Picking up today’s edition of the Sunday Times, one is instantaneously bombarded with the splash of stories regarding the epic public clash between the Guptas and Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan. ‘Guptas’ shady billions’ the boldface headline reads, referring to the financials of the family whose villainous tight grip, like that of a venomous greedy snake, on the country’s executive branch have haunted the nation during Zuma’s presidency.
On Friday, Gordhan went to court seeking a declaratory order, stating that in his capacity as the Finance Minister, he could not intervene in a decision made by South Africa’s top banks to close down Gupta business related accounts.
In April, banks had announced that they were closing the accounts of companies that were a part of Oakbay group, a consortium controlled by the notorious Gupta clan.
In his application to the High Court, Gordhan had revealed that multiple transactions between Gupta-related accounts between February and April of this year raised eyebrows at various banks, many officials suspecting illegal activities.
Gordhan’s silver bullet of this sudden explosive exposé seems to send out a solid message to his enemies; that he isn’t going down without a fight. The NPA’s recent charges of fraud against Gordhan are most certainly fueled by an ulterior motive from factions within the ANC to oust Gordhan as finance minister. The fraud charges refer to Gordhan’s approval of a retirement package for former SARS commissioner, Ivan Pillay, six years ago. The desperate NPA witch hunt is just some of many tactics by the political cabal to retain control of Treasury. If such charges were to succeed, Gordhan would have to resign, opening the field for Zuma to put a Gupta puppet in control of Treasury. Possibly mirroring the presidency’s humiliating actions from December 2015, where little known Des van Rooyen was deployed to succeed then finance Minister, Nhlanhla Nene, sending the economy into a tornado-like state.
But the heated war has only just started and it’s clear that the venomous snake has not let go of its grip just yet. While the hostility between Gordhan and the Guptas wages on, the cracks between internal ANC factions continues to augment, with many backing Gordhan in his quest to remain at the top of Treasury, including Ramaphosa. The war of Treasury is clearly a prelude to the battle for the next ANC National Conference. The calls for Zuma to step down continue to echo in the passages of Luthuli House as the president’s relationship with the influential family has only continued to embarrass the party. A new wave of power is slowly seeping through, as the party heads towards December 2017. In a similar fashion to the 2007 National Conference that saw Thabo Mbeki and his close but small pool of ANC heavyweight supporters lose reelection as members of the National Executive, it would seem history is going to repeat itself for Zuma and his sympathizers. Other big players such as Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi and Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, have publicly expressed support for Gordhan and many within the ANC MP caucus saying that Zuma must go. Ramaphosa’s sudden public support for Gordhan would seem convenient for the Deputy President as he hopes to assume the presidency if Zuma is recalled. But would the Guptas have a spot at the Mahlamba Ndlopfu dinner table when Cyril is running the show?
While Gordhan is set to appear in court on November 2nd for the fraud charges, economic instability continues to agitate the country. Pressure is mounting on the NEC as all eyes will turn to them, demanding for insight into the influence of the Guptas. That, despite the delay in the release of Thuli Madonsela’s State Capture report, there is clearly so much more to be revealed in the next few months and whether all this trouble will be enough to relieve Zuma from the presidency.