With new disclosures each week, more questions arise. How many bad guys are there? Who’s pulling Zuma’s strings? Is it the Guptas, or Russian President Vladimir Putin, or the wider band of gangsters named in the Sunday Times excerpts from Jacques Pauw’s book, The President’s Keepers? Or all of the above?
Columnist Peter Bruce says we should not be distracted by talk of Muscovite influence.
“The Russians are way behind the Guptas. It may or may not be true that Zuma has already taken money from Putin to ensure he places a big nuclear power order with Moscow … but even if he has, he is incapable of making the order happen.”
So, although Putin is described by Forbes magazine as the world’s richest man and by CNN as the world’s most powerful person, perhaps he is not the SA circus ringmaster. Merely another participant.
Certainly the #GuptaLeaks e-mails suggest the Guptas are central. The way banks cut off the Guptas adds to this perception. So, too, does the reputational damage to Bell Pottinger, McKinsey and KPMG.
Additionally, the US Securities Exchange and the FBI are investigating Gupta dealings.
Yet, although the Guptas feature prominently in Pauw’s book, subtitled Those Keeping Zuma in Power and out of Prison, the Saxonwold family are not the only key players.
Skimming through the book, you get the impression that one mover and shaker is alleged cigarette smuggler Adriano Mazzotti, who fancies himself as kingmaker.
His beneficiaries allegedly include Julius Malema and presidential candidate Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Another insider is Sars Commissioner Tom Moyane.
Many dots have to be joined but here is a start: the so-called Sars “rogue unit”, for which former finance minister Pravin Gordhan was hounded, focused on the multibillion-rand illegal cigarette trade. That is Mazzotti’s turf.
It follows that the Guptas were not the only ones who wanted Gordhan out of the way. Mazzotti needed to stop Sars.
Crucially, Moyane disbanded the “rogue unit”, removing the spotlight from Mazzotti’s dealings. Moyane’s appointment solved another problem for Zuma.
Sars stopped pestering him to complete a tax return, including the R64 million fringe benefit tax he should have paid for Nkandla improvements.
Another, seemingly unrelated story has relevance.
In Business Times, Manglin Pillay, chief executive of the SA Institution of Civil Engineers, says the country’s infrastructure is “on the brink of failure”.
There are not enough technically competent people in all three spheres of government and state-owned entities to plan, implement and maintain infrastructure.
Leading political theorist Francis Fukuyama identified three factors which, in combination, are critical for nations to succeed: the rule of law, accountability and the capable state. Zuma destroys all three. He scoffs at the rule of law and dodges accountability.
Almost every institution he touches, except the judiciary, he has denuded of competence. Loyalty trumps ability.
Our next leaders must not only be honest, they must cherish competence.