POLITICS
10/01/2018 12:01 SAST | Updated 10/01/2018 12:18 SAST

State Capture: Jacob Zuma Ain't Done Yet

The president has resisted any and all attempts to prise open the dark recesses of state capture. Why open the door now?

Grant Neuenburg / Reuters
President Jacob Zuma... he's not done yet. Not by a long shot.

ANALYSIS

President Jacob Zuma never does anything without it being calculated and cynical.

He has shown us time and again that he never ever takes executive action in the prime interests of the country, its citizens or the Constitution, and has never embarked upon a course of action where he hasn't had some degree of confidence about its outcome.

South Africans should be optimistic, but wary of the sudden decision by Zuma to accede to the order of the High Court that he comply with the former public protector's findings about state capture. In a statement on Tuesday, Zuma said he had asked Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng to nominate a judge to head the inquiry, who in turn named his deputy, Judge Raymond Zondo.

In his statement there are three implicit threats directed at those who will attempt to target him, his son Duduzane and his benefactors, the Guptas. 'If you do, you must be prepared to be exposed yourselves,' is the message.

Zuma is not done yet, by a long shot. He is acutely aware of the shifting balance of power in the ANC, the need to appease his detractors and the necessity to manage the process as far as he can. And make no mistake: he is still head of state, a position that commands enormous resources, authority and loyalty.

In his statement there are three implicit threats directed at those who will attempt to target him, his son Duduzane and his benefactors, the Guptas. "If you do, you must be prepared to be exposed yourselves," is the message.

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Considering his options . . . President Jacob Zuma listening to the results of the leadership contest at the ANC's national conference in December 2017.

"The commission must seek not just the conduct of some, but of all those who may have rendered our state... vulnerable" is the first threat.

In the next paragraph, Zuma adds: "There should be no area of corruption and culprit [sic] that should be spared the extent of the commission of inquiry."

And just to force home his point, he says the commission will have enough resources "to be able to reach many of those areas of concern that may not have been reached by the public protector's investigation".

It's pretty clear. Zuma knows where many "smallanyana skeletons" are buried, and if he goes down, it won't be alone.

Zuma has never shown anything but disdain for advocate Thuli Madonsela, the former public protector who investigated state capture, and has resisted any and all attempts by her to prise open the dark recesses of the Gupta empire.

In the statement, Zuma reiterates that he does not agree with the court's judgment ordering him to accede to the public protector, and says that he remains committed to appealing it. He then proceeds to say –– remarkably, for someone who has fought tooth and nail to quash the state capture findings –– that he is "concerned that the matter as occupied the public mind for some time" and that it "deserves urgent attention".

Zuma has never shown anything but disdain for advocate Thuli Madonsela, the former public protector who investigated state capture, and has resisted any and all attempts by her to prise open the dark recesses of the Gupta empire.

He ignored letters by her to his office during the investigation, and when she eventually was granted an audience, Zuma blocked her enquiries at every turn. He also cancelled a follow-up meeting that he agreed to and, when the report was about to be released, tried to interdict it.

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Cyril Ramaphosa during his 1st speech as the president of the ANC at 54th African National Congress (ANC) national conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre on December 20, 2017.

Now, all of a sudden, the allegations that "the state has been wrestled out of the hands of the people of South Africa" is of "paramount importance" and "deserving of finality and certainty"?

When the deputy minister of finance told the world last year he was offered his boss' job by the Guptas, it wasn't of such "paramount importance" to Zuma.

Nor were the revelations that Zuma was in the Guptas' house when Vytjie Mentor was offered a Cabinet position of "paramount importance" to investigate.

Neither was the protracted collapse of Eskom and the free ride the Guptas got of "paramount importance" for Zuma to act.

On the face of it, the appointment the independent Zondo commission of inquiry should lead to accountability for those that enabled and benefitted from state capture.

And when all of this was collated in a detailed report by a constitutionally mandated state institution, it still was not considered of enough "paramount importance" for this president to launch an investigation.

Zuma has a history of obfuscation and interference, as Nkandla and state capture clearly show. In both instances, he ignored media reports, his parliamentary caucus protected him from scrutiny, and the findings of investigations were either batted away or challenged in court.

On the face of it, the appointment the independent Zondo commission of inquiry should lead to accountability for those that enabled and benefited from state capture. Zondo is a well-respected judge, is the chief justice's second-in-command and sits on the bench of one of our country's most revered institutions.

Zuma will not be able to interfere with the investigation itself –– but he will be able to meddle in other ways. He has much to lose, and he has never been caught flat-footed. This will be no different.