Eskom a massive Ponzi scheme waiting to collapse, says Ted Blom

Eskom is on the verge of collapse, both operationally and financially, and is seeking to recoup its losses by further burdening the citizens of South Africa.

This is according to Ted Blom, a leading contributor to the Energy Expert Coalition (EECO), who points to unmitigated corruption and deep-seated mismanagement which has led Eskom to the brink of destruction.

Citizens burdened by Eskom’s failures

Eskom, South Africa’s most vital state owned enterprise, has been unable to flip a profit in the 2017/18 financial year, despite implementing a turn around strategy and being gifted exorbitant government bailouts.

 

In fact, the power utility recently forecast a loss of over R11 billion for the year. This financial failure, compounded by a dire coal shortage and dubious maintenance plan, is reason for South Africans to worry. As power plants shudder, stocking up on candles for the festive season may be a wise decision.

Eskom’s looming calamity was not born recently. According to a report adopted by Parliament and penned by the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises, Eskom’s numerous failures are a result of corruption, nepotism, fraud and state capture – all involving the same familiar faces.

Eskom’s total debt currently stands at a mind-blowing R419billion. Unfortunately for South Africans, the burden of the utility’s financial failure is going to be placed squarely on the shoulders of ordinary citizens, in the form of consecutive electricity tariff hikes; which have already been approved by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa).

Eskom struggling to procude power

To say the situation looks grim would be an understatement. Economists, politicians, analysts and civil rights organisations agree – Eskom’s self-inflicted death rattle is the stuff of nightmares. Even Eskom’s board chairman recently revealed that the company was in dire straits, saying:

 

“Eskom is in a state of severe financial difficulty. In its current state, Eskom is not sustainable.”

Energy analyst Ted Blom points to Eskom’s drop in power production capacity which promises to plunge the nation into darkness. According to Blom, coal stations in Mpumalanga are currently operating at 72% capacity – this is expected to drop below 50% within the next year.

Blom explained that the ugly situation at Eskom was only going to intensify in the coming months and years, saying:

“This is just a massive Ponzi scheme waiting to collapse. All Eskom and government are doing is sucking consumers into increased tariffs which, in turn, are used to increase debts to lubricate ongoing corruption at Eskom.”

South Africa's leaders are facing impending disaster

South Africa is on the brink of collapse. After years of corruption, mismanagement and poor investment, the fruits of the once-promising country have turned rancid. As the country’s leaders grapple with the impending disaster on their hands, tensions are boiling over. On January 10, Tito Mboweni, the finance minister, launched a series of tweets underscoring the gravity of the situation: “If you cannot effect deep structural economic reforms, then game over! Stay as you are and you are downgraded to Junck [sic] Status!! The consequences are dire. Your choice.”

 

The ANC’s bruising internal battles have stymied critical reforms to jumpstart the economy, prompting outbursts of frustration from officials like the finance minister Tito Mboweni. Yet while the short-term consequences are readily obvious to many, the long-term reckoning that South Africa will face is less clear

While his direct audience was unclear, the message was clear. More than a decade of worsening economic indicators has wreaked havoc on the African giant. From eye-popping unemployment of over 29 per cent to stupefying levels of violent crime, South Africa is sinking ever further into the muck.

To complicate matters, the country’s once-reliable and cheap electricity has become the single biggest threat to the economy. Eskom, the state power utility, has struggled to keep the lights on for many months, as one plant breakdown after another have made the electrical grid woefully expensive and unstable.

Eskom authorities have turned to enacting forced blackouts to prevent total system collapse, hitting the economy as businesses and households alike have scrambled for more expensive back-up options like diesel generators – or risk staying in the dark. In December, Eskom was forced to shed so much power from the grid that even vital mining operations in the country were temporarily halted, impacting the country’s most critical sector.

Amid the blackouts, Pretoria has thrown billions of dollars at the problem, but to little avail. This is because constructing new plants and improving the existing decrepit infrastructure will take several years, meaning that South Africa’s fight to keep the lights on will continue to harm the economy for the foreseeable future. The consequences will be felt well beyond the electrical sector as Moody’s Financial Services, the last of the big three credit agencies to not downgrade South Africa to junk status, will review its position in November. It is likely that Moody’s will downgrade.

 

This will force fund managers with investment-grade mandates to dump their South African assets and make others rethink their own positions in the country, worsening already high investment outflows from the country.

Eskom’s electricity woes have sucked up several billions of dollars and significant government attention. Much of this money has been financed by debt, which will increase the burden on the country’s taxpayers in the years ahead as the true costs of debt repayment come due. Indeed, significant resources that could have helped address the myriad systemic problems afflicting the country have gone to the putting out of the massive fire that is Eskom.

Yet South Africa’s infrastructure is eroding across the board, from roads and bridges to rail and the water system. In fact, historic level droughts in 2019 have been exacerbated by the crumbling water infrastructure, meaning that deadly future water crises will be ever more likely.

In this file photo taken in 2016, then South African president Jacob Zuma, left, is seen with eventual successor Cyril Ramaphosa. AFP
In this file photo taken in 2016, then South African president Jacob Zuma, left, is seen with eventual successor Cyril Ramaphosa. AFP

But as Rome burns, South Africa’s long ruling African National Congress is as divided as ever. The party’s deep factions are largely split between the reform wing headed by President Cyril Ramaphosa and the populist wing once led by his predecessor, Jacob Zuma. The problem for Mr Ramaphosa and his allies is that they hold only a tenuous grip over the party, despite being the reason why the ANC avoided historic defeat in the 2019 general elections after years of disastrous Zuma rule.

Indeed, the Zuma wing is much to blame for the appalling situation South Africa finds itself in, having spent much of the past decade looting instead of leading. Nevertheless, they have retained key positions in the current government and devote much of their time toward undermining economic reform and finding ways to unseat Mr Ramaphosa.

The ANC’s bruising internal battles have stymied critical reforms to jumpstart the economy, prompting outbursts of frustration from officials like the finance minister Mr Mboweni. Yet while the short-term consequences are readily obvious to many, the long-term reckoning that South Africa will face is less clear. First and foremost, the country’s lacklustre economy, wracked by recession in recent quarters, is set for only tepid grow for the foreseeable future.

This will make it ever harder for Pretoria to rid itself of a potential debt trap it has gotten itself into, as ever more money will need to service ballooning debt instead of new roads, the health or education sectors, law enforcement, etc. To make matters worse, the terrible and stubborn unemployment situation will underscore for millions of impoverished South Africans operating in the dangerous black-market economy that the country is one of “haves” and “have nots”. Violent crime will only worsen as millions more are obligated to eke out a bleak existence despite seeing wealth around them.

Consequently, the ever-worsening crime, weak economic growth and collapsing infrastructure will drive up the costs of living and doing business in South Africa. For the country’s high-net worth and skilled individuals, this will prove intolerable. In fact, signs already suggest that emigration of the country’s most productive members has jumped in recent years and data suggests most will never return. This will rob South Africa of its best and brightest, likely disproportionately hurting key sectors of the future like high tech, science and medicine. It will also mean ever-greater budgetary shortfalls as the richest and most mobile of South African society departs for sunnier – and safer – shores.

For a country that started with such promise following the end of the apartheid in 1994, South Africa finds itself in a sorry mess. But as political infighting and Eskom’s woes continue, the chances of South Africa halting its rot will become ever more difficult in the years ahead.

'His hands are dripping with blood' - calls to cancel FW de Klerk talk in US on racism, rule of law

  • News that former president FW de Klerk would be delivering a speech at the American Bar Association has drawn fierce criticism. 
  • Some of the objectors argue that De Klerk is an apartheid denialist and complicit in apartheid-era crimes. 
  • De Klerk’s spokesperson said he would comment after liaising with the US organisers. 

Update: The American Bar Association has since cancelled FW de Klerk’s talk. Read more here.

 

In the midst of anti-racism protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, the American Bar Association has drawn fierce criticism over its announcement that former president FW de Klerk will speak about “rule of law, constitutional democracy, minority rights, social change, racism and global security” at its upcoming 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting.

Among those who have appealed to the ABA – which describes itself as “the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world” – to reconsider its choice of De Klerk as a speaker are Lukhanyo Calata, the son of slain anti-apartheid activist Fort Calata, former Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Dumisa Ntzebeza, and Howard Varney, who worked closely with the TRC.

 

The Pan African Bar Association of South Africa (PABASA), which recently expressed its outrage over “the brutal murder of George Floyd”, has also condemned the ABA for providing De Klerk with a platform to speak on racism.

PABASA says the invitation is an “insult” to families like the Calatas, whose loved ones were murdered in state-sanctioned killings that it says De Klerk is clearly implicated in.

Asked by News24 to explain why it had chosen De Klerk to converse on “Lessons Learned in the Crucible of Courage and Conscience”, the ABA’s Bill Choyke said the association would only be in a position to respond by Tuesday next week. De Klerk’s spokesperson Dave Steward said he would only comment after communicating “with the organisers in the US”.

‘Failure to take responsibility for apartheid’

In a press release about De Klerk’s upcoming speech at its “empowerment”-themed conference, the ABA describes the former president as having “negotiated with Nelson Mandela to bring the apartheid system of racial segregation to an end, ushering in majority rule”.

But that is not how De Klerk’s critics view him. Calata, Ntsebeza and Varney have all taken particular issue with what they describe as the former president’s failure to take responsibility for his complicity in apartheid-era atrocities – as well as his assertion during an interview with the SABC in February this year that apartheid was not a crime against humanity. The FW de Klerk Foundation later said he expressed regret for “the confusion, anger, and hurt” his remarks might have caused.  

 
 
 
 
2m 25s

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However, as Varney points out, De Klerk has repeatedly stated that “apartheid was not so bad”.

“If he had the courage and statesmanship to admit his role and that of the National Party honestly, then he would deserve such a platform,” Varney states in an email to the ABA. 

He added:

Since he persists with his charade of denial and ignorance he certainly does not. I urge you to replace this event with one that looks seriously and honestly at racism in South Africa and the role of key stakeholders, such as De Klerk.

In his response to ABA’s invitation to De Klerk, and in apparent reference to growing global anti-racism protests, Ntsebeza further stresses: “Now is not the time for De Klerk to talk on any public platform that purports to promote, at the very least, the rule of law, nor is the ABA the platform that should give De Klerk any legitimacy which he did not earn, and does not deserve.”

Lukhanyo Calata has directly appealed to the ABA to reconsider its decision to invite De Klerk, who he maintains was complicit in the 27 June 1985 state-sanctioned murders of his father and fellow teachers Matthew Goniwe, Sicelo Mhlauli and Sparro Mkonto. The men became known as the Cradock Four. 

‘Hands dripping with blood’

In an e-mail to the ABA sent on Thursday, Lukhanyo Calata recounts why he believes that “De Klerk’s hands are dripping with my father’s blood, and the blood of his comrades”.

He refers to evidence that the order to assassinate the men, via “a military signal, which called for their permanent removal from society on 7 June 1985” was “approved by highest echelons of the Apartheid State, these being the State Security Council (SSC) and Cabinet of Ministers”. 

“In 1985, De Klerk was a member of both the SSC and Cabinet. As the Minister of Basic Education and Training, he was often called upon for input in these meetings, with regard to the revolutionary activities of teachers Calata and Goniwe in the Eastern Cape. (There is evidence of this in government notated minutes of record).

“The ‘signal’ appeared as an agenda item for a meeting held in Tuynhuys (the president’s official residence in the parliamentary precinct) on 12 June 1985. Record of attendance shows that De Klerk was present at this meeting.”

He said: “Despite all the evidence of De Klerk’s knowledge and involvement in the murders, he has always hidden the truth about what his contribution was to the meetings in question and what he knew then and now about the murders of my father and his comrades. A secret I’m sure that he plans to take to the grave with.”

He added:

Just because successive ANC administrations have failed to prosecute De Klerk for his crimes, (due to them being politically compromised and corrupt) does not mean that he is innocent.

Steward previously strongly denied that De Klerk had played any part in the deaths of the Cradock Four.

