ANC to support Zuma as Gupta revelations shake South Africa
Johannesburg - As the dominoes continue to fall, revealing more of the alleged influence the controversial Guptas have over government, several ANC sources have told News24 that they are still standing firm behind the family's alleged ally President Jacob Zuma.
Some ANC sources around the country told News24 on Thursday the party will show a united front for Zuma, and that he will emerge even stronger from the party's National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this weekend.
This week Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas and former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor claimed that the Guptas offered them top Cabinet positions.
The family has denied both allegations.
The alleged revelations have created an outrage, with people speculating that Zuma would be recalled.
However, an ANC official told News24: "We are going to put a united front this weekend. A lot has been happening and we have to save the ANC, I really don’t want to comment about President Zuma but obviously we are going to support him."
Another said: "Nothing will happen to Zuma, he will come out of that NEC very strong. The NEC will come out very strong. Those who are dreaming he will be re-called won't get it."
That source said there was a "battle" between "communists and nationalists" in the ANC.
"What they [those who are speaking out] are terming a corporate capture, it is actually an attempt to capture the ANC by the communist party."
A different source said about the NEC meeting: "Nothing will happen at all. All nonsense", while another said: "They won't do anything until the ConCourt judgment [on the Public Protector's report on Zuma's Nkandla homestead]... They would collapse if they recalled him before the elections. But the Concourt judgment would change the game."
An NEC member said: "The meeting will be about damage control mostly. He won't be recalled, but we need answers."
Reputation of the party
The source said there had been serious calls for Zuma to be recalled but the reputation of the party had to be considered.
On Wednesday, the deputy finance minister confirmed that the Guptas had offered him the job of finance minister last year before Nhlanhla Nene was removed.
Earlier in the week, Mentor said on Facebook that the Guptas offered her the job of public enterprises minister when Barbara Hogan was removed from the position. She claimed Zuma was in another room at the Gupta's Saxonwold home at the time.
She said she was offered the position "provided that I would drop the SAA flight-route to India and give to them. I refused and so I was never made a minister".
Zuma has said he had no "recollection" of her.
Former president Thabo Mbeki and former deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe both confirmed to News24 that they remembered Mentor.
On Thursday morning Mentor stuck to her claim that Zuma was in the Gupta home when the offer was made.
"He came in after I rejected the offer. He accompanied me down the 4/5/6 marble [covered] wide stairs at the entrance of the Gupta house to their black twin-cab with heavily black-tainted windows which... [took] me back to the airport," she wrote on Facebook.
‘I appoint ministers here’
The Presidency did not issue a statement on Jonas' claims, however, Zuma mentioned it during a question and answer session in Parliament on Thursday, saying that the Gupta family had not appointed any minister to the Cabinet.
"I appoint ministers here," a confident Zuma said in response to a question from DA leader Mmusi Maimane on who was involved in the decision to remove Nene from the finance ministry.
Zuma said opposition party leaders should ask the Gupta family, as he had no involvement in them issuing job offers.
Zuma said the only job he had ever offered Jonas was the deputy ministry and nothing else.
ANC Youth League president Collen Maine said on Thursday that Jonas must be recalled.
Following the revelations about the Guptas this week, Hogan confirmed to Radio 702 on Thursday morning that she came under pressure to meet with a Gupta family linked airline over its business interests, but says she refused.
She said people that have benefited from having a close relationship with the Guptas are now on the back foot.
“The rotten forces are on the back foot. I would appeal to those people who believe that they still have to defend Zuma and who have benefited from a close relationship with the Guptas, to now stand back and move on. They are not going to win this battle.”
Dinner with the Guptas
Public Service and Administration Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi confirmed on Thursday that he was offered to have dinner with the Gupta family at their Saxonwold mansion but he declined.
His spokesperson advocate Mahlodi Moufhe told News24 that the offer took place shortly after Ramatlhodi was appointed minister.
Moufhe said: “He got the offer shortly after he was appointed minister but he declined. It was to have dinner with them at their home.”
The SA Communist Party alleged on Thursday that another "Gupta-inspired" Cabinet reshuffle was imminent and would see Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies removed from his post.
The plan was to allegedly replace Davies with a "recently sworn in ANC MP and businessperson", it said in a statement.
"The motivation for the intended shuffle is connected to the Gupta family interests in acquiring a stake in ArcelorMittal, and their concern that the Department of Trade and Industry under the leadership of Minister Davies, as part of its commitment to localisation and job creation, is setting tough pricing conditions on the sale of steel into the downstream South African manufacturing sector," the party said.
Some ANC officials have said they stood by Mcebisi, and others including secretary general Gwede Mantashe hit out at the Gupta family.
Mantashe told broadcaster eNCA on Thursday that the Guptas were being arrogant by claiming that Jonas' admission that he was offered a job by the family was mere "political point scoring".
"When the Gupta family says in its response [that] it is about factions in the ANC, I look at that and I think that it's an arrogance of power," Mantashe said.
"When you think that you have an undue influence as a company, you say many things about an organisation, you don't respect it and then you can say anything. That is arrogance of the superlative degree."
He urged those who were approached by "influential business people" to come forward.
"The people who have stories to tell, we are welcoming them... they must come to the ANC, we will listen very carefully," Mantashe said.
‘Jonas a person of great integrity’
Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom said on Twitter on Wednesday: "Mcebisi Jonas is a person of great integrity and there is no reason to doubt his version of events."
Another ANC source told News24: "...We are behind Mcebisi, if there are individuals who will go on the attack, we will fight for him. We will mobilise..."
During a question and answer session in Parliament in 2013, Zuma defended his relationship with the Guptas.
Then DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko reportedly asked Zuma why the Gupta family had direct contact with members of his Cabinet.
Zuma responded by saying any member of the public was free to contact any member of his Cabinet or the public service.
"It is because any member of the public within South Africa and beyond our borders is free to contact any members of my Cabinet, the executive, or the public service directly."
He was then reportedly asked if he was willing to cut his ties with the Gupta family.
Zuma responded that everyone had the right to make friends, but that however did not mean endorsing wrongdoing.
"We are not in the state that burns people because they are friends with others," Zuma reportedly said.