With the ANC battling to shrug off public criticism that its leadership was in the pocket of the infamous Gupta family, Mcebisi Jonas yesterday told the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture that capturing the party was “the easy vehicle of capturing the state”.
Former deputy finance minister Jonas was back on the stand to complete his testimony – first delivered before Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo last year – and to be cross-examined by Duduzane Zuma’s advocate, Piet Louw, and the commission’s senior counsel, Philip Mokoena, on aspects of his earlier evidence.
Sparked by revelations made by Jonas that on October 23, 2015 the Guptas offered him R600 million at their Saxonwold home – in the presence of Zuma and businessperson Fana Hlongwana – if he accepted the post of finance minister, Louw and Mokoena’s cross-examination centred on former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report, the Hawks’ role, the Gupta affidavits, and why the bribery offer was never reported to the police or to former president Jacob Zuma.
Reflecting on the impact of state capture, Jonas said capturing the ANC was “an easy vehicle to capturing the state” due to “a blurred line” between the party and government. He cautioned that state capture shouldn’t be reduced to focusing only on former president Zuma’s reign.
To avert state capture, he said it was important for public institutions to be built in a way that bolstered the wall between the political party and government.
State capture, Jonas said, was bigger than an individual, with the phenomenon being “over Zumarised” due to South Africa having an “over personalised political system”.
“At the core of corruption was patronage”.
Patronage networks in South Africa – particularly within the ANC – have seen politically connected individuals being appointed to head state-owned enterprises like SA Airways, Eskom, Denel and Transnet. Deployments to key parliamentary and government positions have also been due to patronage.
Under cross-examination by Louw, Jonas said he stood by what he told Madonsela on the Saxonwold incident.
Contradicting Duduzane’s affidavit that none of the Gupta brothers were present at the meeting, Jonas said – despite assuming that the Gupta he saw was Ajay – it was a Gupta brother. He said he couldn’t tell the difference between Ajay or Atul.
“It could have been another Gupta brother, but there was a Gupta in the room,” said Jonas.
On his distrust for law enforcement agencies, police and Zuma, Jonas said this stemmed from Hawks Major-General Zinhle Mnonopi having told him over the phone that she wanted to close the case over the Gupta Saxonwold bribery.
The Hawks, according to Jonas, “made it clear they wanted to destroy the case”.
I was told to resign in 20 minutes – veteran DG
Under Mosebenzi Zwane as minister of mineral resources, a director-general (DG) was led to the office of one of his Gupta-imposed advisors and informed that his political boss demanded he hands in a letter of resignation within 20 minutes, the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture heard on Thursday.
Reliving what he described as “a painful moment”, Dr Thibedi Ramontja who had 19 years’ experience in government and served under seven Cabinet ministers, said on December 10, 2015 he was “called to the office of the minister”, but was led to that of his advisor Malcom Mabaso who told him that Zwane demanded his letter of resignation in 20 minutes.
“Mr Mabaso conveyed the message from minister Zwane that I had to resign,” he said. “Strangely, the minister was in his office at the time …
“At first, I told Mr Mabaso that upon hearing this, I was packing my bags right away and leaving,” added Ramontja. “But I later retracted for the sake of the country and served a notice period.
“It was one of the saddest days of my life, which led to me breaking down as this teared me.”
According to him, the Gupta-associated Zwane who was appointed by president Jacob Zuma on September 23, 2015 brought with him a team of advisors on the day he was inaugurated. They included Mabaso, Kuben Moodley and Zarina Kellerman.
“When he was appointed minister of mineral resources, I told Mr Zwane that due to poor health, I was considering stepping down and all he wanted to know was when I would leave,” Ramontja said.
“What happened at the department was not caused by the government of South Africa but by some people.
“Normally a minister and the DG have to work closely but I had to work through advisors, making me feel marginalised.”
Ramontja said the advisors also issued orders to the inspector of mines on which mines should be visited for inspection.