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JOHANNESBURG — Civil society bodies are starting to seriously take on the battle of protecting South Africa’s hard-won democracy. OUTA, which started life as a civil society body fighting e-tolls, has evolved into a much bigger organisation that seeks to protect taxpayers and the general public. Wayne Duvenage, the chair of OUTA, has been with the organisation since the very beginning and he has helped amass a very powerful and competent team that looks set to shake up South Africa’s political elite. OUTA’s latest salvo is a case document detailing how President Jacob Zuma is a key nexus of corruption in South Africa. Cleverly, OUTA is sending the case document to MPs before they cast their vote in what could be a secret ballot in an upcoming no-confidence motion in Jacob Zuma. If the case document falls on deaf ears, OUTA is setting its sights on processing the document through the country’s justice system. Duvenage, in this interview, also explains why he thinks Zuma’s days as number one are numbered. – Gareth van Zyl
Wayne, you’re in Cape Town today, where our Parliament is housed. Can you tell me more about the case that OUTA has put together against President Jacob Zuma?
Yes, certainly. Several months ago, one of the projects our team was looking at was the impeachment of Jacob Zuma. We realised that all the votes of no confidence and incidents of the NEC and the ANC – that the supporters of Jacob Zuma kept fobbing off the information that was coming forward around state capture, the reports that had been put forward by the Public Protector and the media releases etcetera. We felt that they probably didn’t have compelling enough evidence-based/fact-based information on which they couldn’t turn a blind eye to what was happening. We believed that compelling document that was put together in a legal format to be able to be used in court would suffice and had to be done and that’s really, what we set out to do. As we were doing that, other reports started to come to the fore. We had the report by the academics.
We have the SACC report and the Gupta leaks. These all blew a lot of wind into our sails as we joined the dots and finished this document off today. We presented the document and the journey we’ve taken as we’ve been advised by counsel, is that we should stop running off to the courts, society, labour parties and political movements and use/show that we’ve demonstrated that we’ve exhausted all the other avenues. This is one of them, which is going to parliament. I think there’s a vote of no confidence pending/coming up and this really, in a nutshell, says to members of parliament, “You cannot look away. You cannot ignore this information anymore. It is compelling. This President is directly linked and involved in state capture and corruption. He’s abused his office. He’s abused his powers. He’s manipulating the system and he needs to be recalled.”
Wayne, how much of the information. in the case that you’ve gathered, is new information and how much of it is dependent on what’s been reported on so far, in the press and the media?
A lot of it has been reported on in the press. In fact, all of it. There are a few elements that we’ve picked up and taken from the recent leaked documents to join more dots. I think what we’ve done is put it together in a compelling document with the proof, so the document itself is only 175 pages but the annexures are another 250-300 pages. In other words, we’re providing the evidence as opposed to just putting a report forward that says, “Look. These are the things that happened and you need to consider.” We’re saying, “Here’s what’s happened and here’s the proof so you cannot ignore it.” As I said, it’s presented in a way that we believe, makes a stronger legal case as well.
Just to give our listeners and readers an idea: what kind of proof of corruption have you discovered about President Jacob Zuma? Can you maybe list some brief points?
Yes. We’ve compiled this document into six different sections. They link – very clearly – the Guptas to placement of people in strategic positions. Both ministers and DGs in order to then start setting up the contracts, the capital expenditure that is forthcoming in various state-owned entities. Duduzane Zuma: the links that the President’s son has on the various boards and the communications that he has directly to the Guptas and through the various ministers. Bathabile Dlamini and Faith Muthambi… The list really goes on. It’s not stuff that we don’t know about but what it is, is putting it all together. It’s painting the picture as if there’s a jigsaw puzzle – that the pieces were all over the place. The picture’s now very clear.
As you said, you’re approaching parliament first. Do you think that MPs will take it seriously, especially after there have been several failed votes of no confidence?
