The white-owned media begrudgingly reported recently that; “the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA)’s first state capture case to go to trial has been dismissed – with almost all the accused cleared of fraud and money laundering charges.”
So the state capture mantra coming out of the Zondo Commission at the cost of one billion rand was based on fiction? The truth is the commission has achieved its political end which was to assist in demonising and hounding the Guptas and demonise the policy of Radical Economic Transformation (RET).
Serious students of radical change must study the rise and fall of the Gupta family. Two main tactics used to deal with the Guptas were lawfare and media propaganda. Basically, the weaponisation of the criminal justice system and the media to achieve certain political and economic ends.
Lawfare refers to the use of “legal systems and processes as a weapon in conflict, rather than as a means of resolving disputes. This can include the use of lawsuits, legal threats, and other legal mechanisms as a way to gain an advantage over an opponent, or to silence criticism or opposition. The term is often used to describe tactics employed by governments or powerful individuals to intimidate, harass, or suppress dissenting voices, as well as the use of international law to pursue political or strategic objectives.”
Implementing lawfare requires quasi-evidence, which is then manipulated to criminalise opponents. Just like the United States of America lied about the existence of weapons of mass destruction to justify the destruction and looting of Iraq in 2003.
What made the Guptas a target? The Guptas had given the owners of South Africa’s economy a massive fright through their influence over state policy. The Guptas seem to have coordinated the radical economic transformation forces inside the ANC and the state through parastatals control.
Eskom was one of the public arenas where the Gupta versus Stellenbosch and London war was fought. Through a clever tactic the Guptas were able to account for a mere 5% coal supply share to Eskom. But the big fright considered a declaration of war was the hostile takeover of Optimum coal from the global energy giant Glencore by Tegeta, partly owned by the Gupta family.
The business genius involved in the Optimum takeover requires a book-length analysis on its own. In the end, the Guptas took over the Optimum mine. This gave it access to international markets and benefitted Eskom because Glencore wanted to raise prices at the threat of blackouts.
The takeover of Optimum Coal from Glencore was a massive psychological and business victory. Former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe played no insignificant role in the whole takeover. As if the Optimum blow was not enough; the Guptas poached the global Public Relations firm Bell Pottinger from Johann Rupert, the high priest of the South African economy. The battle lines were drawn.
A second and most important weapon was the demonisation through the media using both the Zondo Commission and fake evidence or the so-called Gupta leaks. The battle took international dimensions because South Africa’s economy is owned by settler capital, mostly headquartered in Stellenbosch, with deep international reach. The British establishment took the battle up through in particular two vocal agents of the British throne; one Lord Robin Renwick and the South African born, Lord Peter Hein.
If the Guptas funded and organised the Radical Economic Transformation forces. Hein and Renwick were the main organisers and possible funders of the so-called “Zuma must go” campaign by civil society and opposition parties. The resolve of the international capital with its South African lineage was to stop the RET agenda. Renwick, in his book, titled “how to steal a country” reflects on the global fear of the takeover of ANC in 2017 by the RET forces at the Nasrect elective conference.
The South African-based capital mobilised R1 billion rand to fund Cyril Ramaphosa who was the designated candidate of Stellenbosch. His main rival, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, was considered the RET candidate. Again here we can say white monopoly capital countered the Gupta move.
So what were the policy proposals which were associated with the Guptas? First and foremost the Mining Charter. For the first time, clear black empowerment targets were defined and time frames were provided. According to the charter, all mining companies’ boards must be over 50% black-owned – 30% ownership shed to blacks within a year. And most importantly 1% of the total turnover be paid out to blacks as cash. This was to counter the trick of hiding profits in the balance sheet and giving blacks paper empowerment.
Within this highly charged environment, it was possible for President Jacob Zuma to announce free education and call for land expropriation without compensation. On the other hand, the Chief Operating Officer of the South African Broadcasting Corporation(SABC), Hlaudi Motsoeneg, was able to propose the 90% local content policy. Also, the procurement practices of South African Airways (SAA) came under severe scrutiny during this period; led by the pro RET policy chairperson of the board Dudu Myeni.
An atmosphere permissible to a radical agenda was created thanks to a large part played by the Guptas. The one thing that seriously helped the battle against Stellenbosch was the counter-propaganda program of the increasingly popular TV station called ANN7.
There is little room to dismiss the real and present war over the economy; fought in the political arena. A win by the RET forces would have provided protection for the Guptas; facilitated their entry to the South African economy and expanded direct black benefit at the same time.
Blacks can’t enter the economy outside a combative policy environment and a radicalised state. This reality seems to have driven the interests of the Guptas. For them to enter the economy they needed to piggyback on an expanded radical policy that was essentially about black empowerment.
Blacks stood to benefit from the victory of Gupta-inspired political victory of the RET project. In the same way, the victory of Ramaphosa’s thuma mina project would entrench white interest and sustain the apartheid structure of the South African economy.
As things stand Stellenbosch has won. The RET forces are in disarray. We do well to study the rise and fall of the Guptas to appreciate what it would take to transform South Africa. What is clear is that the Gupta support gave blacks the biggest possibility to defeat our historical enemy which almost thirty years into democracy controls the land economy.
Andile Mngxitama is the president of Black First Land First (BLF).