MPs shocked by direct approach to parliament by newsman
Political parties in parliament are questioning why Gupta-owned New Age newspaper editor-in-chief Moegsien Williams wrote to all MPs defending the Gupta family against a court bid by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
The letter seeks to explain the seemingly dodgy transactions which led to banks closing Gupta-owned Oakbay accounts.
The family is at the centre of battles over state capture which will continue to play out in the High Court in Pretoria and along the streets of the capital today as hundreds march over the issue.
Constitutional law expert and political analyst Professor Shadrack Gutto said the letter was bizarre and an indication of the extent of the Gupta family’s influence in government affairs.
“[The letter] indicates that the family has been influencing the government for a long time and thinks that it can even influence government institutions such as PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma cannot block the release of the state capture report on the grounds that his procedural rights were infringed because he has none.
Counsel for the DA, Etienne Labuschagne SC, submitted that since former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report was final, it was too late for Zuma to argue for it not to be released until he had been afforded an opportunity to question witnesses who had implicated him.
Labuschagne said the finalisation of the report meant that Zuma had no procedural rights due to him, adding that the president could take the report on review if he felt aggrieved.
“What the president has lost sight of is that there is now a final report and therefore, there are no procedural rights due to him,” Labuschagne said.
He was responding to the submissions of Zuma’s counsel, Anthea Platt SC, who argued
parliament, which has legal and constitutional obligations to meet,” he said.
“They think they can control all government and they have been allowed that space.”
Gutto said parliament should ignore the letter.
“Unfortunately, because of the bad leadership we have at the moment, they [the Guptas] believe they can extend [the influence] but parliament has an obligation that the president’s right to procedural fairness trumped those of the public to access the report.
Platt told judges Dunstan Mlambo, Phineas Mojapelo and Dawie Fourie that Zuma’s procedural rights did not attach to the public’s or those of the intervening parties the DA, EFF, United Democratic Movement (UDM) and the Congress of the People (COPE).
Platt said that procedural rights attached only to Zuma because he was the only person who was required to respond to Madonsela’s questions.
Asked by Fourie whether it was Zuma’s contention that his rights to procedural fairness should not be considered alongside those of the public and intervening political parties as well as others, Platt said that, indeed, her client was arguing that his rights should be looked at in isolation.
To emphasise the public interest aspect in the matter, counsel
to indicate that it is not going to be part of that – that it does not become part of the collapsed state in the country.
“We are dealing here with the issues of a collapsing state, a state being controlled by the private sector,” Gutto said.
The strange letter comes after Gordhan applied to the North Gauteng High Court to have a declaratory order that he has no power to intervene in the banks for the UDM and COPE Dali Mpofu SC argued that the public would have had no say in whether the North Gauteng High Court should release the state capture report were it not for the intervention of the political parties, which, he argued “are the voices of not less than five million people”.
Mpofu said that, since new public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane had decided not to oppose Zuma’s application to interdict the report, the president and his cabinet ministers, Des van Rooyen and Mosebenzi Zwane, would effectively be left to determine for themselves how long the report would be kept away from the public.
Mpofu said this was no doubt what Zuma, Van Rooyen and Zwane wanted.
These arguments were heard in the first part of proceedings set aside to determine who could be admitted as intervening parties in the president’s bid to have the matter postponed.
closing the Oakbay bank accounts after the family demanded his intervention.
He attached an annexure that revealed how the Gupta family businesses were involved in suspicious transactions amounting to R6.8-billion which led to the banks’ action.
Under the letterhead of TNA Media, Williams said the family understood the matter would be raised in parliamentary debates.
“We would like to keep you apprised of the facts, cut through the media ‘noise’ and ensure you have an accurate understanding of the situation,” Williams wrote.
He then gave an explanation of each suspicious transaction.
ANC parliamentary spokesman Molotho Mothapo said the letter was misplaced.
“It is not a matter for parliament or MPs. It is a matter for the courts,” he said.
DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said the matter had nothing to do with parliament.
After first welcoming Gordhan’s court action, the Gupta family indicated that they would oppose the matter.
It is unclear why Williams would write to all MPs before the Guptas file their opposing papers.
“We are obviously keen to use Minister Gordhan’s application to clearing our name in court (sic),” Williams wrote.
“If you so wish, we will be able to provide you with Oakbay’s replying affidavit for your perusal, when it is filed in court.”
Steenhuisen said the letter was remarkable and unprecedented.
“Mr Williams has lost all semblance of credibility,” he said.
Williams was unavailable for comment.
Gupta lawyer Gert van der Merwe could also not be reached to comment on the matter.
Meanwhile, crowds gathered overnight in Church Square in Pretoria in the build-up to protests over state capture.
The Economic Freedom Fighters, the DA and civil society groups under the banner of Save SA have all applied to march in Pretoria today.
EFF leader Julius Malema said the party did not need permission from anyone to occupy the capital, saying the whole city would be painted red today.
Malema attended the first day of argument in the much-anticipated state capture report case.
Lawyers for President Jacob Zuma, Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane and Cooperative Governance Minister Des van Rooyen faced off against opposition parties who wanted to be admitted as parties in the case.
Zuma, Van Rooyen and Zwane want an interdict to prevent the release of a report by former public protector Thuli Madonsela as it allegedly details incidences of state capture.
The DA, United Democratic Movement, EFF and the Congress of the People (COPE) as well as former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor were granted access to the case and legal costs after a full day of argument.
Zuma’s initial application to block the release of the state capture report could not be heard on October 14 after the four political parties and Van Rooyen applied to be admitted as parties to proceedings.
Van Rooyen withdrew his application on October 21 after receiving assurances that the report contained no adverse findings against him.
However, Van Rooyen resuscitated his application after a Sunday Times report purported to provide evidence that he was implicated in the report.
Van Rooyen advanced this argument yesterday in pursuit of an urgent interdict against the report as well as to review it.
But the court ruled that his application was not urgent.
The court will hear arguments today for and against Zuma’s amendment application