In a previous statement to Newzroom Afrika, Steward said: “Mr De Klerk was never aware of any instruction at any meeting of the State Security Council (SSC), or any other body, to murder anyone.”

‘Made atrocities possible’

In his e-mail to the ABA, Varney reiterates this assertion: “De Klerk declares that he is ‘not prepared to accept responsibility for the criminal actions of a handful of operatives of the security forces…’ In fact, he was part of the apparatus at the very top that made those atrocities possible.

“In my respectful view, he does not have the honesty or integrity to admit his role since he is not a statesman. He only acted the way he did in 1990 because South Africa was bankrupt and a pariah state; he knew the writing was on the wall and he wanted to secure the best possible deal for white South Africans.

“While I would not normally object to anyone exercising their right to free speech I find it quite disturbing that a proud organisation with a history of promoting human rights would provide a platform for De Klerk to speak about courage, conscience, minority rights, social change and racism in these momentous times, when it is becoming abundantly clear how expendable black lives are. 

“De Klerk was involved in the machinery of violence against black people in South Africa and countless black lives were snuffed out while he sat on the SSC and during his tenure as President.”  

This year's horror child abuse cases

Pretoria – The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, hears many murder and assault trials, but what stood out this year was the high number of cases involving child abuse and murder where those in the dock are the very people supposed to care for and nurture the little ones.

In the headline-grabbing case of Poppie van der Merwe, 3, the court heard in grim detail of the girl’s slow and painful death. In the trial of the so-called Springs monster, the court heard of the torture and neglect inflicted on the children in his family.

Family members who attended the court case of Louisa and Kobus Koekemoer, Poppie’s biological mother and stepfather, wore a picture of the pretty little girl on their chests. But this smiling girl with blue eyes and blonde curls, was not the child we saw pictures of in court – an emaciated child with her hair shaved off and haunted eyes.

The story of the horrific abuse of this child, and her little brother, over a period of about eight months as her parents moved around to avoid social services, unfolded in court.

Her stepfather took her to hospital when she was already dead. The doctor found her little body covered with bruises and she had suffered major brain injury. Both her parents were found equally guilty of her murder and will be sentenced by Judge Bert Bam in February.

 

In another case involving a 3-year-old, Judge Neil Tuchten sentenced a man from Mamelodi to an effective 10 years in jail for beating the child to death for soiling himself.

The judge remarked on the anguish the child must have felt while being beaten by William Tjane, 35, saying he found it hard to put the horror of it behind him.

Tebetso Phahle apparently cried out “mamma” before his mother found him on a bed in a house she shared with Tjane.

 

She rushed him to hospital in a taxi, but by that time he was dead.

Tjane claimed the boy fell out of the tub when he tried to clean him up after he had soiled himself.

In another case, the wife of a psychiatrist who killed their two sons, Ivero, 2 and Keyondre, 6, will hear next year what her punishment is. Rehithile Katlego Matjane, 34, was convicted of the boys’ murder, but blamed her actions on medication she was taking.

She fetched the boys from school in April 2015 and drove to a remote spot near Hammanskraal where she shot them dead. She claimed she had no recollection, saying she had temporary amnesia owing to non-prescription painkillers she took earlier that day.

The mother who said she loved her children dearly and would never intentionally harm them, has had another child since the boys’ death.

Sex, pornography, drugs and child abuse featured in the trial of the man nicknamed the “Springs monster” and his wife.

The pair, who may not be identified to protect their children, stand accused of the attempted murder of their 12-year-old son, the abuse of all five of their children and well as a host of other charges.

The father pleaded not guilty while the mother blamed everything on the father, saying she was a victim too and was unable to defend and protect the children.

The case made headlines when the boy escaped from the family’s prison-like-home and alerted neighbours. The children are being cared for in a place of safety and the parents should hear their fate next year.

In another case, the parents of a 2-month-old baby boy – one of a twin – have been spared jail, but their punishment is to look at their child and deal with the damage they had caused.

The child, only identified as Baby J, was left with extreme brain damage, is spastic and cannot walk, eat by himself or talk, five years after he was severely beaten.

He suffered a cracked skull and bleeding on the brain. His parents, in whose care he was, simply said they had no idea what had happened.

Judge Eben Jordaan decided that sending the parents to jail would leave the children destitute, so he handed down a five year suspended sentence, house arrest and community service.

A Pretoria father is on the run after being found guilty of child pornography charges.

The victims included his own children, a girl of 4 and boy of 3, of whom he took naked photos. Judge Ronel Tolmay, who viewed the pictures remarked that “it was an extremely unpleasant and disturbing experience”.

In another case, Anna Mahlangu was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for burning her foster child who later died. She said the child stole money and she wanted to teach her a lesson by pouring paraffin over her and pretending to set her alight. She thought she’d be able to put out the fire but things quickly got out of control and the teen burnt to death.

We do not know what 2018 holds but these cases are some of the most tragic I have reported on. Parenting may be a tough job, but it comes with parental responsibilities to support and protect the child or children. If that becomes intolerable, there are many organisations in the community that can help.

South Africa: Independent police investigator probing ex-police chief in corruption case shot dead

Experienced IPID investigator Mandlakayise Mahlangu faced arrest and had received death threats as he pursued South Africa’s then top cop, but he didn’t give up.

In a week’s time, former acting national police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane is set to appear in the Johannesburg Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in Palm Ridge over fraud and corruption charges involving R84-million. A culmination of years of investigation.

But Mandlakayise Mahlangu, a seasoned investigator who worked for the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), which has oversight over the SAPS, won’t see Phahlane in court. He was shot dead on his Jakkalsdans plot during an apparent house robbery in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

 

The incident, a police statement said, took place at about 3:30am, when a group of men held Mahlangu and a worker at gunpoint on his plot, not far from Cullinan. The men shot Mahlangu and fled in his Nissan Hardbody NP 300 bakkie, taking some household items. Mahlangu called himself a part-time game farmer as well as an investigator.

“I am of the opinion that the robbery is just a smokescreen. I believe he was assassinated because of what he knew,” says Certified Fraud Examiner, Paul O’Sullivan, who was at a time contracted to investigate Phahlane, with Ipid.

It was a high-profile investigation that was to result in a face-off between the police watchdog body and the top cop who had a “posse” of North West policemen lay counter-charges against the investigators.

The Ipid investigators led by Mahlangu were instructed to look into the construction of Phahlane’s home at the exclusive Sable Hills Estate, north of Pretoria. This had allegedly been funded by a police service provider. His personal vehicles were also allegedly sponsored.

 

It was during this investigation that both O’Sullivan and Mahlangu became the target of death threats sent via SMS, on the same day.

One SMS read:

“…his [Paul O’Sullivan’s] days are numbered. we r on his heels. u must either die with him. we r watching u boy. we r about to finish paul.”

The other read:

“…if you want to leave [sic] long in peace take my advice and stay away you’re being used by high authorities and you will suffer as alone stay the hell away from my relative or I will come after you.”

It soon became apparent that the messages were possibly sent by SAPS members. In an affidavit filed by Mahlangu, crime data analyst Thereza Botha was able to trace the source of both SMSs. The handset of one of the phones was linked to a SAPS member who was stationed at OR Tambo International Airport.

“And when that SAPS member was interviewed by Ipid, he claimed that he lost his phone earlier. And we found that all very, very suspicious,” says O’Sullivan.

 

The other phone used to send the other SMS was traced to a SAPS cellphone mast. At the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, former Ipid boss Robert McBride told how Phahlane set up a counter-investigation to thwart the corruption probe linked to him. This was allegedly set up through Major-General Ntebo Jan Mabula, with other policemen from the North West.

This, McBride said, happened a couple of months after Ipid began investigating Phahlane and investigators had visited his house. They were charged with intimidation, extortion, racketeering and breaching security. O’Sullivan, his assistant attorney Sarah-Jane Trent and Ipid investigators Mahlangu and Temane Binang were arrested.

The charges were later dropped. Ipid then sought a court order preventing the “Mabula hit squad” from investigating their investigators.

On 17 March 2020, Phahlane and several top cops are to appear in the Johannesburg Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in Palm Ridge in a fraud and corruption case involving an alleged R84-million. This relates to tender irregularities that included radios, blue lights and sirens in Gauteng police vehicles.

Spokesperson for Ipid Sontaga Seisa declined to say which cases Mahlangu was investigating.

“He was a colleague,” was all he would say

Seisa referred all inquiries to the police. The police said they considered the motive for the killing to be robbery.

 

“No, it suits them to look at it as a robbery. They need to go a lot deeper than that, you need to look at who would benefit from this,” says O’Sullivan.

And that is a very short list indeed.

The other side of the VBS puzzle – Matodzi’s WhatsApps reveal purpose and payments to Malema and Shivambu’s slush funds

WhatsApp messages between former managers of VBS Mutual Bank suggest the directing hands behind the EFF-linked slush fund Sgameka Projects had a close relationship with the bank’s former chairman and robber-in-chief, Tshifhiwa Matodzi. On at least seven occasions during 2017 Matodzi instructed millions in stolen VBS money to be paid to Sgameka Projects. 

 
 

When knowledge of the VBS Mutual Bank robbery spilled into the public domain in October 2018, Brian Shivambu vehemently denied that he had received stolen funds from VBS Mutual Bank.

Advocate Terry Motau and law firm Werksmans, at the behest of the Reserve Bank (SARB), in their investigative report titled The Great Bank Heist, accused Shivambu of illegally receiving at least R16.1-million in stolen VBS money.

 

Shivambu’s explanation for the illicit VBS millions traced to the company he claimed to own, Sgameka Projects, was that he worked as a consultant for VBS-linked company Vele Investments and that all the transactions were legitimately earned. Scorpio proved, however, that Sgameka Projects had no invoices to show for work done, paid no tax, employees or any other operating costs and that stolen VBS money constituted the company’s sole income.

In follow-up investigations, Scorpio revealed that Economic Freedom Fighters president Julius Malema and deputy president Floyd Shivambu were the actual beneficiaries of the account. In reaction, Malema claimed that no VBS money had flowed into the EFF’s coffers and Shivambu accused this journalist of dubious agendas. They did not, however, challenge in court Scorpio’s revelations about how they stole from the poor in their own communities.

 

Now a never before seen WhatsApp discussion between former VBS chair Tshifhiwa Matodzi and former VBS treasurer Phophi Mukhodobwane not only again disproves the entire version cooked up by the brothers Shivambu and Malema, but also suggests a close relationship between Matodzi and the EFF leaders.

The brothers Shivambu and Malema did not react to Scorpio’s questions. Mukhodobwane declined to comment and Matodzi could not be reached.

Sgameka Projects offered no service

The year 2017 was a dramatic one for Matodzi. VBS’s finances were a perpetual headache and Matodzi had trouble keeping the VBS ship afloat. Between 2015 and December 2016, Matodzi had already stolen more than R140-million from VBS depositors. Much more was spent on auditors, lawyers, politicians and fixers to help keep the secret. The systematic robbery created a hole in VBS’s books that had to be carefully “managed”.

This is how it came that Matodzi and his right-hand man with control over the Emid banking system, Mukhodobwane, spent 2017 looking for politically connected fixers who could convince high net worth depositors – such as municipalities and state-owned entities – to invest money with VBS.

On 8 June 2017, Matodzi seemed to have identified such a helping hand.

At 12.01 on that day, he sent this WhatsApp to Mukhodobwane:

“Please trf R5m into this account from Malibongwe [Petroleum Pty Ltd] and pledge 4m sk that R1m is available.this [is] an extremely strategic account. (sic)”

Along with this message, Matodzi sent Sgameka Projects’ bank account number. (Matodzi mistakenly referred to the company as Sgameka Trading. The bank account number is, however, that of Sgameka Projects, ostensibly owned by Brian Shivambu.)

Later that day, R5-million reflected in Sgameka Projects’ bank account.

It was the very first money Sgameka Projects had ever received. The company conducted no work and provided no invoice to deserve the payment.

The money also did not emanate from Vele Investments as Brian Shivambu claimed, but another VBS-linked company, used to fleece the bank, named Malibongwe Petroleum Pty Ltd.

