Many weeks ago through this column one raised two issues, on two different occasions, which have since become a nightmare for our relatively young democratic state. The first one is the relationship between President Jacob Zuma and the Gupta family and the second is the need for a judicial commission of inquiry arising out of allegations of state capture.
On the first one, the point was made that the President had a right to choose his friends. But when his friendships begin to interfere with matters of our republic, we, as citizens, have a right to object.
This opinion was triggered by the much-publicized landing of the Gupta’s chartered plane at the Waterkloof
Air Force Base. The landing sparked widespread criticism and justifiably so. The name of President Zuma, referred to as Number One, was allegedly bandied about in securing the Guptas landing rights at what is otherwise a national key point out that is of bounds for private and commercial flights.
Then, South Africans from all walks of life were outraged. Their apology notwithstanding, I warned the Guptas not to abuse the hospitality of South Africans and to appreciate the depth of the anger and hurt their action had caused. I doubt if they understood the message. The latest allegations, contained in what is now known as the #GuptaLeaks, exposes how determined they were to use not just one of our air force bases as their playground but our entire republic.
Their alleged deeds, which they have so far not denied but have instead raised questions about how the emails were accessed, reveal the shocking extent of how they sought to be lords over our country. The implicated politicians may not be embarrassed and ashamed by the contents of the emails but ordinary citizens love South Africa too much to be left unbothered by these allegations. We are a proud nation and attempts to undermine our sovereignty, capture the levers of political power and use our economic resources to advance the interests of one family are the height of disrespect for our nation.
Even the ANC which in the past has adopted a head-in-the-sand approach on its president’s scandals has pronounced on this one. Speaking to the media last week, its spokesman Zizi Kodwa said the ANC had “grave concern” over the “very worrying claims about the nature of the relationship between government and private interests” as alleged in the emails. It called for a probe to determine the truth of the claims. We should be encouraged by the ruling party's courage and rediscovery of its moral compass but one wonders if it is not too little too late.
Which leads us to the ANC’s about-turn on the commission of inquiry into state capture. The memory is still fresh in our minds of how the ANC tried to investigate allegations of state capture by asking people to bring their concerns and allegations to its Secretary General.
Some of us saw that for what it was – an attempt to contain the fallout caused by the allegations of state capture. We warned then that this was a futile exercise and which lacked credibility. I joined a number of religious leaders and the South African Communist Party in calling for an independent judicial commission of inquiry.
In June 2016 Mantashe closed the ANC’s investigation saying it would be fruitless to continue with it as he had only received one written submission on the matter. The party's Kodwa told the Gupta-owned television channel then that this was a “closed chapter”. And so the Guptas continued with their peddling of political influence. But how wrong Mantashe and Kodwa were. The matter is not a closed chapter. No less than the ANC National Executive Committee itself is now saying there should, without delay, be a judicial commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture. It is a moot point as to how broad the commission’s terms of reference should be but what should not be lost is how one family (the Guptas) allegedly tried to influence the head of state (President Zuma).
And so, let the commission of inquiry come so that the nation can end this nightmare and move forward. But as we wait for it, one cannot but reflect on the massive ruptures that this saga has caused within the ANC and its alliance partners, let alone the careers it has already destroyed and is yet to destroy. The ANC is still a leader of society and its alliance with Cosatu and the SACP offers hope to many. The ANC is hurting and the state of the alliance is troubling. The tragedy is that this is not because of policy differences and/or the future direction of the country. Rather, it is because of how one family has seemingly managed to divide the ANC and the latter from its allies. It is tragic.
PASTOR RAY McCAULEY IS THE PRESIDENT OF RHEMA FAMILY CHURCH AND CO-CHAIRPERSON FOR OF NATIONAL RELIGIOUS LEADERS COUNCIL (NRLC)