The multiplication of fools
A review of FOR MY COUNTRY – why I blew the whistle on Zuma and the Guptas by Themba Maseko
Until I read Maseko’s book, the one thing I didn’t know about the Guptas is that they are also known as G-Force. A quick google and the following statement appears: A squad of specially trained guinea pigs goes on their latest mission and aims to sabotage the plans of a diabolical billionaire who dreams of taking over the world via household appliances. Did the Guptas inspire this joke of a film?
The more serious question, seeking an answer, which made me buy this book is: What did Zuma demand of the Guptas for which he gave them South Africa? They are not even our own Indians! A percentage of the loot? Could have used local Africans since he was on an African transformation of the economy/Economy. This is why I did not have to read the book page after page as it is written. Instead, after the first chapter entitled ‘The President Calls’ which ends on page 11, I move to page 135 to continue the story in chapter 8 entitled ‘The Saxonwold Summons’. The other story of this book, also eminently worth reading, is the story of the boy named Themba (Trust) who joined the ANC struggle for liberation and became a reluctant hero. (I, together with other brave South Africans, including Mcebisi Jonas….) p. 205.
Nobody can assert that these Guptas arrived in South Africa on such and such a date. Or in what order they arrived. Their initial interest was computers, assembling computers and selling them. But there is no money in straight business. Some of their initial money was made from being paid for undelivered orders. It is said that they got appointed to high government committees during the time of Mbeki. But their time came in the time of Jacob Zuma.
The style was always the same. The President would call you and ask you to meet his friends, the Gupta brothers. And the President would appeal to you to help them. He might add that they are business partners of his son.
Usually, you are part of his government and you are in charge of some financial account. In the case of Maseko, he was the director-general of government information service with about six hundred million rands to spend on advertising government business. As Ajay Gupta made clear to Maseko, the Guptas were setting up a newspaper as well as a television station. So, the President calls you to help his son’s business associates. One of them will call you.
Good police, bad police was their style. The President was the good police. Ajay Gupta would call you and instruct you to drop everything you are doing and come to their house at once. He would let you know that a ministerial position was available in the cabinet and it is yours if you would play with them. At about that point a set of plastic bags stuffed full of money would appear as a bribe for accepting their offer.
For now, we do not know what those who accept do. Those who reject the offer work through a set of emotions but they do not accept the offer. At this point, Ajay Gupta will let you know that he would speak to your superiors who will sack you from whatever position you now hold. Unless, of course, you change your mind and go along with them.
In no time at all, the consequences of your refusal begin to happen. In the case of Maseko, President Zuma was attending the World Economic Forum and AU meetings. So, he calls the minister in his office to make sure Maseko is no longer there by the time he returns to Pretoria in a few days.
One of the results of this system is the frequent shuffling and reshuffling of the cabinet. Zuma reshuffled his cabinet more times than the other presidents put together from Mandela to Ramaphosa.
Altogether, it is estimated that 69 billion rands disappeared into the long pockets of the Guptas. From time to time, people have attempted to figure out what that amount amounts to, what it can buy. Whatever it is worth, it is a lot of money. Did the brothers keep all the money to themselves? Jacob Zuma’s son is a director in their companies but is Jacob Zuma also a director?
The Zondo Commission has had many enemies. Some people insist that it is a waste of money and of time. Others say that nothing will come out of it. Books such as this help to emphasize that such an inquiry is good for the country.
Like his trial for the corruption coming out of the arm’s deal, Zuma has been doing all that he can do to avoid having a day in court. And as a result of the experience of the arm’s deal, the courts are also handling the different appeals quickly and forthrightly.
Will the Guptas ever face a court of law to account for their role in state capture? And at the end of the day, how much of that money will be recovered to the South African treasury?
As far as the first question is concerned, they left the country. Their property and their businesses were abandoned or handed over to hangers-on. They bought the property in Dubai and other places. They were invited to come back but they are not interested. First, they deny the accusations placed against them. Second, they insist that were they to return to defend their innocence they would be arrested on landing in South Africa.
The second question about how much of the money will return to the South African treasury, the Guptas are not the only corrupt in town.
Some money is coming back into the South African treasury but not enough. As Maseko concludes so must we. “I leave it to history to judge me. Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika – may God bless Africa.”
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