Within hours R500,000 was sent to Malema’s slush fund Mahuna Investments, ostensibly owned by his cousin Matsobane Phaleng. (The company changed its name to Rosario Investment Pty Ltd after Scorpio revealed its hand in the prosperity of Malema and the robbery at VBS.)

Five days later, Floyd Shivambu’s slush fund Grand Azania (GA on the bank statements) received R400,000. 

This theme – where Matodzi instructed Mukhodobwane to transfer money to the “extremely strategic account” of Sgameka Projects without receiving any service in return – was to be repeated six times up to December 2017. In total, Matodzi personally ordered R9.55-million in VBS loot to be moved to Sgameka Projects during this period. This forms part of the total of more than R20-million in VBS loot allocated to the EFF and its leaders, of which ultimately R18.76-million made its way to these roleplayers.

This is a high-level breakdown of the VBS millions allocated to the EFF and its leaders:

Send Malema and Shivambu VBS loot because they are ‘under immense pressure’

Matodzi continued to order large amounts to be paid to Sgameka Projects in July, August, September and October 2017. Seemingly at a whim, without any pattern or theme attached to the payments. In each case, no work was done to deserve the payments.

In October, however, a message from Matodzi to Mukhodobwane suggests that the payments were not offered unsolicited.

“Pls add 600 k to sgameka they are undr immense pressure (sic)”.

This WhatsApp from Matodzi was sent to Mukhodobwane at 10.42 on 5 October 2017. That was after Matodzi had ordered another R600,000 payment the day before. At this stage, Sgameka Projects had about R130,000 in its bank account. Sgameka Projects’ bank statements show that on 5 October, the company received R1.2-million in two installments, marked as “Vele loan” and “transfer”.

Two curious red flags about this message must be highlighted: The way in which Matodzi referred to “they”, in plural, and that he knew they were under “immense pressure”.

Brian Shivambu is, as mentioned above, the ostensible sole director and owner of Sgameka Projects. Yet Matodzi refers specifically to “they” who are in need of the VBS loot.

This may suggest that Matodzi was aware that uButi ka Floyd was only a thinly veiled front.

What exactly the “immense pressure” is that Matodzi referred to, is not clear.

Politically, the EFF aimed to dominate universities’ SRC elections through “campaigning” in October 2017. An internet search shows that by 5 October 2017 the EFF Students Command (EFFSC) had hotly contested several SRC elections in Gauteng, Limpopo, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. In the following days, after 5 October when Matodzi’s R1.2-million gift dropped, the EFFSC took 12 out of 15 seats at the University of Witwatersrand.

The bank statements of Malema’s and Shivambu’s slush funds provide some further clues to what may have been perceived as “immense pressure”.

Within 24 hours after the money was paid, Malema’s slush fund Mahuna Investments received R600,000 in two payments. In the following days it sent at least R100,000 to the EFF’s bank account and paid over R100,000 in travel costs that also seemed to have benefited the party.

Malema further paid school fees for two of his children and channelled money towards refurbishments of the pool on one of his properties in Johannesburg, bought furniture for about R27,000 and effected a R7,139 payment to “Bodylife”.

Malema also channelled several payments totalling more than R100,000 towards Mekete Lodge in Limpopo – the party venue the Malema family partially built with stolen VBS money.

He used the bank card to pay for products from Lacoste (R15,760) and Louis Vuitton (R24,000) in Sandton, Makro (R21,915) and Usave Liquors (R88,490) in Polokwane.

The bank statements of Sgameka Projects and Grand Azania, used by Floyd Shivambu as his slush funds, show he spent big money in October 2017 on a house for his parents and himself in Johannesburg. This includes R30,000 on housing essentials like cutlery and “bedding”.

Pay them lobbying fees

The last payment to Sgameka Projects ordered by Matodzi suggests there was a quid pro quo attached to the payments.

On 28 December 2017, at 8:53, Matodzi sends this WhatsApp message to Mukhodobwane: 

“Nndaa can we do 350k for sgameka. Those are lobbying fees. (sic)”

Matodzi does not elaborate on what kind of service was delivered for Sgameka to earn the “lobbying fees”. The comment should, however, be read against the background of standard VBS procedure where politicians and fixers lobbied, coerced and threatened municipalities and state-owned entities to invest in the bank. This was part of an elaborate scheme to hide the growing black hole in the bank’s finances.

Status quo

Matodzi’s cellphone messages seem to keep secrets that may clear up several mysteries and disprove many more lies.

The Hawks and National Prosecuting Authority are said to have been working on the matter since 2018. There have still been no arrests or prosecutions. DM

ANALYSIS | The ANC at 108: the sick man of South African politics

As part of its 108th birthday celebrations, the ANC, in power as South Africa’s governing party since 1994, held a commemoration ceremony at the grave of Solomon Plaatje in the Northern Cape town of Kimberley on Wednesday. In attendance were many of the party’s leadership, led by its president, Cyril Ramaphosa.

At the gravesite, Ramaphosa reportedly said the party will “continue on the path” set for it by Plaatje, one of the organisation’s founding members and the author of one of the seminal works on racial discrimination and oppression in the previous century, titled Native Life in South Africa.

 

“Here lies our DNA as a movement,” Ramaphosa said next to the grave of Plaatje, who died in 1932 even before the white state was able to implement the full range of discriminatory measures which was to organise, direct and shape the lives of black South Africans for the test of the century. (Ramaphosa’s Twitter account this week misspelled Plaatje’s surname, incorrectly adding an “i”.)

BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA ? JANUARY 8: Jacob Zuma

Good times… Jacob Zuma, Gwede Mantashe and Jeff Radebe at a previous January 8th celebration. The party is adept at commemorating its history, but less so at governing. (Gallo Images)

But Ramaphosa’s ANC is far removed from the South African National Native Congress, the organisation Plaatje belonged to and the ANC’s predecessor.

 

Where Plaatje and his colleagues and associates were singularly focused on alleviating the plight of black people, the current iteration of the ANC is singularly focused on self-preservation.

Where Plaatje and the SAANC were consumed by fighting for human rights, today’s ANC is consumed by maintaining networks of patronage.

And where Plaatje and his peers were fighting for a whole people, this version of the ANC is fighting for the the interests of only a few.

Ramaphosa’s ANC is a party in terminal decline, bereft of leadership, riven by factional conflict and beholden to destructive policies and ideologies.

It has become a clearing house of criminals, where access to public resources is considered the quickest and easiest path to wealth and excess, where gatekeepers manipulate and connive to ensure control of levers of power and an organisation so self-absorbed that is has long ago lost sight of the project Plaatje embarked on.

Raymond Zondo

The weekly revelations about grand corruption and state capture at the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture, led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo (pictured), have severely damaged the ANC’s image. (Gallo Images.)

The ANC in 2020 is facing crises on all fronts, with declining electoral support, a weakening state and a perilous economic environment (to which it has in no small measure contributed) being the biggest threats to its continued survival.

 

After the widespread destruction wreaked on the country by the ANC during the reign of Jacob Zuma, Ramaphosa has set out to repair and recover the state, stripped by Zuma and his acolytes over a period spanning nearly a decade.

But he has also signaled his paramount intent to ensure the unity of the ANC. He doesn’t want to be the ANC leader under whose watch the party disintegrates, associates explain, which means his main priority remains the party. Because, the argument goes, in order to assure the stability of the country, a stable and secure ANC is vital.

Ramaphosa secured the party leadership with the smallest margin of any leadership contest in the ANC since the 1940s. His winning margin of 179 votes (out of a voting population of around 4 500 voters) represented a majority of just over 50%, which meant that he did not have the mandate to embark on widespread reforms to rescue the party of the corruption and banality of the Zuma-faced ANC.

President Cyril Ramaphosa at a press briefing at M

The government of President Cyril Ramaphosa has been unable to fix the mess at Eskom, with load shedding stunting economic growth and confidence. (Gallo Images)

And he was immediately saddled with highly questionable characters such as his deputy president, David Mabuza, who, besides having been in charge of one of the most corrupted provinces in the country, was also implicated in serious allegations of criminality.

His most significant problem has however been the position of Ace Magashule, the party’s calculating secretary general, who established his own network of privilege and patronage while premier of the Free State, a province where service delivery in many towns have all but collapsed.

In his position as the party’s chief operating officer, however, he is in the powerful position of commanding the party’s human and capital resources to his and his faction’s own benefit. And he has been assisted by disgruntled and dismissed former ministers of capture, such as Nomvula Mokonyane and Malusi Gigaba, now ensconced in the party’s head office in Johannesburg.

Ramaphosa has sought to neutralise him, and there were signs at the last meeting of the party’s national executive in 2019 that he might be starting to do just that, with Magashule’s faction losing some key debates.

Against the backrop of the country’s ailing finances, with some state-owned enterprises on the verge of collapse and Eskom surviving on paraffin fumes, Zuma is also facing longstanding graft charges.

The former president, who led the party for 12 years, has been consistently defended by the party and its leadership. Whether it was state capture or corruption, the party’s luminaries have steadfastly nailed their colours to him, with his and his party’s identity becoming intertwined and inseparable.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA ? JANUARY 8: President Jac

Former president Jacob Zuma might be facing a raft of corruption charges and is considered the great enabler of state capture, but the ANC ignored his transgressions for years. (Gallo Images)

It has led to the party’s image becoming indelibly linked to grand corruption, dishonesty and mismanagement and, given the weekly revelations at the judicial commission into state capture, the parlous state of municipal, provincial and national finances as well as crumbling infrastructure, an image of the ANC as almost beyond redemption.

In the Northern Cape this week the party’s leadership have gone on door-to-door campaigns, mobilising support for the party ahead of Saturday’s annual January 8th Statement, when the party officially celebrates its birthday.

Ramaphosa has said the party “gives hope”, while other leaders have extolled the virtues of the organisation that spearheaded the fight against apartheid as the only vehicle for political and economic change.

Images of columns of luxury off-road 4×4 vehicles branded in ANC colours with party flags fluttering driving though town (reminiscent of Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe), giant cakes being ceremonially cut and parties at Kimberley hotspots have been circulating the whole week.

january 8

Loving life… Fikile Mbalula, a former leader of the ANC’s youth league, as well as a minister and deputy minister of police and sport, popping a bottle of champagne at a previous January 8th celebration. (Gallo Images)

The ANC is a party totally consumed with itself, detached from the manifold crises in the country and unable to implement urgent corrective measures to save itself. It will continue to stumble along with platitudes and rhetoric recalling its “glorious history” while the vulgarity of its corruption and self-aggrandizement will remain on full display.

At 108 years old the ANC is the sick man of South African politics. It has, as Frederik van Zyl Slabbert warned in 1996, become a “self-perpetuating ruling elite… a dominant regime”.

A rally, champagne and cake in the parched Northern Cape won’t mask Eskom, corruption and a failing state. Plaatje’s take on what his party has become would have been instructive.

Since 1994, South Africa has regressed to third world status. This is a video about the loss of dignity of the white minority who face oppression and humiliation in the new South Africa.
A historical look at how South Africa has progressed since the arrival of Jan Van Riebeeck, how the British waged war against the Boers. How apartheid ended at the hands of communist terrorists.

Finally, how after 20 years of majority rule how the whites are facing genocide. The picture illustrates the horrors of terrorist acts against the apartheid regime, the killing of innocent people before Mandela became the first democratic president.

Follow the rise of Jacob Zuma and the intense corruption that is crippling the nation. It is the story of affirmative action that forced whites out of work and into poverty, and the horrendous murders against farmers.

There is the police force, mainly black majority who are corrupt and do nothing to stop crime, corruption, and violence. Observe how the police ignore calls from the white minority in distress. Let us not forget that white students who are attacked just for attending university as the #FeesMustFall protests continue and the majority continue to burn down the educational institutions.

How white squatters camps are overcrowded, and children suffer. When people are told how the whites are forced to live in white squatter camps that are overcrowded, they are told they DESERVE IT or MUST LEAVE. Poor white people who do not have enough money to buy a loaf of bread let alone a plane ticket. Watch how the little children suffer. It is estimated that there are 80 white squatter camps in Pretoria alone.

