President Cyril Ramaphosa, 22 August 2019. Picture: Gallo Images
The sanctions by the United States against the Guptas may have nothing to do with improving relations between Washington and the South African government, but was rather part of the US approach to serve its interests and laws pertaining to dealing with corrupt individuals from other countries.
Despite the motive, South Africa should be ashamed for not having taken action itself.
This was the view of political analysts who added that the US action might have embarrassed President Cyril Ramaphosa because his government had failed to act against those implicated in state capture, including the Guptas and senior members of the governing ANC, before a foreign power could.
This week the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (Ofac) sanctioned Ajay Gupta, Atul Gupta, Rajesh Gupta and Salim Essa as members of a significant corruption network in South Africa.
Ofac said the four leveraged overpayments on government contracts, and were guilty of bribery and other corrupt acts to fund political contributions and influence government actions.
The action was in terms of the presidential Executive Order (EO) 13818, signed in 2017 to safeguard against the prevalence of human rights abuse and corruption from sources outside the US.
The US government pledged its support for the rule of law and accountability in SA, including the works of the judiciary, law enforcement agencies and the ongoing judicial commissions of inquiry.
“Moreover, we commend the extraordinary work by South Africa’s civil society activists, investigative journalists and whistle-blowers, who have exposed the breadth and depth of the Gupta family’s corruption,” the state said.
The action blocked all property and interests in property and any entities that the Gupta brothers and Essa owned, directly or indirectly, in the US.
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said the US action might have been aimed to inspire reciprocal action by SA against corruption.
“But this is surely an embarrassment for South Africa because we should be acting without being told to,” Mathekga said.
Wits University’s honorary professor of international relations, John Stremlau, said the anti-Gupta sanctions were a “positive step” and the timing and the results were good for the state capture investigation.
“But I don’t expect it to change the fundamentals of US-South African relations,” Stremlau said.
The US action prompted a frenzy of criticism against Ramaphosa within South Africa, with various groups claiming he had failed to act against those implicated in state capture. Both the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) and the smaller Congress of the People (Cope), while welcoming the US action, questioned the lack of action from the side of the SA government.
DA shadow minister for public enterprises, Natasha Mazzone, described the US sanctions as a “positive step”.
“It is, however, unfortunate that President Ramaphosa’s ANC government has not acted against a single individual that has been implicated in state capture.
Cope’s national spokesperson, Dennis Bloem, said the ANC government should be ashamed that the US took the action where it failed to do so.
“It is shameful that people like Jacob Zuma and Ace Magashule behave as if it is business as usual when they faced serious allegations,” he said.
“Cope can only come to one conclusion as to why the Hawks and NPA are not taking action against corrupt elements – because the entire Luthuli House will implode,” Bloem said.
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