DA condemns new move to suppress state capture finding
The fight over the state capture report has turned ugly, with the DA accusing President Jacob Zuma of seeking to manipulate the courts to his own ends. Zuma has made two applications in which he seeks to amend the relief he had initially asked for from the court as well as to ask that tomorrow’s hearing be postponed.
But the DA has slammed Zuma’s applications as mere obfuscation.
“The president is in fact seeking to review and set aside the public protector’s report. While he does not frame it as a review, in substance it can only be a review. If it [the report] is final, then it is valid unless and until it is set aside on review . . .
“The president has manipulatively avoided calling for the review of the report because he wants – through the back door – to prevent the release of the report so he can pursue a review of the report. This court cannot countenance such abuse,” the DA’s attorney, Elzanne Jonker, submits in papers.
In March, The DA in March requested that former public protector Thuli Madonsela investigate allegations of state capture – the alleged corrupt influence of the powerful Gupta business family on government appointments, contracts and state-owned businesses – after Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas claimed the family had offered him the post of finance minister at their Saxonwold residence.
This was just days before then incumbent Nhlanhla Nene was removed.
Madonsela had planned to release the report into her investigation in her last week in office but was stopped by Zuma and Cooperative Governance Minister Des van Rooyen who went to court.
The DA, Economic Freedom Fighters and former ANC member of parliament Vytjie Mentor have joined the case against Zuma, arguing for the release of the report.
Zuma had initially served Madonsela with a notice to interdict the release of the report on the grounds that he was given too little time to respond to questions.
He also complained that he was not afforded an opportunity to interview witnesses who implicated him in acts of state capture.
Now Zuma is asking the court to issue a different order, pronouncing that:
- Madonsela’s conduct in finalising her probe be declared unlawful;
- Madonsela be directed by the court to allow him to make representations and interview witnesses according to the Public Protector Act; and
- Madonsela only be allowed to finalise her report after hearing his representations.
The latest applications come as fresh evidence indicates that Van Rooyen – appointed finance minister for just four days in December – visited the Gupta family’s Saxonwold residence on seven consecutive occasions in the days leading up to his calamitous appointment.
The Sunday Times yesterday reported that cellphone records used in the state capture investigation showed that Van Rooyen visited the family between December 2 and 8, with records showing that one of Van Rooyen’s advisers, Mohammed Bobat, visited the family on one of the days Van Rooyen was there.
Bobat, along with Ian Whitley, arrived as Van Rooyen’s advisers at the Treasury at the beginning of the latter’s short stint at the department.
It has been alleged that Bobat was made Van Rooyen’s special adviser to advance the interests of the Guptas’ business associates, Salim Essa and Eric Wood.
Part of the reason Van Rooyen was appointed to the Treasury, it has been claimed, was to push through the nuclear build programme which Nene and current Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan vociferously rejected.
This rejection, it has also been claimed, is a major factor in the pursuit of criminal charges against Gordhan, who appears in court on Wednesday for fraud.
Gordhan’s appearance coincides with a cabinet meeting in Cape Town, in which the nuclear build programme is to be discussed.
Asked whether the Treasury would be represented at the meeting, cabinet spokesman Donald Liphoko said: “It is ministers who attend cabinet meetings.”
Liphoko maintained, however, that the Treasury would have a role to play in any government project – including the nuclear build which is being moved from the Department of Energy to Eskom. Specifics of this move will be discussed at Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, which Gordhan is likely to miss.
Meanwhile, the NPA denies having decided to drop the charges against Gordhan, as alleged by City Press yesterday.
NPA spokesman Luvuyo Mfaku said the NPA and legal representatives for Gordhan’s co-accused Ivan Pillay and Oupa Magashula were “still talking”.