The world has fallen silent on the genocide of the whites and so the minority is forced to rot away without food, shelter and water. The world has turned its back on the white minority and the genocide that continues to eliminate all whites. There is a media black out when the minority call for help.
South Africa Today – South Africa News https://youtu.be/fQbm514cKkg

It kills me to see black educated youth thinking like white people, says Zuma

Ahead of the Youth Day commemoration, former president Jacob Zuma has said it pains him to see educated, black youths being “instruments” of white people.

In a short clip posted by his daughter, Dudu Zuma-Sambudla on her Twitter page, Zuma can be heard saying: “But at the centre of this is an African child … absolutely problematic for me is to see Africans who are doctors and professors think like white people. That’s a problem I have … not just having the mindset of white people but to be instruments of white people …

“That just kills me,” Zuma said, switching between Zulu and English as he spoke.

The clip is  a snippet of a longer interview which Zuma-Sambudla said would be released on Youth Day on Tuesday.

Seated in front of a Jacob G Zuma Foundation banner and clad in a golf-shirt with his foundation’s emblem, Zuma was apparently sharing these thoughts during an interview he had with Wits Young Communist League leaders at his home in Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal.

The 38-second video clip was shared on Zuma-Sambudla’s timeline on Friday and like other recent social media offerings involving the former president, soon went viral.

Comments ranged from some agreeing with Zuma, while others lambasted him, saying the youth were subjected to tough times even under his rule. 

At eight o’clock on a morning ravaged by sharp winds, 300 South African coal miners sat on the stone steps of a makeshift amphitheater on the edge of a soccer field. They hugged themselves against the chill. In the distance, four squat, beige smokestacks rimmed with black were belching up clouds of silent white smoke. A safety sign above the miners’ heads declared, FINGERS DON’T GROW ON TREES.

In recent months, with paychecks coming less and less frequently, many of the miners were starving. They were meeting this morning to decide whether to strike. As they listened to their union leader outline the options, they all knew whom to blame: the Guptas. The three Gupta brothers—Ajay, Atul, and Rajesh—had bought the Optimum Coal Mine in December 2015, adding it to the tentacular empire they were building across South Africa, with interests in uranium deposits, media outlets, computer companies, and arms suppliers.

The miners, the union leader told me, would watch as the Guptas landed their helicopter in the parched soccer field with its rusty goalposts, only to swagger around with their gun-toting white bodyguards and take their kids to the mine vents without protective gear.

Sometimes, when the brothers were in a magnanimous mood, they would dole out fistfuls of cash to miners who had been particularly obsequious that day. At the same time, they cut corners viciously. Health insurance and pensions were slashed. Broken machines were patched up with old parts from other machines. Safety regulations were flouted.
Then, a few months after the Guptas bought the mine, a tectonic corruption scandal upended South Africa. A government official testified that the Guptas had offered him the position of finance minister; the three brothers, it turned out, had effectively seized control of the state apparatus. It was, to date, one of the most audacious and lucrative scams of the century.

Drawing on their close ties to President Jacob Zuma—and with the help of leading international firms like KPMG, McKinsey, and SAP—the Guptas may have drained the national treasury of as much as $7 billion. Zuma was forced to resign. McKinsey offered an extraordinary public apology for its role in the scandal.

The Guptas fled to Dubai. And the mine, which the brothers had obtained in a corrupt deal brokered and financed by the government, tipped into bankruptcy. The miners were among the ground-level casualties of complex schemes engineered on pieces of paper. In the months following the bankruptcy, they rioted and burned tires and courted arrest; today’s meeting was, by contrast, a rather sanguine affair. But now, as my colleague and I edged toward the discussion,

things once again erupted. All of the miners in the field, save for a couple of mythically wizened white faces, were black. Yet the men who wrecked the mine—along with much of South Africa’s economy—were, like my colleague Dhashen and me, of Indian origin.

As Dhashen lumbered to the front of the crowd and began taking pictures with his iPhone, the miners suddenly stopped talking. For a moment, there was silence. Then, almost as one, they began jeering and shouting. “No Guptas!” a woman yelled. Others shouted in Zulu, raining the word “Gupta” down on us.

The miners didn’t see two Indian journalists: they saw the ghosts of the Guptas. “He’s not one of them!” the union leader shouted, trying to calm the miners. Order was finally restored, and by the afternoon, the workers had decided to strike, breaking into jubilant protest songs. But the underlying tension remained.

During a break for lunch, a female blaster asked us, half-jokingly, to introduce her to an Indian man, so she could be “financially stable.” Speaking about the Guptas, another blaster wryly turned to face me. “Your brothers,” she said.
What the Guptas pulled off in South Africa has been extensively documented: the backroom deals, the rigged contracts, the wholesale plunder of national resources. The brothers, who declined to comment for this story, have denied all the accusations against them, and have yet to face charges. But the global arc of the tale—from a provincial town in India to the corporate boardrooms of London and New York—offers a case study in a new, systemic form of graft known as “state capture.”

This was a modern-day coup d’état, waged with bribery instead of bullets. It demonstrates how an entire country can fall to foreign influences without a single shot being fired—especially when that country is ruled by a divisive president who is skilled at fueling racial resentments, willing to fire his own intelligence chiefs to protect his business interests, and eager to use his elected position to enrich himself with unsavory investors. The Guptas had immigrated to South Africa from a backwater in India, but the skills they learned there proved indispensable in an age of globalized corruption.

Tragically, the scandal has also inflamed racial tensions in a country still struggling to recover from decades of apartheid. Indians, who came to South Africa under British rule in the 1860s as indentured laborers and traders, played a prominent role in the country’s anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggles. Gandhi invented satyagraha in Johannesburg, and two of Nelson Mandela’s closest allies during his three decades in prison were South African Indians.

But in a few short years, the Guptas had wiped away any lingering goodwill toward Indians, who make up less than 2.5 percent of the population. “Some miners are even saying that white people were better than these Indians,” Richard Mgzulu, a union representative, told me. In one leaked e-mail, an employee complained that Rajesh Gupta referred to his black security guards as “monkeys.”

The home in Saharanpur where the Guptas grew up—and learned to ply the black market. By Saumya Khandelwal.

The family’s Johannesburg estate served as a base of operations.

Arriving soon after the fall of apartheid, the Guptas showed that it was possible to hijack the best of Mandela’s intentions—that nonwhites should be given a chance to prosper—by turning them against the country.

The Guptas “would have heard that these A.N.C. guys are suckers,” said Ronnie Kasrils, a former African National Congress minister and comrade of Mandela’s. “They’re friendly, they’re open, they don’t have prejudice.”

After years of enduring corrupt and ruthless white rule, many A.N.C. members were also hungry for self-enrichment, believing it was their “time to eat,” as one anti-apartheid activist told me. In the Guptas, they found the perfect enablers of their greed.
When the Guptas arrived in South Africa, in 1993, they encountered a country in a state of hopeful transition. For the first time in history, black citizens were able to live in areas formerly reserved for whites.

But in order to preserve the peace, Mandela had struck what many later saw as a devil’s bargain: the segregated social and political orders would be repealed, but the economic structure would be preserved. There would be no mass takeover of white lands or businesses, as would happen later in Zimbabwe. South Africans, through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, would learn to forgive one another and live together—even though, in practice, many lied to the commission or simply failed to show up: more Reconciliation than Truth.

So a desperately unequal country remained unequal, and only a few black elites moved into the spaces long ruled by whites. These elites welcomed men like the Guptas, who could infuse cash into a country starved by anti-apartheid sanctions. Back in India, the Guptas had been small-time businessmen, but with a highly ambitious streak.

This ambition had come down to them from their father, a devout man who wore a trilby hat, dabbled in tantric beliefs, and ran a fair-price shop in the city of Saharanpur that provided government-subsidized essentials like rice and sugar to the poor.

In the Indian economy, fair-price shops are infamous nodes of corruption. Many of the rations they are supposed to provide wind up being diverted to the black market, where they are sold at inflated prices, bypassing the poor altogether. Saharanpur itself was an unpromising place from which to conquer the world.

A mishmash of old bazaars and shanties in one of India’s most corrupt states, it was infested with pigs and bats, but granted a sense of wildness by its monsoonal greenery. Growing up in the city’s cramped old quarter—a warren of crumbling Art Deco buildings, temples, and hundreds of small stalls selling fabric—the brothers bicycled to their one-room school, where they were educated in Hindi rather than more cosmopolitan English.

When Ajay, the oldest brother, came of age in the 1980s, his father sent him to Delhi, where, according to a source, he worked for a company that smuggled computers and spices from Nepal into India. Ajay became an expert in the so-called “gray market” for electronic goods sold outside the normal tariffed channels; his brothers soon joined him.

From there—again at the instigation of their father—the brothers immigrated to Singapore, the hub of the electronics gray market in Asia. According to a friend who still lives in Saharanpur, “Ajay Gupta has a massive mind”—one agile enough to exploit the trade policies of rival countries.

At one point while in Singapore, Ajay approached an associate to set up a factory in Saharanpur to manufacture computer memory cards. But there was a catch: The factory wouldn’t actually produce anything. Instead, Ajay would send the memory cards fully assembled from Singapore, and the associate would simply ship them back, claiming they had been made in India. That way, Ajay could obtain an Indian government subsidy of $2 per card, while showing a loss of $1 on the books.
Why the Guptas moved from Singapore to South Africa remains a mystery. The Guptas say they were once again prodded by their father, who believed that “Africa would be the next America of the world.” But when Atul arrived in Johannesburg, at age 25, with an initial investment of $350,000, South Africa’s future was far from obvious.

Roiled by internal racial and ethnic strife, the country was on the verge of forming its first democratic government, and Indian businessmen who had prospered under apartheid thought Gupta was a fool. “We are all leaving,” they told him. “Why are you coming? This country’s going to go to the dogs.”
In South Africa, the Guptas found a country with the allure of the white First World, but all the guile of the Third World in which they’d been raised. And unlike other Indians in South Africa, they were free of the country’s history of oppression; as Hindu males born in independent India, they had been like white men back home. Which is why, when opportunity presented itself in South Africa, they acted like white men before them—with impunity.
Soon after arriving, sources say, the Guptas started slapping together gray-market computers from undervalued imported parts and selling them under the logo Sahara. The name was a tribute to their hometown of Saharanpur and Africa’s Sahara—but it was also a blatant imitation of the brand of a famous Indian company.

The Guptas would later maintain that they commenced their Africa sojourn humbly, by selling shoes at a mall. But this story has proved difficult to verify: none of the longtime shop owners I spoke with at the mall remember the Guptas, and one former official who has investigated them extensively told me they had concocted their rags-to-riches fable.

In any case, as their profits soared, the Guptas were welcomed into South Africa’s inner circle of business and political elites. Atul—with his pinched expression, unctuous smile, thin mustache, and disarmingly reedy voice—was the P.R. face of the family. Invited to join a business delegation to India, he struck up a friendship with Essop Pahad, a South African Indian politician and A.N.C. stalwart.Pahad, an India enthusiast, arranged for Ajay to be appointed to an advisory committee to President Thabo Mbeki.
The Guptas, who had been unknown back in India, enjoyed hobnobbing with the elites. They became famous in Johannesburg for inviting politicians to parties at their large, one-acre compound in the tony neighborhood of Saxonwold, and for entertaining the Indian and South African cricket teams after matches. (They also began to sponsor cricket stadiums.) The social investments paid off: before long, the Guptas befriended the man who would be most responsible for wrecking the post-apartheid dream of South Africa—Jacob Zuma.
For an African freedom fighter, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, whose middle name can be translated as “a person who eats you up while he’s smiling at you,” bears an uncanny resemblance to Donald Trump. He rose through the political ranks and won Mandela’s affection by expertly consolidating his base of conservative Zulu supporters—the largest ethnic group in the country—with his son-of-the-soil charm. He became notorious for his unchecked and opportunistic philandering. And he relied on handouts of cash from shady businessmen to keep himself afloat. Forward and friendly, he looked a bit like a cat who has been found with his face in the cream and, instead of backing away, invites you to join him.
By the time the Guptas had met him, in 2002, Zuma was deputy president of South Africa. A “conservative traditionalist,” according to one former official, Zuma acquired five wives (in addition to an ex-wife) and has 23 kids. He also lived beyond his means, writing dud checks and refusing to pay his taxes. Strapped for cash, he received interest-free loans from Schabir Shaik, a South African Indian businessman, who engineered an annual bribe for Zuma from a French arms company. In 2005, Shaik was found guilty of having a corrupt relationship with Zuma and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Zuma, facing corruption charges of his own, was forced out of office. THE FAMILY’S MANSION WAS LITTERED WITH KITSCHY STATUES, ITS BATHROOM FIXTURES DETAILED IN GOLD.
Then, in a revelation that seemed to doom any chance of a political comeback, the daughter of an A.N.C. comrade came forward and accused Zuma of raping her in the guest room of his home. She was 31 and an H.I.V.-positive AIDS activist; he was 63. Never one to shy away from boasting about his libido, Zuma maintained that the sex was consensual and that the woman had worn a colorful traditional wrap—an obvious invitation to sex.

