A new book on South African President Jacob Zuma’s closest friends and protectors alleges that he, several members of his family and even Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, his ex-wife and preferred successor at the helm of the ruling party African National Congress (ANC) — and of the country — have been funded by tobacco smuggling.
Efforts by the State Security Agency (SSA) and the South African Revenue Service (SARS) to suppress The President’s Keepers and its explosive revelations have been thwarted by its online distribution within hours of the issuing of legal demands for the publisher to remove it from circulation.
Copies have flown off South African bookseller’s shelves.
The Nation obtained one of the last copies of the first run.
Social media has been abuzz with comments relating to the revelations, which further undermine Zuma’s credibility as they show him as a leader interested in nothing more than self-enrichment and avoiding jail.
But the book has also sent shock waves through the ruling party with a claim that former African Union Commission chair Dlamini-Zuma has been supported in her campaign to win the top ANC job when Zuma steps down next month by potentially illicit funds from one of the named parties involved in cigarette smuggling operations in and through South Africa.
So severe was the shock that leading pro-Dlamini-Zuma ANC figures have offered a response article to one of the online sites that has carried some of the harshest criticism and in-depth reporting on the wider Zuma corruption scandal.
This piece, which mainly attacks Pauw — a well-known and widely respected investigative journalist — was penned by party heavyweights Jessie Duarte, ANC Deputy Secretary-General; Sefora (Sisi) Ntombela, Deputy President of the ANC Women’s League; Nomvula Mokonyane, Minister of Water and Sanitation in Zuma’s Cabinet; and Meokgo Matuba, Secretary-General of the ANC Women’s League.
The OpEd claims that despite the “media bias”, Dlamini-Zuma is set to land the top ANC seat.
And they are not alone in this.
One of the country’s leading banks has been privately telling investment institutions, leading architectural and building players and other major organisations in the mainstream business sector that its assessment is that Dlamini-Zuma will win the December elective conference “with 70 per cent of delegates” regardless of what her main opponent, ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, says or does.
Although this is not being said in these briefings in so many words, the implication is that word has gone out from the top to branch delegates — who in their thousands elect their leadership every five years and will be the voters at the conference — that their vote must go to Dlamini-Zuma or else.
The ‘or else’ bit matters as there have already been numerous political killings in KwaZulu-Natal, an issue that is under inquiry.
The immediate impact of these briefings was described to the Nation as “devastating”.
People who still held out hope for South Africa under a Ramaphosa presidency said they felt “utterly defeated’’ at the prospect of Zuma’s pick taking over in Pretoria.
There was a feeling of a very high probability that Zuma’s numerous corruption charges — 783 of them — and his alleged more recent involvements in so-called “State capture” scandal gripping South Africa would all “go away”.
But no one can be sure of who will win out on the day as it is known that many ANC branch delegates are likely to break with orders from the top and vote with their conscience or for a candidate other than the one they have been told to vote for.
In his book — which is subtitled Those keeping Zuma in power and out of prison — Pauw is worried about the future of South Africa, in which he says there is a real prospect of the pro-Zuma faction of the party in effect “stealing” the December elective conference.
Should Dlamini-Zuma win, he goes on, the country faces the possibly of shenanigans at the next general election in 2019, required because of the growing grassroots antipathy towards a family seen to have sold out to foreign interests for their own benefit.
Despite the outrage and reaction to his book, Pauw is unrepentant, saying he stands by what he has written and will not accede to demands by both the country’s security agency — on the basis that he has revealed State secrets, which he denies — and by SARS to withdraw it.
The taxman said he illegally revealed a private citizen’s tax information in writing by claiming that that Zuma did not file tax returns for years on end.
Pauw also contends that Zuma or his family may well have lived off or been in receipt of illicit money flows from cigarette smugglers.
Another allegation in the book — as yet untested — is that Zuma appears to have been privately employed by a dubious company for at least four months while President, a constitutional No-No.
It also details allegations of “rogue” elements in both the SSA and SARS, which, according to the author, are conspiring to cover up tax evasion, fraud and money laundering by Zuma and his associates Gupta — an immigrant Indian family at the heart of the “State capture” — running into millions of dollars.
Pauw says he is “ready” for any legal action that may follow the cease-and-desist order he and his publishers have received.
Meanwhile, in a growing atmosphere of high drama in which it would seem that the fate of South Africa hangs on the outcome of the ANC conference, the Nation has confirmed that at least 80 people, including Zuma and Dlamini-Zuma, are under active investigation by the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
Similar confirmation has come from other sources, some close to the details of the case.
An impeccable source with extensive connections in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) also told the Nation that authorities in Dubai have also begun an investigation into Zuma, his finances as moved through that territory and his “close friends” the Guptas.
The Dubai investigation order has “come from the very top”.
Although the Nation’s source would not actually say who ordered the probe — which is yet another problem for Zuma and his clan, as well as the numerous members of the Gupta family, apparently also under investigation by the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) — the source pointed out that Dubai “is a kingdom”.
The implication of that comment is that it came from Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is also the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and member of the Supreme Council of the Union (SCU) of the emirate.
Even if he has not personally ordered the probe, the order appears to come from the ruler’s office, making it a very serious matter for the Guptas and Zuma.
Investigators are apparently poring into, among other things, money flows to and from the Zumas and the Guptas and the purchase by the latter of a home for the President in Dubai as revealed in leaked emails.
Against a bleak picture of disastrous revelations of corruption on the home front and a growing list of international investigative agency probes abroad, tension has suddenly been ratcheted up.
One reliable source told the Nation:
“I am not speaking about politics anymore. Things are getting way too weird and dangerous.”
All, it would seem, now rests in who emerges victorious during the ANC’s tussle for power.