Columns 7.9.2016 06:30 am

Guptas may have opted to bypass their man Zuma

Martin Williams

Martin Williams

If there’s any explanation of the madness of recent events, perhaps only conspiracy theories can provide the answer.

Genuine prescience is a rare gift. Irish poet William Butler Yeats had an ability to foresee shifts in the tide of humanity. In the 97 years since Yeats wrote The Second Coming, his prophetic words have often proved appropriate. Even people who haven’t heard of Yeats know the words, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”

Indeed, there is much in Yeats’ poem that could apply to South Africa, particularly to the ANC.

And there is irony in the aptness of the title when referring to President Jacob Zuma. Since the August 3 elections, there has been a rash of spoof sightings of Jesus. Photoshopped pictures of the biblical figure superimposed on the Johannesburg skyline need no explanation. They poke fun at Zuma’s boast that the ANC will rule until Jesus returns.

In mentioning the “sightings”, my intention is not to mock anyone’s religion. Rather to highlight one of several signs that times are changing. South Africa is not the only place where a sense of change is afoot. Yeats’ global relevance can be measured with modern techniques. Factiva researchers say The Second Coming was quoted more often in the first seven months of 2016 than in any of the preceding 30 years.

In SA media, phrases such as “tipping point” and “end game” keep cropping up. Discord within the governing party has reached danger levels. An end game is being played between the Hawks and their puppet masters on the one hand, and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on the other. The prize is the National Treasury, guarded by Gordhan and his supporters.

Access to money is at the core of the ANC’s troubles. Comrades are fighting over scraps from a derailed gravy train.

The corrupt patronage network is shattered. Ousted mayors, councillors and officials have lost not only their salary packages. They’re also cut off from contracts, tenders and other ways of milking the public purse. They are shedding corporate sponsors who are repelled by the leadership vacuum.

Recent events cast doubt on whether Zuma is calling the shots. Who, for example, gave Minerals Minister Mosebenzi Zwane permission to say Cabinet wants a judicial inquiry into banks? Not Zuma.

Perhaps the Guptas are no longer using Zuma as their messenger. Perhaps they are issuing instructions directly to people such as Zwane and Hawks boss Berning Ntlemeza, who are presumed by some to be in the pay of the Guptas. Why would the Guptas do something so detrimental to our economy? They are not naive. They knew what would happen.

Here’s a possibility: although a weaker rand hurts most of us, it benefits currency speculators who can influence events. When renewed threats by the Hawks against Gordhan did not do enough damage, speculators contrived other pressures to push down the rand. A “judicial inquiry” threat to banks would be perfect for anyone who bought dollars in anticipation of a weaker rand. They could sell dollars at a huge profit. Crazy, destructive behaviour? That’s what happens when leadership fails and the centre cannot hold.

“Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”. In the streets and in the markets.

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