Rampant graft under S.Africa’s Zuma detailed in new report
South African investigators Tuesday released a 646-page report detailing how rampant corruption under former president Jacob Zuma undermined both the public logistics company Transnet and the state arms firm Denel.
outh African investigators Tuesday released a 646-page report detailing how rampant corruption under former president Jacob Zuma undermined both the public logistics company Transnet and the state arms firm Denel.
The report is the second of an expected three volumes drafted by a special commission headed by interim Constitutional Court Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
The first volume was delivered in early January and dealt with corruption at national carrier South African Airways, the country’s tax collector and public procurement.
The latest report found procurement contracts at Transnet — the proprietor of all rail, ports and pipelines in South Africa — amounted to “planned offences of racketeering activity conducted by a racketeering enterprise” linked to the Guptas, a business family of Indian migrants who were also Zuma’s friends.
It said Transnet had become the “primary site” of state corruption.
Over nearly three years, the Zondo commission heard accounts of rampant misappropriation of funds from more than 300 witnesses, who included business people, civil servants and intelligence officers.
Just over 1,400 individuals and entities were implicated.
Much of the evidence related to a wealthy Indian immigrant family headed by three brothers — Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta — all accused of wielding undue influence over Zuma.
Zuma, 79, became post-apartheid South Africa’s fourth president in May 2009, succeeding Kgalema Motlanthe.
But his presidency gained a reputation for corruption, with cronies influencing government appointments, contracts and state businesses.
The web-like process, known in South Africa as “state capture”, led to losses equivalent at the time to nearly $7 billion, according to an estimate by Pravin Gordhan, a former finance minister now in charge of state-owned companies.
Zuma’s refusal to testify to the commission prompted the Constitutional Court to order his imprisonment for contempt in July.
His jailing sparked violent protests that spawned rioting and looting in his home region, KwaZulu-Natal, and around Johannesburg.
More than 300 people were killed in the deadliest unrest of South Africa’s democratic era.
Despite the reputation of his presidency, Zuma remains popular among many grassroots African National Congress (ANC) members.
In a separate case, Zuma is facing 16 charges of fraud, graft and racketeering relating to a 1999 purchase of military equipment from five European arms companies when he was deputy president.
The Zondo commission’s final report is expected to be released by the end of the month.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is to submit the full report to parliament by June 30, stating how he wants the recommendations by the top-level commission to be implemented.
“We should now apply our energies to the commission’s recommendations and take the necessary steps to make sure we never (again) face this onslaught on public resources and on the fabric of our society,” said Ramaphosa in a statement.