JOHANNESBURG, August 20 – The judicial commission of inquiry into the alleged capture of the South African state and its entities, referred to as ”state capture”, is set to begin on Monday in Johannesburg.
At the centre of the hearings are the fugitive Gupta family, who have since left the country as allegations of corruption and stripping of state-owned enterprises (SoE) of billions of rand through illegal contracts surfaced. The extent of the family’s influence was detailed in leaked emails from Gupta computer servers, dubbed “GuptaLeaks”.
The Gupta brothers, Atul, Ajay, and Rajesh, also known as Tony, enjoyed a close relationship with former president Jacob Zuma. The family employed Zuma’s son Duduzane as a director at one of the family-owned companies, Sahara Computers. His twin sister Duduzile later took up a directorship at Sahara. From their Saxonwold, Johannesburg compound, the brothers allegedly decided who became cabinet ministers and would summon ministers and SoE managers for instructions. SoEs, such as Eskom, Transnet, Denel, and the SABC, allegedly bowed to the Guptas’ influence and channelled millions in advertising to the family’s then media companies ANN7 news channel and daily newspaper The New Age.
South Africans perhaps first became aware of the Gupta family’s prominence and their unfettered influence when they landed their private plane at the SA National Defence Force Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria in 2013. The plane carried wedding guests from India, headed to Sun City resort in the North West to attend a lavish family wedding.
The VIPs were escorted by SA Police Service (SAPS) protection officers and driven in luxury cars. Guests at the wedding included governing African National Congress leaders and Cabinet ministers. South African taxpayers footed the R30 million wedding bill, the leaked emails showed.
Following months of litigation by Zuma interdicting former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s state capture report from being released, the legal wrangle came to an end in November 2016 when the high court ordered that the much-awaited report be released.
Zuma had argued that he was never afforded enough time to respond to Madonsela’s questions on the alleged undue influence on him by the Guptas. Madonsela’s explosive report implicated government officials, cabinet ministers, and heads of SoEs. The report showed how the Guptas had made R6 billion through questionable state contracts and had planned to increase the rake-in to R8 billion. Furthermore, former deputy minister of finance Mcebisi Jonas was allegedly offered a R600 million bribe by the family to take up the position of finance minister.
Irate opposition parties launched campaigns against the Guptas and even opened criminal cases against those implicated in Madonsela’s report.
Commission chairman, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, approached the high court to have the allocated time frame extended from 180 days to two years to enable the inquiry sufficient time to complete its work. The court granted the request earlier this month.
Zondo will open the proceedings on Monday and will be followed by legal team leader advocate Paul Pretorius’s statement. Advocate Thandi Norman will also present reports.
The first week will see various witnesses appearing to state their case. These will include Jonas, former government spokesman Themba Maseko, former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor, and incumbent government spokeswoman Phumla Williams.
– African News Agency (ANA)