Jacob Zuma, the former president of South Africa, has chaired a “barely credible picture of unconvincing corruption” in the country’s most critical state-owned companies, according to the first conclusions of a multi-year investigation into corruption under his rule.
An initial report to President Cyril Ramaphosi on Tuesday called for the prosecution of former high-ranking officials and punished international rot helpers for detailing the robbery of a national airline, undermining the tax service and other corruption cases under Zuma, who left power in 2018.
The investigation, led by South Africa’s deputy chief justice, is reported for the first time since it was set up four years ago to investigate allegations that Guptasi, a business family and other private interests, with Zuma’s help, looted public funds. “Influence [the Guptas] efforts over former President Zuma have been substantial, ”the first of three reports concluded.
Zuma was in jail last year because he defied the call from the investigation, which provoked South Africa the worst violence since apartheid. He is now fighting to return to prison after his early release on parole was declared illegal.
Zuma “escaped” the investigation instead of answering tough questions about why he kept Dudu Myeni, a close ally, in the position of president of South African Airways as she brought the once-respected airline “into disrepair,” the report said. “He didn’t want to account to the nation,” he adds.
Bain & Co., a global consulting firm, also helped Zuma undermine and weaken the tax service as part of “capturing” the state. His public contracts in South Africa need to be revised, the report said.
Ramaphosa on Tuesday hailed the first investigation report as a “defining moment” for South Africans fight against corruption. But its content will be very embarrassing for the ruling African National Congress and is being published because faith weakens in Ramaphos ’ability to reverse impunity and rot in the state.
The report recommends that several former SAA officials, including Myeni, be investigated for possible fraud. He also demanded that Tony Gupta, one of the family brothers, be investigated for an alleged bribe regarding the receipt of state funds by a newspaper owned by Gupta.
Myeni denied wrongdoing. Gupte, who left South Africa when Zuma lost power, have always denied working.
South Africa has a poor record of prosecuting political corruption, a reality the report regrets, and national prosecutors have yet to conclude a major case relating to the era of state occupation. Ramaphosa announced that he would respond to the recommendations of the investigation in the middle of the year.
When a civil servant resisted an attack by the Gupta media empire on the state, “President Zuma was ready to throw his own comrade into the ANC. . . to the street only because he refused to participate in the corrupt arrangement demanded by Guptas, ”the report said.
The report adds that the rot in the tax service is also “a clear example of how the private sector has been in collusion with the executive, including President Zuma, to take over an institution that was highly regarded internationally and made inefficient.”
Bain, who signed a consulting contract with the tax authority, met Zuma “before they were even appointed. . . In reality, there was no need for consultants, let alone a radical overhaul of the then world-class institution. ” Instead, the body was “deliberately captured,” it said.
The investigation states that Bain’s work with the South African state should be reconsidered and that criminal prosecution should be considered when awarding the contract. One key whistleblower “rejected numerous attempts by Bain & Co to give him large sums of money in exchange for his silence,” it added.
Bain did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In 2018 refunded fees and interest earned on tax work.
Even at the stage of its first report, the investigation called for a revision of South Africa’s public procurement rules and the establishment of a dedicated and independent anti-corruption agency.
“South Africa requires a body to fight corruption without political oversight and capable of fighting corruption with fresh and concentrated energy,” it said.
The call for a solid new agency to expose corruption will be particularly painful for the ANC. The party abolished a similar body, the Scorpions, during Zuma’s rise to power more than a decade ago.