuma enabled a dirty, covert war against him and Treasury. He clearly sanctioned the assault in early 2016 on Gordhan by the Hawks' Berning Ntlemeza, and then had his other hatchet-man, prosecutions boss Shaun Abrahams, follow it up with trumped-up charges. Zuma sat back as Tom Moyane, his deployee to SARS, went out of his way to undermine Gordhan, while inside Cabinet Gordhan was attacked by colleagues like Bathabile Dlamini and hung out to dry by Nathi Mtethwa and David Mahlobo.
And when the Guptas' bank accounts were closed because of suspicious transactions Zuma delegated the family's own minister of state, Mosebenzi Zwane, to lead a Cabinet-level "inquiry", one which Gordhan refused to take part in.
- Pieter du Toit is News24's assistant editor for in-depth news.