Who really runs our Country?

This is a question that has been lingering on many South African Citizens this week as the sordid details involving the appointment of the Cabinet Ministers in the current ANC led government. It all started with the Julius Malema led opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters allegations questioning the relationship of the President, his family and that of the Gupta family.

One may have turned a blind eye and said, as much as this raises eyebrows, this is not the first time that certain influential families, in this case ‘political’ and a ‘business’ family had ties. What ordinary people did not know is how deep it went and whether the jabs we have been witnessing at the Parliament have been fueled by Political adversaries long standing animosity or to an extent justified.

For those who may just know the family name of the Guptas and may not be quite familiar with the actual people behind its rise to fame, here is a bit of a background: The main drivers of the family business are Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta.The brothers arrived in unpredicted sequences in South Africa as from 1993 to 1997 in an attempt to explore business opportunities. Amongst the entities they own are:  

Sahara Holdings, a multi-billion rand IT Company established in 1997

Oakbay Investments a multi-faceted company with interests in JIC Mining, Comair and Kulula

TNA Media, the publishing Company for the New Age Newspaper and a regular sponsor of the SABC2 Morning Live Breakfast Discussions

JIC Mining Services, that has been recently embroiled in a Coal Mine bid tug of war with other Companies and apparently awarded a controversial Eskom Coal Supply Contract

Vusizwe Media, A Publishing Company of the Magazine, The thinker

Other known interest include, Afripalm Technology, Dunrose Investments and Pyramid Trading.  

Over approximately a two decade period, the family has managed to build a Multi-Million Rand Empire and with the local partners either being the immediate family of the South African President Mr. Jacob Zuma or his closest allies. One may argue that there is no infringement of the law if his sons, daughters or cousins engage in business activity with whomever they choose. The bone of Contention does arise where-by for numerous times, a number of government contracts and tenders have been awarded irregularly in favour of those companies with Zuma/Gupta families vested interests at the expense of other capable bidders.  

Not only the Opposition Parties have been able to voice their concerns but amongst them the Chapter Nine institutions as well as the ANC Tri-Partite Alliance front runner, Cosatu as well as a host of Independent Political Commentators across the spectrum. It is until recently that a ‘can of worms’ came to the  fore when the ANC former MP AND Nec Member Vytjie Mentor broke the silence on Social Media recalling an event where-by she was  once offered a Ministerial position by the Gupta family. Days after Mentor’s bravery, the Deputy Minister of Finance Mcebisi Jonas alluded to having also been offered the Minister of Finance Position prion to Nhlanhla Nene being fired and just as Mentor did, Jonas also declined. This went on to show how it has been difficult to break the silence on a host of the behind the scenes issues and incidents within the ruling ANC and the Government at large as this spurred the former Minister of Public Enterprise, Barbara Hogan cited the ‘rot’ within the party and the government structures that need to be addressed as she was also put under pressure to meet with the Gupta family during her tenure.

This brings us to a lot of uncertainties as to who is really at the “Driver’s Seat “, and calling the shots when it comes to decision making. Whether one considers themselves to be or not to be concerned by the Political climate, in a broader light everyone is affected .For example we saw the South African Rand plummeting to an all-time low against the US Dollar when Minister Nhlanhla Nene was fired, replaced by David Van Rooyen and later replaced by the Former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan all in a space of three days. The consequences of that activity went on to overlap into the state of the South African Economy at large.

Once again one may ask, what is the role of the Presidency? Bluntly put The President is expected to perform a number of duties as part of the office. While the Constitution mentions several of these duties, others have evolved over time. How a president carries out these functions depends on his personality, as well as on his view of the presidency and the role of government. Modern presidents usually take a leadership approach to their job. They consider themselves representatives of all the people, put in place to pursue a political agenda by using their inherent power.

According to the existing South African Constitution the President appoints the Deputy President, ministers and deputy ministers, assigns their powers and functions, and may dismiss them. The President may select any number of ministers from the members of the National Assembly, and may select no more than two ministers from outside the assembly. Clear as it sounds it’s a mystery as to how and why the Gupta’s have been given such influence especially on record they are not even Presidential Advisors.

Since this new revelation, those implicated have went on to deny and those affiliated reluctant to comment, especially as this was unexpected . As the ANC NEC meets this Friday, one wonders how many of its members have the integrity and the spine to not only condemn this but also go as far as calling for action to be taken all in the name of serving the masses and not greed for self-enrichment. As much as it is the case in most African States that the people feel the need to pay allegiance and be loyal to the Political Parties that liberated them, it would be a miscalculated mistake to assume that it applies across the board, given the fact that neither the democracies across countries are of the same nature.  

- Bheki Ngwenya

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