That old saying, it never rains but it pours, certainly has overstayed its welcome in South Africa. Had it only rained, quite literally, one of our woes at least would have been mitigated, and the drought which has swindled our citizens of food and affordable basics would be a non-issue.
But we are facing far greater issues than the drought in our lands. We are facing a drought of education, accountability and a severe drought of leadership. Our throats are parched for tangible outcomes – for answers which would lead the country towards the fertile lands which we once envisioned.
The state of our nation – fourth quarter of 2016
South Africa’s Minister of Finance – a title which has seen local and international headlines more in the last year than we’ve ever witnessed before and just two weeks ago South Africans were once more left reeling following news that Pravin Gordhan, the latest bearer of this title, has been issued with a summons for fraud.
The NPA listed Gordhan as their “accused number one”, while former SARS Commissioner Oupa Magashula, former Deputy SARS Commissioner Ivan Pillay, former SARS high-risk investigations unit head Johan van Loggerenberg and ANC donor Jen-Chih Huang, have also been fingered as alleged fraudsters and illegal spies.
Following the announcement, the already battered rand plummeted.
— finglobal.com (@cashkows) October 11, 2016
The charges stem from the Sikhakhane Inquiry and investigation into the SARS “rogue unit” which is believed to have contravened the Intelligence Act. Gordhan had refused to testify against Pillay and other senior SARS officials during disciplinary hearings – opting instead to offer them early retirement in exchange for their confidentiality. This refusal placed Gordan directly in the firing line of SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane, a close friend of President Jacob Zuma.
The Minister and other pundits in his camp, however, believe the continued harassment is something far more sinister – political castigation for Gordhan’s refusal to back down from his investigation into irregular state contracts which benefited President Zuma and his affiliates. In August this year Gordhan warned that the public should not be surprised if he is to be removed from office.
The story, however, is much messier and muddled the longer you scrutinise it. According to SARS, NPA and Hawks sources – the charges are also motivated by a long-standing score which has not been settled. If you backtrack a few years you’ll remember the Mbeki-Nel-Selebi debacle. Indeed, the Hawks, of course, were formerly known as the Scorpions and headed by famed prosecutor, Gerrie Nel. Nel had allegedly been asked by President Mbeki to look into dealings of former police commissioner Jackie Selebi and, of course, Nel was also implicated in the SARS rogue unit investigation. To make matters worse, Nel had violated the Public Finance Management Act in the process by purchasing spying equipment through his wife’s account. Following the Khampepe Commission the Scorpions were unexpectedly disbanded by the Minister of Safety and Security, Charles Nqakula. The remaining scorpions were incorporated into the South African Police Service’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation – also known as the Hawks. The Scorpion investigation into alleged bribery amongst Zuma allies was subsequently shut down. The Hawks, however, as a unit which is now part of the SAPS, is therefore seen to have a score to settle with Nel, Gordhan and anyone involved with the rogue unit investigation.
In a move that caught many by surprise, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa came out in support of Pravin Gordhan after his summons. This support has caused even more tremors among the fault lines with in the ruling party itself, and Ramaphosa has, in turn, taken much fire from his own cadres.
Whether to pre-empt possible prosecution or demotion, or simply to assert his stature, Gordhan immediately filed court papers which implicate Zuma associates as well as the notorious Gupta family. The alleged suspicious transactions detailed in the court papers are said to total in excess of R6.8 billion. Of course, it’s also interesting that these court documents were filed just before the arrival of an assembly of Russian delegates set to discuss the two countries’ strategic partnership and nuclear cooperation. This contract of cooperation was signed in secret in 2014 by South Africa’s Minister of Energy, Tina Joemat-Pettersson. Subsequent to this contract, a 9 600 MW nuclear procurement programme, which was approved by the cabinet on 9 December 2015, is on the cards. The programme will consist of 6 to 8 nuclear reactors estimated at R800 billion to R1.6 trillion. Of course, the uranium for the project would be provided by Oakbay Resources and Energy Limited – which is owned and operated by none other than the Gupta family.
Indeed, if you start looking at the whole picture, it seems it’s an intricate political puzzle which is hard to decipher. There are too many variables, too many fingers in the pie – too much at risk for so many people. And the ones who are most at risk? South African citizens of course. One thing that IS clear, is that South Africa’s economy is not likely to recover soon.
A bit of a silver lining in all this is Gordhan’s commitment to education, which became evident during his medium-term budget speech this week. In addressing the #FeesMustFall issue, Gordhan has allocated an additional R17 billion to education over the next three years. This increase has given the education sector a 0.5% boost as percentage of GDP from 2008. He was quite clear that the budget allocation would be meaningless without a clear roadmap of the future of education in South Africa.
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