JOHANNESBURG — The last two weeks have seen the prospect of the Guptas facing their day in court strengthen. But have authorities waited far too long to pounce? That’s a question that Errol Horwtiz poses in this piece as he presents a more cynical approach to the recent developments in South African politics. – Gareth van Zyl
By Errol Horwitz*
Richard Calland and Mike Law, two legal experts, recently wrote an article entitled “Is the net about to close on Zuma and his patronage network?
The authors argue that Cyril Ramaphosa’s victory over Dlamini-Zuma at the December Elective Conference for presidency of the ANC was the catalyst “to opening up the possibility that an age of impunity will be replaced with a new era of public accountability”.
Time will tell, but for the present, the steps taken by the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the NPA to effect accountability against the Guptas and their accomplices will likely qualify under the heading “a day late and a dollar short’. In other words, action that has been taken too late and substantively too feeble to be of any use. The Asset Forfeiture Unit applied to court ordering the Guptas to “preserve” R1.6 billion of assets. The purpose behind the court order was to prevent asset disposition deemed to be proceeds from unlawful activities.
Sounds good in theory – in practice, however, another matter entirely especially when the proceeds (money) are the result of unlawful activities, that have long disappeared into secret off-shore bank accounts. A near certainty with respect to persons of interest, but a mixed bag against Gupta-linked companies with the exception of multi-national entities the likes of KPMG and McKinsey. Recovery of ill-gotten gains from KPMG and McKinsey will not present a problem. They recognize the need for multiple mea culpas and the return of tainted monies, which cannot be said for the string of Gupta-linked companies that are and will be the subject of court seizure orders.
The recent action by the NPA in seizing control of the Gupta-linked Estina Dairy farm in the Free State, the bank accounts of Atul Gupta, companies co-owned by Duduzane Zuma, and other companies in the Gutpta stable is illustrative of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. In other words, the NPA’s flagrant delay in taking action will result in an exercise in futility with little more than dilapidated and rusted dairy farm equipment and empty bank accounts. One should not even be surprised by the absence of dairy cows on the property, now presumably grazing on other pastures, or ending up on a butcher block.
While on the subject of politicians involved in the R220 million theft arising from the Gupta-linked Estina Dairy farm, one cannot ignore the irony of the almost contemporaneous seizing of the dairy, and Ace Magashule’s dodging of press questions at Luthuli House regarding his alleged criminal involvement in the elaborate looting scheme. Besides being a shockingly inarticulate spokesman for the ANC, his tainted background should have been enough to exclude him from a leadership position. The mere suggestion of impropriety should have sufficed to exile him to the Gupta dairy farm to explain to emerging black farmers his and the role of others in looting of benefits promised to them. The ANC arrogantly refuses to learn from its missteps – hence its ongoing loss of credibility. The rot will simply not end with Zuma’s removal as the rot is endemic throughout the party.
If there are those who believe asset forfeiture proceedings will result in a bonanza recoupment of stolen assets – perish the thought! The Guptas are not fools. They planned an exit strategy in advance of the day (a long and needless one – thanks to the ANC government) when their rapacious appetites for plunder and looting would no longer be feasible. That time has come. The Guptas and their accomplices have, or will head to pre-arranged destinations, with millions already stashed in foreign banks, and where extradition treaties with South Africa do not exist. Fugitives from justice – yes, but very rich fugitives.
- Errol Horwitz was a political activist in the 60’s, and returned to South Africa a few years ago, after residing abroad for more than three decades.