“You cannot just leave a woman if she is already at that state,” he testified. He also insisted that he had showered after he had sex with her, to mitigate the chance of contracting AIDS—a comment that made him an international laughing-stock. But Zuma survived by painting himself as the victim of a political conspiracy. His supporters swarmed the courthouse with signs proclaiming, BURN THE BITCH and 100% ZULU BOY, and in 2006 the judge acquitted him on all charges.

That following year, tapping into an early surge of the populist forces that would soon consume the world, Zuma trounced the neo-liberal Mbeki to become head of the A.N.C. In 2009, with the corruption charges against him thrown out on a technicality, Zuma was elected president of South Africa.
The Gupta's, who were canny investors, had begun playing the long game from the moment they met Zuma. They put his son Duduzane on their payroll in 2003, and continued to promote him even after Zuma’s fall. The youngest Gupta brother, Rajesh—nicknamed Tony—was especially close to Duduzane, who was “in and out of their house like a fourth Gupta,” according to Pahad, their A.N.C. ally. Duduzane was eventually made a director of several Gupta-linked companies.

The brothers helped set him up in a $1.3 million apartment in the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest skyscraper, and paid for his five-star vacations. (Duduzane, who declined to comment for this story, has denied owning property in Dubai.) In 2014, when Duduzane crashed his Porsche into a minibus, killing two passengers, the first person he called was Rajesh.

The Guptas insisted that Duduzane was employed on his own merits. “This young boy since beginning with us and he work even 16 to 18 hours daily,” Ajay told a reporter in his characteristically broken English. “He go himself to the all mines, all places. He don’t sit in an air-conditioned room and just count the money or do this. He earn, very hard-earned money, he do that.”

But Duduzane also enabled the Guptas to present their companies as black-owned businesses—a display essential for winning government contracts in post-apartheid South Africa. And it endeared the Guptas to Zuma, who was in and out of their house during his embattled years, performing pujas, or prayers, with their mother, who directed her sons’ domestic lives after the death of their father, in 1994.
In the Guptas’ compound, Zuma found a conservative household that mirrored his own—a place where old values flourished in a new country. Though the brothers had bought four adjacent mansions in Johannesburg, they lived in a single home with their wives and children and mother in a feudal setup imported wholesale from India. They conversed in Hindi and didn’t eat meat or drink alcohol.

The women dressed modestly and generally did not interact with guests; daughters-in-law had to obtain permission to visit their own parents. Indian servants in tattered vests ran barefoot through hallways littered with kitschy statues and busts; the fixtures in the bathrooms were detailed in gold.

Ajay, now 53, sported the diamond ring his father had once worn. Rough-hewn and imposing, with a permanent swath of stubble, he was the family patriarch and the political brain of the operation. Atul, 50, oversaw outreach to corrupt government officials, while Tony, 46, served as the family’s gruff business negotiator.
The Guptas’ loyalty to Zuma wound up paying massive dividends. The brothers, Atul told an employee, supported Zuma before “anyone thought he could be president.” The family “stood by him until he came out victorious. He would often come to our house and meet Ajay and me.

Look where that support has brought him—today he is the president.” From the moment Zuma was elected president, the Guptas began to plunder the South African government on an unprecedented scale. It was the perfect arrangement: Zuma did not have to be present in the room, or even included on e-mails, while the Guptas cut deals and moved money in and out of the country.

Ajay, one government whistle-blower later recounted, would lounge on a sofa during meetings with his shoes off, wearing a T-shirt and gray track pants, looking like a swami who expected people to “kiss his feet” as he brainstormed ways to bribe officials.

The Guptas had taken the model of their father’s fair-price shop and exaggerated it to fit the modern economy. State capture goes far beyond paying off greedy officials; it’s about distorting government policy for personal gain. In April 2010, the state-owned Industrial Development Corporation lent the Guptas $34 million, which they used to buy a uranium mine.

It seemed like a risky move: at the time, worldwide uranium prices were plummeting. But the Guptas appeared to have inside knowledge that Zuma was planning—over the objections of his own treasury—to sign an expensive deal with Russia to open a series of nuclear power plants. Once the facilities were up and running, they would buy uranium from the Guptas, who wound up pocketing all but $1.8 million of the government loan.

Three months later, the Guptas launched a newspaper called The New Age. Zuma promptly called the head of the government’s communications arm, Themba Maseko, and instructed him to help “these Gupta guys.”

When Maseko paid a visit to the family’s compound, Ajay ordered him to turn over the government’s entire advertising budget—some $80 million a year—to The New Age. If he didn’t cooperate, Maseko later testified, Ajay said he would “speak to my seniors in government, who would sort me out and replace me with people who would cooperate with him.”

Six months later, Maseko was removed from office, and the government handed its advertising money over to the Guptas. Though The New Age gained no real audience, every government department appeared to subscribe to it, with thousands of copies lying around in offices, unread.

According to court documents, the newspaper was later used to launder money through fake advertising invoices.

That October, an A.N.C. member of parliament named Vyjtie Mentor was invited to meet with Zuma. She later testified that she was picked up at the airport in Johannesburg by Atul and Tony; with their dark suits, earpieces, and sunglasses, she assumed they were the president’s drivers. Mentor soon found herself at the Gupta compound, sitting across from Ajay, who offered to make her minister of public enterprises—provided that, in her new position, she help a Gupta-linked airline win a coveted route to India.

When Mentor angrily refused, President Zuma suddenly emerged from the next room. Carrying her bag, he escorted her to a waiting cab. “Go well, young woman,” he told her in Zulu. “Everything will be O.K.” A few days later, the minister of public enterprises was fired after she refused to meet with officials from the airline.
The Guptas’ brazenness was becoming obvious in government circles. In 2011, to shield the brothers from investigation, Zuma fired the chiefs of all three intelligence agencies and replaced them with loyalists. The following year, leaked e-mails show, a Gupta shell company acquired the rights to run a government-funded dairy farm meant to empower poor black farmers. The director of the Gupta company was a former I.T. salesman with no experience in farming; the contract was won without a bidding process.

According to court documents, the Guptas siphoned $16 million from the operation. The dairy fell into disuse, with some 100 cows reportedly dying from lack of proper feed. (The Guptas have denied any connection to the operation, beyond a $10,000 consulting contract.)
The following year, the Guptas moved into television, launching a channel called ANN7 to secure more government ad revenues. Rajesh Sundaram, who became the channel’s editor, told me he met with Zuma and Atul Gupta three times in 2013 to discuss the launch.

The president, who acted like a secret shareholder in the channel, told Sundaram that he wanted it to disseminate “subtle propaganda.” ANN7 served as a microcosm of how the Guptas ran their operations: low on quality, high on greed. Laborers were flown in from India on tourist visas and housed in substandard barracks. No one was offered medical benefits.

Atul monitored the lengths of employee bathroom breaks, and installed G.P.S. in company cars to make sure reporters weren’t straying from their work beats. Attractive models were hired in lieu of trained anchors. During the channel’s launch, one model-anchor froze on camera as she waited for her teleprompter to function. In another segment, an anchor waiting for a transmission from a correspondent was instead greeted by the sound of a backstage technician making an anguished mooing sound.
The downfall began, like a Shakespeare comedy in reverse, with a wedding. In 2013, the Guptas decided to throw “the wedding of the century” for their eldest niece. They booked the upscale Sun City resort in South Africa, two hours north of Johannesburg, plotting four days of events for 400 guests.

They flew in Bollywood stars from India, and dancers from Brazil and Russia. They ordered 30,000 bouquets spread across the volcanic grounds of the resort, a 70s-era version of Wakanda complete with gigantic plaster elephants.

The invitation itself was so imposing—six ornate containers laden with delicacies from six continents—that when one invitee, the wife of a provincial police commissioner, received it, the local bomb squad was called in to detonate it. Then, on April 30, more than 200 guests from India began to arrive.

They flew not to Johannesburg but to Waterkloof, a South African air-force base a few miles south of Pretoria. Waterkloof is a reddish, parched patch of earth with the endless, low-lying feel of a college campus. As the bleary-eyed guests disembarked from a chartered flight not long after sunrise, they were greeted by Atul, dressed in a pink T-shirt and dark-blue blazer. Atul ushered the guests into seven helicopters and 60 white Range Rovers for the trip to Sun City, accompanied by police escorts.

All of this would have gone off without a hitch had it not been for Barry Bateman, a radio reporter in Pretoria. Tipped off about the arriving guests, he rushed to Waterkloof and walked up to Atul outside the passenger terminal with a simple question: “Why are you using an air-force base to bring your family in?”

Military bases, Bateman knew, are typically reserved for flights involving high-ranking government officials or heads of state. It was as if a wealthy Russian oligarch had been permitted to use Andrews Air Force Base to land hundreds of guests for a private affair in Washington, D.C.—one scheduled to be attended by the president himself. When Atul refused to answer Bateman’s question—“Don’t be smart with me,” he said—the reporter immediately tweeted about the curious landing: #GuptaWedding.
For the first time, ordinary South Africans suddenly knew who the Guptas were—and how high their influence reached. The country was outraged. The “Zuptas”—Zuma and the Guptas—became a staple of daily cartoons and Trevor Noah parodies.

The officials who had orchestrated the landing later said they had received instructions from “Number One,” a clear reference to President Zuma. The Guptas, meanwhile, were unapologetic.

“One day these officials will know the power of the Gupta family,” said Atul. Ajay, the canniest of the brothers, felt the scandal would get them “eyeballs” for their new TV station. Later, leaked e-mails would reveal that they paid for the wedding using money they had looted from the dairy farm and routed through the United Arab Emirates. KPMG wrote off the lavish celebration as a business expense.

Emboldened by their survival, the Guptas kicked their corruption into overdrive. In 2014, Zuma’s associates awarded them the largest-ever supply contract with Transnet, South Africa’s rail and port company—a deal worth $4.4 billion. The Guptas used the contract to secure millions in kickbacks—which they called “commissions”—from international players eager to do business with the firm.

Zuma also installed four Gupta allies on the board of Eskom, South Africa’s power utility, which illegally handed the Guptas $38 million in government funds to buy the Optimum Coal Mine. (Eskom had hounded the mine’s previous owners into bankruptcy at the Guptas’ behest.) If you wanted to do business in South Africa, it seemed, you had to go through the Guptas—much as certain white-owned enterprises had cornered the economy during apartheid.

Respected international firms rushed to make deals with the brothers and their associates. McKinsey & Company, the global consulting giant, partnered with Eskom on a scandalous deal—its largest-ever contract in Africa—that wound up funneling money to a Gupta-linked firm. (McKinsey denies that it did “anything illegal.”) The London-based P.R. firm Bell Pottinger used Twitter and fake-news Web sites to inflame racial tensions in South Africa, spreading the idea that “white monopoly capital” was orchestrating the attacks on the Guptas to create “economic apartheid.”

