Top ANC brass complicit in Gupta bank persuasion

CAPE TOWN — Perhaps it is as well politicians set their sails to the prevailing winds, given that virtually the entire ANC leadership was complicit in State Capture and are now hastily trimming their sails. The extent of ANC capture emerges at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry where a former Standard Bank lawyer testifies that two separate groups of top ANC cadres tried to persuade the bank not to close Gupta accounts, using tools ranging from outright threats to counterfeit concerns about thousands of Gupta staff job losses. The spectrum of persuasion used closely matches the subsequent fortunes of the ANC political leadership. The group that demanded Standard Bank explain itself, intimating that they could make it illegal to close client’s accounts, included the now thoroughly discredited former Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, Zuptoid Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant and propagandist and former head of the government communication services and Gupta media lapdog, Jimmy Manyi. Two down, one to go. The subtle tacticians, who fretted about how closing the Gupta’s accounts would affect the 7 500 employees involved, were; Gwede Mantashe, now the nation’s mines minister, his deputy, Jessie Duarte and Enoch Godongwana, the ANC’s head of economic transformation. When you’re that close to the wind, subtlety can mean survival. – Chris Bateman

By Nkululeko Ncana and Mike Cohen

(Bloomberg) — A former Standard Bank Group Ltd. lawyer testified that the South African lender resisted pressure to reverse its decision to close accounts linked to members of the Gupta family, who are friends of former President Jacob Zuma, after they were implicated in a series of suspicious transactions.

Ian Sinton, who retired as Standard Bank’s group general counsel in June, was testifying on Monday at the judicial panel investigating the use of political connections to loot billions of rand in taxpayer funds and influence the awarding of government contracts — a process known locally as state capture. Standard Bank stopped doing business with the Guptas’ companies in 2016, and they have since ceased operating.

State Capture Inquiry, Zondo Commission

Then-Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane and Labor Minister Mildred Oliphant asked Sinton and Standard Bank Chief Executive Officer Sim Tshabalala to explain the lender’s actions at a meeting in 2016, according to the testimony. Zwane said the government feared job losses and warned that as a member of the ruling African National Congress he could get the law changed to make it illegal for accounts to be closed, Sinton said.“The meeting was an attempt by two cabinet ministers on behalf of the cabinet to get us to retract the decision to close the accounts of the Gupta entities,” Sinton said. “There was no other reason for the meeting.”

One of the two ministers suggested the bank prioritize the needs of the Gupta companies’ 7,500 employees over its obligation to comply with the law, Sinton said, but he couldn’t remember which of them made the comment. Jimmy Manyi, the former head of the government communication service who later bought the Guptas’ media units, was also present at the meeting, he said.

Read also: Standard Bank reveals: How Gupta family puts words into ANC politicians’ mouths. See court papers!

Sinton was the seventh witness to appear before the panel, which is headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Four of them who served in senior government posts also testified how leading politicians abused their authority to benefit the Guptas and their associates during Zuma’s rule.

While much of the information is already in the public domain, the testimony is helping fill in gaps about how state capture developed and may form the basis for future prosecutions. The nation’s anti-graft ombudsman implicated the three Gupta bothers in state capture in 2016.

The Guptas, who have left the country, Zwane, Oliphant and Manyi have all denied wrongdoing. Zuma, who stepped down in February under pressure from the ruling party, also disputes allegations that he did anything wrong and rejects the notion that his administration was under the Guptas’ control.

Read also: Why did Absa take so long to close Gupta bank accounts? Ramos calls in the lawyers

Sinton said the ANC invited the bank to a separate meeting to discuss the account closures. The party’s then-secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, now the nation’s mines minister, his deputy, Jessie Duarte, and Enoch Godongwana, the ANC’s head of economic transformation, also voiced concerns about job losses and questioned if the account closures couldn’t be reversed, he said.

“We made it clear to the ANC representatives, we were not in a position to discuss the affairs of our customers” or the reasons for closing accounts, Sinton said. “We were simply applying the law.”

Other banks that shut Gupta-controlled companies accounts are also due to testify this week.