We believe the MPs will take it seriously and if they don’t, we’ll know that after the fact but they cannot ignore this document. We certainly do believe that the pendulum is swinging the other way now against Jacob Zuma. Every time there is a move to unseat him (albeit in the ANC, NEC, or other areas), we see that more and more people are standing up. We sincerely believe that this document is going to have an impact and if it doesn’t, then we will contemplate the way forward from there. It’s not as if we will rush off to courts. We will see what dynamics come from that situation. We know the EFF has a case in the Constitutional Court in September. We might join that case, depending on the timing if it allows us to. We look at all our options but yes, I think we believe that the President’s kitchen is on fire and this could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back in that parliamentary vote.
You’ve just said that President Jacob Zuma’s kitchen is on fire but he’s also become known as the Teflon President. Regardless of whatever controversy comes his way, he seems to just brush it off. Do you think that his days are numbered?
— Wayne Duvenage (@wayneduv) June 28, 2017
Yes. We do believe that. I know we’re often asked this question. We have this President who just brushes this stuff off. What difference is what we’re doing going to make? The corollary to that is ‘doing nothing doesn’t help’ but doing compelling work – providing fact-based evidence and well-researched evidence does help. Yes, he might be thick-skinned. He might be pushing back but we certainly believe the tsunami is building up to become too strong. The current is becoming far too strong for him to handle and if it’s not now, it should be before the end of December. If it’s not, then it’s definitely in December but we’ve got to do everything we can and as quickly as we can to remove this President. Every day, this country loses billions of Rands to corruption as a result of Jacob Zuma.
We’ve just seen in Brazil, where there’s been the well-known car wash scandal, where all of these politicians are now either being arrested or charged. Do you think that we’re going to see something similar over here? If he does fall and if he does face up to the music, could there be a string of other politicians who could also face the music?
Absolutely. From the work, which we’ve done and more work still to come, we will be compiling the criminal charges. We’ve already laid charges against Hlaudi Motsoeneng. We’ve laid charges against Ben Ngubane. Yes, the current police and the Hawks are slowing those processes down but without a doubt, they don’t go away. When the pendulum turns, all of these corrupt politicians, DGs and people linked to these scandals will be taken to task. If the Hawks and the NPA are free to do their work without fear or favour, we have no doubt that every one of them (if found guilty) will suffer the consequences of that. If they run, we’ll extradite them if we have to. It’s a journey and we’re in this for the long run.
Just in terms of your own team: how many investigators did you put on this particular case, regarding Jacob Zuma?
We had four people on this case – researchers and investigators. We had another four legal people – one junior counsel and one senior counsel with a lot of constitutional experience – so we’ve had a big team on this specific case. OUTA, as a team, is 35-strong. Five lawyers and an advocate. One of the differences between the OUTA today and as it was in the past, is that we’ve built our own litigation capacity so we save money in big legal costs, and we build our cases a lot faster that way. We’ve got a big communications team – researchers and project managers – and it’s becoming quite a formidable force. Fortunately, we are powered by the public. We are crowdfunded by the citizens of South Africa. We are doing all we can do to scale ourselves up to take more.
Gerrie Nel joined AfriForum a few months ago. What do you think are the chances of a private prosecution case being put forward, regarding Jacob Zuma and some other politicians within the ANC?
We believe it’s a strong possibility. One has to get the formal certificate that they won’t prosecute. We have to go to court to force them to produce those, so we believe private prosecutions are going to start taking place. They take a while, but we believe they will happen. We’ll be bringing some of those along.
So would you be working with the likes of AfriForum and Gerrie Nel then on something like that?
Not necessarily. We haven’t worked with AfriForum in the past but we will work with teams. It’s good to coordinate and cooperate with various teams. We worked with the Helen Suzman Foundation with Section 27 and various other movements. Remember, we’ve got our own group on our team that does this work with our five lawyers.
Wayne, thank you very much. It’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you today.
Thanks a lot.
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