And KPMG, the accounting firm, was hired for $1.65 million by a top Zuma ally to discredit South African tax officials who were investigating the brothers.

The firm essentially copied memos provided by the government, portraying the officials as a “rogue unit” that illegally spied on the Zuma administration and “engaged the services of prostitutes during their leisure time.” The fake-news campaign worked; several senior tax officials were forced to resign, and scores more quit.
Then, on October 23, 2015, the Guptas tried to bribe the wrong man.

The unfinished temple the Guptas are building in Saharanpur. By Saumya Khandelwal. On that day, a balmy Friday, Mcebisi Jonas, the country’s deputy finance minister, was invited to a hotel to discuss business with the president’s son Duduzane. Instead, Duduzane drove him to the Gupta compound.

There, Jonas later testified, he met with one of the brothers, whom he believed to be Ajay. Ajay told him that the “old man”—President Zuma—seemed to like him. The family, he added, wanted to see whether Jonas was someone who “can work with us.” “You must understand that we are in control of everything,” Ajay said. “The old man will do anything we tell him to do. The deal on offer, Jonas recounted in his testimony, was as simple as it was enticing. Zuma would appoint Jonas as the nation’s finance minister. The Guptas, in turn, would pay Jonas $45 million to purge treasury officials who opposed the deal to build Russian-run nuclear energy plants that would operate on fuel supplied by the Gupta uranium mine. Jonas, a soft-spoken man with a neat white goatee and a tie that always seems on the verge of coming undone, was outraged. When he got up to leave, Ajay tried sweetening the deal.

If Jonas was willing to cooperate, Ajay said, he would deposit money in an account of his choosing—in South Africa or Dubai. In fact, he could give him $45,000 on the spot. “Do you have a bag?” he asked Jonas. “Or can I give you something to put it in?” When Jonas again refused, Ajay followed him to the door. If he told anyone about the meeting, Ajay warned, the Guptas would have him killed.

(In a sworn affidavit, Ajay insisted that he was not present at the meeting, which he calls an “intentional fabrication to implicate me in alleged wrongdoing in which I played no part.”)
In March 2016, as the Guptas and Zuma continued to try and bend the finance ministry to their will, Jonas decided to go public. This time, the A.N.C. was unable to brush off the allegations—they came from within the ruling party itself.

The Guptas fled for Dubai in April, and the ensuing investigations toppled top executives at McKinsey and KPMG, which is under investigation for its ties to the Guptas, as are HSBC, Standard Chartered, and SAP.

Bell Pottinger, the P.R. firm, imploded after accusations that it had tried to stir up racial resentments at the Guptas’ behest. Threatened by a vote of no confidence and with his candidate having lost the vote for A.N.C. president, Zuma was forced to step down in February 2018.

A few months later, Duduzane appeared before a judge in shackles, wearing a gray wool jacket and a rakish black scarf, and was charged with corruption. The era of the Guptas, it seemed, was over.Most Popular Even in exile, the Guptas remain a central meme in South African consciousness; the few available stock photos of the brothers circulate regularly on the front pages of the country’s newspapers.

On the day I arrived in Johannesburg last fall, a commission of inquiry had begun its investigation into state capture—a brief moment of hope that quickly curdled into disappointment. With a budget of $17 million, the commission was expected to complete its work in six months.

But the wise, turtle-like judge overseeing the inquiry sonorously predicted it would go on for two years. It soon became clear that the Guptas would not appear.

It was an open question as to whether Zuma could be compelled to testify, and the government has temporarily withdrawn corruption charges against Duduzane, pending further evidence from the commission.

On the first soporific day, in a large hall that could have been the foyer of a bank, the lead prosecutor presented such boring PowerPoints that I almost wished McKinsey could be brought back to enliven them.
The economy, meanwhile, remains devastated by all the plunder and corruption. Tax collections have plunged by billions since Zuma’s purge of the once-respected state tax agency.

The rand is reeling, and credit-rating agencies have downgraded the country’s bonds to junk status. A quarter-century after the end of apartheid, South Africa has the worst income inequality in the world—evident in the profusion of high walls, electric fences, and guards to protect parked vehicles. Almost two-thirds of blacks live in poverty, compared with only 1 percent of whites, and half of all young people are unemployed.

These young people, like the miners I met at Optimum, are growing impatient. In 2015, a student movement called “Rhodes Must Fall” successfully pressed for the removal of a statue of the colonialist Cecil Rhodes from the University of Cape Town. Now the movement has morphed into “Fees Must Fall,” demanding free university education for poor families as a means to self-empowerment—though it is unclear where the money for such largesse might come from.

And calls for land reform—in a country where whites own 72 percent of all privately held farmland—are also growing. The less the country can deliver, the more radical the demands have become.
The Guptas have created an atmosphere of distrust in which ancient group feelings are being resurrected. Many whites, who make up 9 percent of the population, blame the A.N.C. for the country’s downfall—and see themselves as victims.

One of the first things I heard on the radio when I arrived in Johannesburg was a middle-aged white man calling in to a talk show to complain that “the benefits of the end of apartheid have been outweighed by the way we’re being discriminated against.” There was no acknowledgment of the devastation caused by apartheid, or why it might necessitate affirmative action for blacks.
In a Cape Town bookstore, at a discussion about state capture between a professor and a government minister, I found an audience full of politically engaged, middle-aged whites fired up about what the Guptas and Zuma did to the country. But talking to them, I discovered that they were the South African equivalent of Trump’s most fervent followers.

One sixty-something white woman with rabbity teeth, keen blue unseeing eyes, and an orthopedic metal cane told me that poverty in India was “dignified,” unlike the “begging and entitlement” in South Africa. Another white woman, overhearing a conversation I was having, rebuked me for not supporting Trump, calling him “the only knight in shining armor in a dark reality.”

Trump himself had tweeted a few days earlier about “the large scale killing” of white farmers in South Africa—a patently false statement. How could I tell her that the broadside on behalf of white South Africans was meant to divert attention from Michael Cohen’s guilty plea that day? Did anyone wish to see beyond their own narrow version of the truth?

Back in India, meanwhile, the Guptas have been slowly raising their profile. When I visited Saharanpur, I discovered that the brothers are considered heroes, though the adulation is shot through with the sort of gossip you expect from small towns—accounts of film stars and politicians visiting the family’s home, the difficulty of getting an appointment with the Guptas’ sister.

In one fetid corner of the old city—so cramped that cars cannot get through—I encountered the scaffolded bones of a massive temple with more than 50 rooms for religious education, surrounded by carved sandstone blocks waiting to be joined together to create shrines. The temple would be complete in 2022; it was the Guptas’ $28 million gift to their town.

The brothers now live openly in Dubai, though their time there may be limited: in September, the U.A.E. and South Africa finally signed an extradition treaty, mainly, it is thought, to ensnare the Guptas. Undeterred, the brothers continue to revel in their wealth.

They recently sent out a 17-page invitation for yet another extravagant family wedding, this one projected to cost $7 million. Under the names of their children was inscribed, almost wistfully, their place of residency: “Johannesburg, South Africa.”
The Guptas, remarkably, seem hurt that their former fiefdom—the place that made them who they are—has turned against them: had they acted so differently from the white colonialists before them?

“Was Ajay Gupta or Gupta family proven guilty?” Ajay asked a reporter recently, employing the third person. “One place? One smallest thing?” A journalist who met Ajay in India told me that the Gupta patriarch is “seething in rage” over his family’s fall. “We’ve always eaten two rotis,” Ajay declared defiantly. “We’ll keep eating two no matter what happens.”

The same could not be said for the starving miners—and the looted country—the brothers had left behind.

In a video trending on social media, a Free State Mayor, Nkosinjani Speelman, can be heard encouraging soldiers to ‘Skop and Donner’ the Coloureds of Bronville.

In the video, the Matjhabeng Municipality Mayor addresses members of the South African Defence Force who has been deployed to maintain order during the lockdown period.

During this address, he suggests that some of the “Boesmannetjies” of Bronville likes to take chances and says that “when you close them, they get out and drink again”. He goes on further to encourage the soldiers to “skop and donner” the people which are giving problems and taking chances, namely the Pakistanis, the Nigerians and the Coloureds.

The soldiers can be seen listening attentively and laughing at his jokes. The remarks, which was generally referred to as racist, inhumane and barbaric, led to a flood of complaints being laid against Speelman at the Human Rights Commission.

The number of complaints was enough to force Speelman to apologise for his remarks, although it is unlikely that this will stop the complaints.

In addition to these comments, Speelman is generally considered to be a failed and controversial mayor. Under his tenure, service delivery protests have escalated, debt has skyrocketed and the municipality is one of the most wasteful municipal spenders.

He has also been accused of tender fraud and it was hinted at that he had a role in the death of the municipal manager, Thabiso Tsoaeli. The family of Mr Tsoaeli even went as far as barring Speelman from the funeral.

As we celebrated the life of one of SA greatest cultural ambassadors last week, Joseph Shabalala, the BBC focused on a South African town in the Free State - Harrismith. It is always good to see the best of your country being showcased on global platforms.

It was a proud moment to see Christiane Amanpour close her show by celebrating Shabalala's life on CNN last week. What the BBC found in Harrismith is heart-breaking. It found a once beautiful town in a state of ruin. The ANC thugs have looted public money until the town literally collapsed.

The BBC's report was titled "We're just fixing our town." These are the words of a young black resident, Sam Twala, who told the world the residents of Harrismith are tired of burning tyres, and protesting; they have decided to fix their own town. When there is a burst pipe, Twala and a group of volunteers go around asking for money from local business people, to fix the pipe themselves. The story of Harrismith is a microcosm of the whole province of the Free State, and of other municipalities elsewhere. As you read this column, the capital city of the Free State, Bloemfontein, is under administration.

Think of Cape Town, the capital city of the Western Cape, being under administration, or Johannesburg in Gauteng, or Polokwane in Limpopo, and so on.If things are not working in the capital Bloemfontein, how could they work in small towns such as Harrismith?

How to tame tyranny of EFF minority question facing MzansiNazi-style chaos can't define our political culture.Opinion3 months ago The sad thing is that the man who collapsed the province, a gangster called Ace Magashule, sits comfortably in the headquarters of the ANC, the political party that runs SA - Luthuli House. Inkosi Albert Luthuli must be turning in his grave!

In his book Gangster State, Pieter-Louis Myburgh has provided evidence of how former premier Magashule remote-controlled the distribution of tenders in all municipalities in the province. But Magashule is not in a prison cell, nor is he scheduled to appear in any court. Since Magashule is the boss in the ANC, the Free State is treated as if things are normal there. No crisis has been declared, even though the province has collapsed.

Under normal circumstances, the whole of SA would be talking about the mess in the province. But very few people in the country are aware the capital of the province is under administration. When asked about the ANC thugs who have looted Harrismith until it collapsed, all an administrator could say was, "criminal cases have been opened".

There are naïve simpletons who once entertained the illusion that, under Cyril Ramaphosa, criminals in the ANC would be arrested. The thugs in Harrismith, and Magashule, laugh when told about some "new dawn". While Twala and his fellow residents fix their town, the thugs continue to enjoy their loot.

In one of South Africa’s biggest provinces, politics and crime have become so intertwined in a violent battle for financial resources that they have triggered a seemingly “never-ending” wave of political murders, an inquiry has found.

The government-appointed inquiry has warned that the political killings are a “serious pathology” that could easily spread to other regions of South Africa where the same root causes of corruption and impunity are present.

The inquiry was established by the government of KwaZulu-Natal province, where more than 80 people have been killed in politically linked murders in the past seven years, including dozens of murders in the past two years alone.

The province, known as the homeland of the Zulu people, is the second-most populous in the country and a crucial stronghold for the ruling African National Congress.

The province has fallen into the grip of a “culture of violence” as politicians fight for control of lucrative government tenders, the inquiry found in its 425-page final report.

“There was overwhelming evidence from the majority of witnesses that access to resources through the tender system is the main root cause of the murder of politicians,” it said. “There was evidence that criminal elements are recruited by politicians to achieve political ends, resulting in a complex matrix of criminal and political associations that also lead to the murder of politicians.”

