Standard Bank chief executive officer (CEO) Sim Tshabalala had every reason to be livid.
To be summoned to the headquarters of the country’s ruling party by some of the most powerful individuals shaping the country’s policies and be asked to defend yourself against accusations of being part of the “white monopoly capital”, out to “oppress black business”, was certainly the last thing Tshabalala and his team expected to hear when called to a meeting at Luthuli House two years ago.
As if that was not enough, there was the serious assertion that the country’s four major banks colluded to close Gupta-linked business accounts.
They also earned the brand “part of the Stellenbosch group”.
This is said to have been expressed in a meeting led by the ANC top brass Gwede Mantashe, Jessie Duarte and Enoch Godongwana – people who should know better than maRadebe from a rural Cala or Shenge from Nquthu – about the South African banking regulatory framework and the many international laws governing banks.
Here, you are dealing with people charged with deploying ANC cadres to parliament and holding them to account at caucus for not implementing policy.
But, as it appears, the decision to terminate the Gupta-linked business bank accounts had to be reversed at all costs, if evidence before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture is anything to go by.
Whether you listened to testimony by retired Standard Bank general counsel Ian Sinton, nonexecutive FirstRand board member Johan Burger, Absa chief executive for strategy services Yasmin Masithela or Nedbank CEO Mike Brown, the common thread pointed to one thing – abuse of power by the ruling party and some members of the executive.
Their preoccupation was to ensure that the banks were chastised for terminating business accounts of the family whose core business was to run the country’s affairs during the Jacob Zuma presidency.
As heard in earlier testimonies before the commission delivered by former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, former ANC member of parliament Vytjie Mentor and former Government Communication and Information System CEO Themba Maseko, anyone that stood in the way of Gupta interests had to be dealt with – even if it meant they were reshuffled or removed.
It happened in a country known for its progressive constitution and independent judiciary, one that prides itself on a democracy that anti-apartheid struggle stalwarts like Chris Hani, Solomon Mahlangu, Griffiths Mxenge, Steve Biko, Ahmed Timol and Neil Aggett paid with their lives to attain.
Joel Hellman and Daniel Kaufman – two world-renowned experts on state capture – have testified before the commission about the phenomenon that has gripped the country.
To them, state capture is about “individuals or firms seeking to engage politicians and the public sector through the provision of private benefits to shape public decisions in their interests”.
Does this not sound familiar?