Then President Jacob Zuma used a fake intelligence report as a pretext to fire Pravin Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, so that his and the Guptas’ agenda, including the capture of National Treasury, could be pursued.
This was the conclusion of Chief Justice Raymond Zondo in Part 4 of the report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.
Volume 1 of the report, which was released on Friday, deals with the attempted capture of National Treasury, EOH Holdings and the City of Johannesburg, and Alexkor.
Zuma dismissed Gordhan as finance minister and Jonas as deputy finance minister in March 2017.
Justice Zondo said the Guptas were “very determined” to capture National Treasury before Zuma’s second term of office expired, which at that time meant they had more or less slightly over a year to achieve their goal.
He said the reason for removing Gordhan and Jonas was to pave the way for the appointment of a Minister of Finance “who would co-operate with the Guptas and in the corrupt agenda that they were all pursuing. In that agenda, the capture of the National Treasury was central. All the evidence points to this reason and this reason alone for Mr Gordhan’s and Mr Jonas’s dismissal.”
The mysterious intelligence report
On 27 or 28 March 2017, there was a meeting of the ANC’s top six officials at which Zuma told the other officials that he intended to drop Gordhan from his Cabinet.
In affidavits provided by Gwede Mantashe, Jessie Duarte and Dr Zweli Mkhize to the commission, these officials stated that Zuma told them he was in possession of an intelligence report to the effect that Gordhan and Jonas were going to use an upcoming overseas trip to lobby international bodies against the government and the economy.
They stated in their affidavits that Zuma did not share the intelligence report with them.
In his affidavit to the commission, President Cyril Ramaphosa said Zuma showed them (the other officials of the ANC) the intelligence report on which he was relying in seeking to fire Gordhan and Jonas.
Ramaphosa said the document consisted of three pages in very large font and was very badly drafted.
He said they were shown the document, but he was not provided with a copy.
Ramaphosa, who was deputy president at the time, testified that at the meeting of the Top 6, he objected to Zuma’s intention to dismiss Gordhan and Jonas, particularly on the basis of the alleged intelligence report.
Zuma said, in effect, that irrespective of the reliability or otherwise of the intelligence report, his relationship with Gordhan had irretrievably broken down.
In Gordhan’s affidavit to the commission, he said he did not know of any incidents or events that could have resulted in the irretrievable break-down of his relationship with Zuma, except for his resistance to wrongdoing.
Justice Zondo said Zuma “fled” the commission before he could give evidence about his dismissal of Gordhan and Jonas and before he could be questioned on his reasons for dismissing them. Accordingly, he elected not to place his side of the story before the commission.
“Therefore, he has not substantiated any allegation that his relationship with Mr Gordhan had irretrievably broken down.”
Setlhomamaru Dintwe, the Inspector-General of Intelligence at the time, investigated the existence of the alleged intelligence report.
He testified that Zuma was apparently the only person who was in possession of the report.
Dintwe said he made numerous requests to Zuma for a copy of the report. He testified that despite Zuma promising to provide him with a copy, Zuma had not done so by the time he resigned as president in February 2018 and has never provided Dintwe with a copy of the report.
Zondo gives the ANC leadership credit – sort of
In their affidavits, Mantashe, Duarte and Dr Mkhize confirmed that Zuma informed the senior ANC officials that he intended to appoint Brian Molefe as Gordhan’s replacement. These three officials said in their affidavits that the Top 5 rejected this idea, and they asked Zuma to reconsider the matter.
Justice Zondo said: “There might not be a lot for which the ANC leadership from 2009 to 2017 may deserve to be credited with regard to their handling of President Zuma as a member and leader of the ANC and as president of the country and his relationship with the Guptas, corruption and state capture, but for standing up to President Zuma and stopping him from appointing Mr Brian Molefe as Minister of Finance, they deserve credit.
“Now that one knows from Part 2 Volume 1 of this commission’s report what damage Mr Brian Molefe and other Gupta associates did to Transnet when he was the group chief executive officer of Transnet, one shudders to think what would have become of the National Treasury if President Zuma had not been stopped from appointing Mr Brian Molefe as Mr Gordhan’s replacement.”
However, Justice Zondo said it was also justifiable to ask why the Top 5 (excluding Zuma) and the ANC Deployment Committee did not stop Molefe from being appointed as the group chief executive of Transnet after the Gupta newspaper, The New Age, had published an article on 6 or 7 December 2010 in which it said that Molefe would be appointed to that position.
“It cannot be that many of them were not aware of that article. If many of them did become aware of that article, what did they think was happening at Transnet and in government when, indeed, Mr Molefe was appointed as GCEO of Transnet three months after that article?”
They also did not stop Molefe’s secondment from Transnet to Eskom, nor did they stop the secondment of Anoj Singh from Transnet to Eskom.
“The question is: What did the ANC leadership think was happening as all these things were happening? Did they bother to ask themselves these questions? If they did not, why did they not?”
Appointing Molefe as finance minister – ‘there are no words’
Justice Zondo said Zuma and the Guptas must have been “really under pressure” to have agreed that Gordhan be re-appointed as Minister of Finance to replace Des van Rooyen and “must have wanted him out of that position as soon as possible”.
He said Zuma had intended to replace Gordhan with Molefe, who, by his own admission before the commission, was a friend of the Guptas.
“After all that was publicly known about Mr Brian Molefe by that time – including that the Gupta newspaper said he was going to be the group CEO of Transnet even before the post had been advertised and he became the group CEO of Transnet and what the Public Protector’s Report ‘State of Capture’ had said about him – and the fact that he had resigned from Eskom on the basis that he wanted to clear his name and he had not, as yet, cleared his name – how could a president want to put such a person in charge of the country’s finances?”
Justice Zondo said there “are no words” to describe Zuma’s conduct, except that “he must have been determined to give the Guptas direct access to the nation’s Treasury – to hand the control of our National Treasury to the Guptas before he left office”.
ANC’s elective conference saved the day
The report said that when Zuma realised that he could not appoint Molefe, “the Guptas must have told him to appoint another friend of theirs”, because he appointed Malusi Gigaba as Gordhan’s replacement.
Justice Zondo said that, as was set out in Part 2, Volume 1 of the commission’s report (relating to Transnet), “Gigaba had shown himself to be quite co-operative with the Guptas and their agenda”.
He said although Gigaba was also “a Gupta associate, it does not appear that he was able to do much for the Guptas as Minister of Finance”.
If it had not been for the fact that at the end of 2017 the ANC would have an elective conference where Ramaphosa would stand as a candidate to take over from Zuma, “more damage could have been done to National Treasury under Gigaba than may have been done”, Justice Zondo said.
Those who resisted
Justice Zondo said that the Guptas and Zuma failed to capture National Treasury, despite “relentless attempts to do so” over a long period, was due largely to finance ministers Nhlanhla Nene and Gordhan, the men and women at Treasury, including then director-general Lungisa Fuzile and his team of senior officials who put up serious resistance to Zuma’s and the Guptas’ attempts.
He also said that civic organisations, journalists, non-governmental organisations, opposition political parties and the people of South Africa who staged marches and demonstrations to protest against the Guptas and Zuma’s role in state capture must all be commended.
“Certain individuals within the ANC also made their voices heard and they played an important role as well,” Justice Zondo said.