The report, issued after more than a year of research and public hearings by the inquiry, concluded that political factions are using “underhanded tactics” to manipulate the meetings of political parties and to marginalize their rivals.

“This often results in violent attacks and retaliatory attacks, which have been at the core of a number of murders of politicians,” it said. The inquiry heard evidence of politicians being gunned down in their driveways, or shot in crowded public places with dozens of witnesses, or killed when their cars were ambushed and sprayed with bullets.

Assassins can be hired for the equivalent of a few hundred dollars, experts say. Few of the murders have been solved and few of the perpetrators have been jailed. The culture of violence may have begun in colonial and apartheid times, but it continues unabated today, the report said.

The rhetoric of many politicians has incited murder and other violence, it said. The apparently ceaseless wave of murders is “a symptom of a serious pathology in the province’s body politic,” it said. “Regrettably, there does not seem to be any reduction in the rate of the murder of politicians in KZN.

There is still something rotten in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.” The inquiry focused on local councils, where most of the murders have occurred. At a time of high unemployment and widespread poverty, there is “fierce competition” for council positions because they allow access to tenders and other financial resources, and this leads to “corruption, crass materialism and conspicuous consumption,” the report said.

JOHANNESBURG – The Constitutional Court has dismissed the urgent application by Solidarity and Afriforum to directly appeal the High Court decision to uphold the tourism department’s stance to have Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) as a requirement when allocating funds to businesses from the tourism COVID-19 relief fund.

In the order, the court states that it’s not in the interest of justice the hear the application urgently. “The Constitutional Court has considered the application for leave to appeal directly to the court on an urgent basis. It has concluded that the application should be dismissed as it is not in the interest of justice to hear the application at this stage as there are insufficient grounds raised for direct appeal to court on an urgent basis.”

Tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane welcomed the ruling by the concourt - and urged Afriforum and Solidarity to allow the department to continue with its work. In a statement the minister says that over 13,000 applications have been received - and that the processing of payments have already started to both black and white business owners.

Solidarity and AfriForum had argued in the High Court that the disaster management regulations confine the minister's power to give directions to matters relating to COVID-19 and do not include empowerment goals. At the time, Kubayi-Ngubane said:

“We do believe that in what we do, the law has not been suspended. We do believe that many those who are previously disadvantaged continue to suffer.” She said the efforts made to transform the industry may be lost after the lock-down.

Pretoria - The Boeremag was lured into a trap by informants working for the police’s Crime Intelligence Unit, who planted evidence and enticed the members to move from their initial defence strategy, into a militant organisation.

Crime Intelligence was in fact from the start behind this organisation and pushed its informants to infiltrate the Boeremag - dubbed by the SAPS as “Project Wacko”.

This was the evidence of a former captain in a covert section of the police’s Crime Intelligence Unit, Deon Loots. He was the handler of the State’s key witness, JC Smit, who infiltrated the Boeremag in the 1990s. In 2003, Smith was the first witness to take the stand in the Pretoria High Court treason trial in which the 21 accused have been convicted of an array of charges, some including high treason.

Loots, in his shocking evidence yesterday, told Judge Eben Jordaan that he “had to get these things off his chest” as he made a promise to himself that once this trial was ending, he would come and tell the truth.

“I want the whole world to know what the truth is,” he said. Apart from testifying at length how the organisation was “coaxed”, without the knowledge of the members, to take a more aggressive stance, he said Crime intelligence instructed Smit to teach some of the Boeremag members how to build bombs. Crime intelligence knew about every move each of the accused made - whether in C-Max Prison awaiting trial, in court and even while speaking to their lawyers regarding their defence.

There were bugs and even surveillance cameras everywhere. The homes and phones of their friends and families were also bugged, he said. According to Loots this unit had such sophisticated equipment that at its headquarters there is a room dubbed “the war room” where the movements of the accused in jail could be seen at any time of the day on two big screens.

Furthermore, police attached to this unit can watch live footage on their cellphones of what is going on in court and this footage is also seen on their laptops, Loots said. While his evidence cannot be used to the advantage of the case of the accused at this stage, as they have all been convicted, the aim of it is to convince the judge to note a special entry on the court record of an irregularity.

This could eventually be used by the accused in their appeal one day to have their treason and other convictions overthrown. Loots was medically boarded from the SAPS in 2001, but he still partially managed Smit as an informant.

His (Loots’s) wife is a colonel in crime intelligence and closely linked to the Boeremag trial. They are now in the middle of an acrimonious divorce. Loots said in 1997 several right-wingers held meetings, which were aimed at putting a plan in place for the commandos to step in if unrest broke out in the country.

The initial aim was to stabilize the country and to restore peace. Smit infiltrated these meetings on the instructions of crime intelligence. Loots said this unit decided to be in “total control” of these meetings and at a meeting of high ranking SAPS officials, it was decided to feed these people with disinformation.

Crime intelligence wanted to create the atmosphere that there was a threat in the country and the informants, especially Smit, had to feed the right-wing people this information at meetings. This had to be done at a steady pace, Loots said, so that they didn’t become suspicious.

He said he was terribly upset when crime intelligence instructed Smit to train some of these people in the manufacturing of bombs, which Smit in fact did. “I said this was wrong.” He said although he was no longer in the SAPS by then, he knew exactly what went on in the Boeremag trial, as his wife told him.

According to him she, shortly after the group’s arrest, told him their police cells were bugged and the SAPS knew what their defence strategies would be. This was also conveyed to the State, who at all times knew how to counter the defence.

“I told my wife this was unethical and asked her why this was done. She said this was so that crime intelligence at all times knew what the accused were planning.”

South Africa has found itself in the eye of a quickly-brewing storm this week, confounding its unsteady relations with the United States of America.

Donald Trump has pushed for a significant revision to his country’s trade laws, and it could have devastating implications for us in Mzansi. The rule-change by the Trump Administration reduces the amount of countries that can be considered “developing nations”. By doing this, it gives the US government a greater scope to review its own trade deals.

South Africa in the eye of a trade storm with US Previously limited by who they could investigate, this bit of legal wrangling will now allow Trump and his team to identify which states are “harming US industries” with unfairly subsidized exports. South Africa has been named on that list, and we now face the prospect of being hit with higher trade and export tariffs with the US:

“Given the global economic significance of the G20, and the collective economic weight of its membership (which accounts for large shares of global trade) membership indicates that a country is developed. Thus, Argentina, Brazil, India, Indonesia and South Africa are ineligible for the 2% de minimis standard.”

US Trade Regulator statement:

Why it’s bad news for Mzansi The multi-billion rand industry that exists between SA and the US is, therefore, due a radical shake-up. Should the Trump administration decide that they aren’t getting a fair deal from our trade agreement, South Africa could be hit with large financial penalties – and it may even prompt something of a “jobs exodus” from our shores.

We’re waiting with bated breath to see if the Republican leader and his Cabinet believe we’ve been charging them too much for our services. However, this isn’t the only issue causing friction between SA and US trade: Our newly-drafted Copyright Amendment Bill allegedly violates US Trade Regulator Laws, too.

It has been a quarter-century since South Africans of all colors and creeds lined up with each other to patiently wait their turn to vote for their first government that was not dependent on brutal racial engineering.
In 1994 the country was a coiled spring ready to unleash enormous latent economic and human potential. As South West Africa became Namibia and the legal edifices of apartheid were swept away, South Africa suddenly had the opportunities and goodwill that had been denied it fork the better part of 30 years.

All that promise is gone. South Africa has squandered its opportunities and is on the path to becoming a failed state. These are the top ten reasons, in no particular order, why South Africa is becoming the next Venezuela.

Nick Turse February 27 2020, 6:00 a.m. Last month, about a dozen al-Shabab fighters infiltrated the perimeter of a military base in Manda Bay, Kenya. One of them took aim with a rocket-propelled grenade, firing at a U.S. surveillance plane and touching off an hourslong firefight. When it was all over, the two American pilots of that plane and a U.S. soldier were dead, two other U.S. military personnel were wounded, six surveillance aircraft and helicopters were destroyed, and parts of the airfield were in flames. Where there are U.S. bases, there is the potential for such attacks, because bases are not just launching pads for offensive military operations, but targets for them too. Since 9/11, the U.S. military has built a sprawling network of outposts in more than a dozen African countries. The Intercept has obtained U.S. military documents and a set of accompanying maps that provide the locations of these African bases in 2019, including the one at Manda Bay. These formerly secret documents, created by the Pentagon’s Africa Command and obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, offer an exclusive window into the footprint of American military operations in Africa.

Maps of U.S. “Enduring” and “Non-Enduring” bases in Africa. The Pentagon defines “enduring” bases as providing “strategic access and use to support United States security interests for the foreseeable future.” “Non-Enduring” outposts — also known as “contingency locations” — are defined as supporting and sustaining “operations during contingencies or other operations.” Contingency locations can be categorized as initial, temporary, or semipermanent.Images: U.S. Africa Command

During testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee late last month, Stephen Townsend, the commander of AFRICOM, echoed a line favored by his predecessors that AFRICOM maintains a “light and relatively low-cost footprint” on the continent.

This “light” footprint consists of a constellation of more than two dozen outposts that stretch from one side of Africa to the other. The 2019 planning documents provide locations for 29 bases located in 15 different countries or territories, with the highest concentrations in the Sahelian states on the west side of the continent, as well as the Horn of Africa in the east.

Since the plans were created, according to AFRICOM spokesperson John Manley, two bases have been shuttered, leaving the U.S. with an archipelago of 15 “enduring locations” and 12 less-permanent “contingency locations.” The documents note, however, that AFRICOM is actively seeking to enhance its presence and is primed for expansion in the future.

ENDURING FOOTPRINT 2019NON-ENDURING FOOTPRINT 2019
Chebelley, DjiboutiBizerte, Tunisia
Camp Lemonnier, DjiboutiArlit, Niger
Entebbe, UgandaDirkou, Niger
Mombassa, KenyaDiffa, Niger
Manda Bay, KenyaOuallam, Niger
Liberville, GabonBamako, Mali
St. Helena, Ascension IslandGaroua, Cameroon
Accra, GhanaMaroua, Cameroon
Ouagadougou, Burkina FasoMisrata, Libya
Dakar, SenegalTripoli, Libya
Agadez, NigerBaledogle, Somalia
Niamey, NigerBosasso, Somalia
N’Djamena, ChadGalcayo, Somalia
 Kismayo, Somalia
 Mogadishu, Somalia
 Wajir, Kenya

U.S. Africa Command’s “Enduring Footprint” and “Non-Enduring Footprint” in 2019.

Violent extremism and insecurity on the continent has increased exponentially during the very years that the U.S. has been building up its network of bases, providing billions of dollars in security assistance to local partners, conducting persistent counterterrorism operations that include commando raids, combat by U.S. Special Operations forces in at least 13 African countries between 2013 and 2017, and a record number of U.S. airstrikes in Somalia (just over one attack per week in 2019). There are now roughly 25 active militant Islamist groups operating in Africa, up from just five in 2010 — a jump of 400 percent — according to the Defense Department’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Militant Islamist activity also hit record levels in 2019. There were 3,471 reported violent events linked to these groups last year, a 1,105 percent increase since 2009. Reported fatalities resulting from African militant Islamist group activity also increased by 7 percent over last year, to an estimated 10,460 deaths. The situation has become so grim that U.S. military aims in West Africa have recently been scaled back from a strategy of degrading the strength and reach of terror groups to nothing more than “containment.”

The current archipelago of U.S. outposts in Africa represents a decrease of seven sites from the 34 bases detailed in a set of briefing documents by AFRICOM science adviser Peter Teil that were published by The Intercept in 2018. The new 2019 AFRICOM planning documents provide information on five bases slated for closure, including a longtime “enduring” site in Gaborone, Botswana, and four contingency locations, or CLs, in Faya Largeau, Chad; Lakipia, Kenya; Benina, Libya; and Gao, Mali. Shuttering the CLs, according to the documents, is part of an effort to “seek efficiencies by consolidating … functions at a reduced number of posture locations,” while the removal of Gabrone was chalked up to “a lack of DoD [Department of Defense] property or routine DoD presence” and the fact that “Botswana does not acknowledge or desire any formal DoD access at the international airport.”

Manley refused to say which two additional bases were dropped from the 2019 list. “The fluctuation in the number is not related to Misrata and Tripoli,” he told The Intercept in response to a question about whether the Libyan outposts were the others closed. But it is worth noting that since the 2019 base posture document was produced, the U.S. pulled its forces out of the North African nation. “Due to increased unrest in Libya, a contingent of U.S. forces supporting U.S. Africa Command temporarily relocated from the country in response to security conditions on the ground,” AFRICOM announced last April as the Libyan civil war flared up. Those troops have never returned, according to Manley, and a recent inspector general’s report states that they won’t be redeployed until there is a ceasefire in Libya’s civil war.

It’s also worth noting the documents state that U.S. Army Africa uses space at “host nation facilities” in Theis, Senegal, and Singo, Uganda, even though the bases are not listed on AFRICOM’s maps. While these “cooperative training locations” are not officially considered outposts by the command, they raise the question of whether 29 bases is actually a more accurate count. Whatever the real number of bases, the recent alteration of AFRICOM’s footprint in 2019 appears to be a strategic consolidation as the command fortifies its presence in some of the continent’s hottest hotspots. Of the 6,000 or more U.S. personnel deployed in Africa, about 1,200, according to Manley, are in West Africa, with a significant percentage in Niger, which has become the key American hub on that side of the continent. Around 500 Special Operations forces are reportedly deployed on the other side of the continent in Somalia, the site of America’s most intense and longest-running undeclared war in Africa.

While the five U.S. outposts in Somalia rank second only to the six in Niger when it comes to America’s footprint on the continent, AFRICOM is actively seeking to expand its presence in the Horn of Africa. “Additional posture and/or capacity is required in East Africa to more efficiently employ limited aviation resources in support of U.S. activities in southern Somalia,” according to the formerly secret files, which also mention the “potential establishment of one or more [contingency locations] in Somalia to support Somali National Security Force development.” The 2019 planning documents also state that five “contingency locations” were recommended to be upgraded to “semi-permanent” status: Baledogle, Kismayo, and Mogadishu in Somalia, and Arlit and Diffa in Niger.
What are the forces at these bases doing there? In Diffa, according to a recent inspector general’s report, a small unit of U.S. Special Forces has been providing advice and assistance to Niger’s 51st Special Intervention Battalion, which conducts operations in the Lake Chad region. Another Special Forces detachment has been engaged in train, advise, and assist activities with a local counterterrorism force in Arlit, Niger.
The presence of U.S. commandos at Diffa and Arlit first came to widespread notice in the wake of the October 2017 ambush by Islamic State militants in Tongo Tongo, Niger, that killed four U.S. soldiers. The U.S. base at Baledogle received attention last September when it was attacked by the Somali terrorist group, al-Shabab. Manda Bay, Kenya, where al-Shabab killed the American soldier and U.S. pilots, is still another “enduring” location from AFRICOM’s 2019 list. In the wake of the attack last month, its defenses were also hardened and its troop strength markedly increased.

“I think it’s self-obvious we were not as prepared there in Manda Bay as we needed to be,” AFRICOM’s Townsend told the Senate Armed Services Committee on January 30. “Al-Shabab managed to penetrate onto that airfield. A lot of people don’t know, but the base where our troops live is not where the airfield is. But they were able to get access to that airfield, kill three Americans and destroy six aircraft there. … There’s about 120 infantrymen there on the ground now who are securing that place, and they’ve been working hard since 6 January to put in the appropriate level of defenses. So I am confident that by the time they are done, Manda Bay will be much more properly defended.”


The attack in Kenya came at a time when Defense Secretary Mark Esper was already considering proposals for a major drawdown of U.S. forces on the other side of the continent, in West Africa, including the possible abandonment of a recently built $110 million drone base in Agadez, Niger. According to Manley, the Pentagon’s so-called Blank Slate Review process is still ongoing, and there has been no change to U.S. “force posture” in Africa as of yet. “I haven’t made any decisions yet on West Africa or East Africa,” Esper said recently, while at the same time calling on European nations to “step up in Africa.”

Talk of scaling back U.S. posture and presence in Africa has prompted fierce pushback in Congress. “These personnel and installations are critical in combatting the ever-increasing number of violent extremist groups throughout the region that pose an immediate threat to our partners and allies,” wrote U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Chris Coons, D-Del., in a January 15 letter to Esper. The senators argued that “any withdrawal or reduction would likely result in a surge in violent extremist attacks on the continent and beyond as well as increase the geopolitical influence of competitors like Russia and China.” James Inhofe, chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee echoed these concerns. “Today, more than a dozen terrorist groups with ties to Al Qaida and ISIS are operating across Africa,” he said late last month. “Many of these groups have ambition to attack Americans and our partners. Without sustained pressure, the threat posed by these groups will.”
But in the face of deteriorating security and gloomy Pentagon assessments, some experts question this rationale. “The current, overly militarized approach to fighting terrorism in Africa is not working,” said William Hartung, the director of the arms and security project at the Center for International Policy, or CIP. “As the U.S. military footprint and military activities have increased, terrorist violence has grown and terrorist groups have proliferated.”
His colleague, Temi Ibirogba, a program and research associate with the Africa Program at CIP, noted that the rise of violent extremism in Africa in the face of persistent U.S. military engagement since 9/11 should be cause for skepticism of the “more is better” strategy. “The U.S. military should be considering alternative approaches like better coordination with African regional and continental organizations and encouraging African governments to consider negotiations in certain cases,” she told The Intercept.
In recent years, the U.S. military has carried out no fewer than 36 named operations and activities in Africa, including at least eight “127-echo” programs, which are named for the budgetary authority that allows U.S. Special Operations forces to use host-nation military units as proxies in missions aimed at violent extremist organizations, or VEOs. Run by Joint Special Operations Command, the secretive organization that controls the Navy’s SEAL Team 6 and the Army’s Delta Force, or by theater special operations forces, these 80- to 120-person units, operating with the assistance of U.S. commandos, are primarily engaged in counterterrorism operations, especially ones aimed at high-value targets.
The 2019 AFRICOM planning document notes that U.S. forces will “continue to conduct counter-VEO-focused activities” from 16 separate bases. Even discounting the two counter-VEO bases in Libya that appear to have been closed since the map was created by AFRICOM, this leaves one each in Kenya, Mali, and Tunisia, as well as five in Somalia, four in Niger, and two in Cameroon at Garoua and Maroua. The site in Garoua is a drone base that was profiled by The Intercept in 2016. In 2017, the Intercept revealed that while the U.S. military fortified its base in Maroua, known as Camp Salak, the outpost also served as a scene of illegal imprisonment, torture, and even killings.
Facing a potential drawdown of forces, AFRICOM has been making the case that its bases and the missions run from them are integral to U.S. interests. “Strategic access to Africa, its airspace, and its surrounding waters is vital to U.S. national security,” Townsend told the Senate Armed Services Committee late last month. He and others have argued for what they contend is AFRICOM’s supposed bang for the buck. “What U.S. Africa Command accomplishes with relatively few people and few dollars, on a continent three-and-a-half times the size of the continental United States, is a bargain for the American taxpayer,” Manley told The Intercept.

But a recent inspector general’s report, examining U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Africa, raises serious questions about the utility of billions of tax dollars spent on U.S. bases, operations, and assistance to local partners. Even after a decade-plus spent fighting militants in Somalia, “the threat posed by al Shabaab and ISIS-Somalia in East Africa remains ‘high,’ despite continued U.S. airstrikes and training of Somali security forces,” the Defense Intelligence Agency told the Defense Department’s Inspector General. The DoDIG further noted that al-Shabab not only “remains a potent threat” due to its “ability to conduct high-profile attacks, recruit fighters, and finance ongoing operations,” but that the group “appears to be a growing threat to U.S. personnel and interests in the region.”

The DoDIG’s assessment of West Africa was even more dire. “VEO violence in West Africa grew rapidly over the past 2 years; in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Western Niger, VEO violence increased by 250 percent since 2018,” according to the report. AFRICOM told the DoDIG that security in West Africa continued to deteriorate during the final quarter of 2019 as terrorist groups “launched a growing number of offensive attacks against military facilities and troops … often resulting in large numbers of casualties” to U.S.-allied armed forces. “VEOs in West Africa are not degraded nor contained to the Sahel and Lake Chad region,” the command admitted.

Given the current state of affairs, the Center for International Policy’s Hartung believes that the United States needs to reevaluate its approach. “It’s time for an honest reassessment of U.S. anti-terror strategy in Africa, including greater transparency about the size and scope of U.S. military operations there,” he told The Intercept. “The underlying drivers of terrorism, including poverty, corruption, and repression, do not have military solutions.”

So. Africa: 34 killed & at least 78 injured after police open fire on striking workers at Lonmin mine

Striking workers at the South African mine where police shot dead 34 miners on Thursday face a deadline to go back to work or face dismissal.
A statement from mine owner Lonmin said 3,000 workers were striking illegally and must report to work on Monday.

The company delayed the deadline from Friday in light of the killings at the Marikana platinum mine, north-west of Johannesburg. Some miners said the new ultimatum was an insult to their dead colleagues.

President Jacob Zuma on Sunday declared a week of national mourning.

According to Lonmin, around 27% of workers expected on Monday morning arrived for their shifts. But it is not clear how many of these were among those who went on strike last week. The workers are those doing maintenance work to ensure areas are safe for work to resume, Lonmin spokeswoman Sue Vey told the BBC.

The mound where protesters were gathered last week was empty on Monday morning, but there was no sign that work at the mine had begun again, the BBC's Navdip Dhariwal reports from the scene. About 3,000 rock-drill operators (RDOs) at the mine walked out more than a week ago in support of demands for higher pay.

The strike was declared illegal by owner Lonmin, the world's third-largest platinum producer. 'Final ultimatum' The miners, who are currently earning between 4,000 and 5,000 rand ($484-$605), say they want their salary increased to 12,500 rand ($1,512). Image caption President Zuma says South Africa is "in shock" "The final ultimatum provides RDOs with a last opportunity to return to work or face possible dismissal," Lonmin said in a statement on Sunday.

"Employees could therefore be dismissed if they fail to heed the final ultimatum." It also told 25,000 non-striking workers and 10,000 contractors, all of whom have been unable to work as a result of the violence, that police consider it safe to return to duty. Initially, employees were asked to report only for their morning shift. Staff have also been issued with contact numbers to report cases of intimidation.

"The safety and security of our employees is paramount and nobody will be asked to report for duty if the police consider them in danger of reprisals," chief financial officer Simon Scott said. "The vast majority of our workforce, and their families, who rely on our mine for their livelihood, have now been unable to work for more than a week." 'Insult' Some miners dismissed the call as disrespectful to their colleagues who died.

"Expecting us to go back is like an insult. Many of our friends and colleagues are dead, then they expect us to resume work. Never," worker Zachariah Mbewu told AFP news agency. He said workers would only go back when management gave them what they sought. However, Lesiba Seshoka from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) told the BBC that many miners had agreed to return to work.

"There are just a few who have indicated that it still too early - they are quite emotional about what happened", Mr Seshoka said. The NUM is the traditional union in the area but some miners have accused it of abandoning their concerns and have turned to a newer, more radical union.

The circumstances that led police to open fire on Thursday remain unclear, but reports from eyewitnesses suggest the shooting took place after a group of demonstrators, some holding clubs and machetes, rushed at a line of police officers. Police, armed with automatic rifles and pistols, fired dozens of shots. At least 78 people were injured in the violence and some 250 people were arrested.

A judicial inquiry has been ordered to shed light on why the dispute escalated into violence. Announcing the week of mourning on Sunday, Mr Zuma said the nation was in "shock and pain".

Flags will fly at half mast at all flag stations in South African and missions outside the country during the mourning period, which will last from Monday until next Sunday.

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