South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma and his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma are being investigated by both the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the UK’s Serious Fraud Office for allegedly looting billions of dollars from public coffers.
Ms Dlamini-Zuma is one of the front-runners in the succession of Zuma as the leader of the governing party — (ANC) — and as the president.
The FBI and UK criminal investigators are looking into Mr Zuma and Dlamini-Zuma’s alleged participation in an international crime syndicate and associated transnational money laundering schemes.
This comes on the back of revelations in South Africa of widespread corruption and the ‘‘capture’’ of State-owned enterprises by parties closely connected with Mr Zuma, his family and a wealthy Indian immigrant family — the Guptas.
The so-called “state capture” and its implications have gripped the country’s political scene over the last one year as more details have emerged, culminating in the leak of thousands of emails implicating Mr Zuma, his family members as well the Gupta family in a range of illicit transactions and dubious practices.
Consequently, President Zuma has faced votes of no confidence this year from both his colleagues in the ruling ANC and in Parliament, but he has so far survived.
Mr Zuma has used appeals in courts to avoid having to put in place a commission of inquiry as ordered by the constitutionally-empowered public watchdog office of the Public Protector.
But last week, he had to recant his opposition to the commission in yet another High Court action undertaken by his political opponents, mainly the Democratic Alliance, with the matter likely to be ruled on as early as next week.
No matter who President Zuma appoints to look into “state capture” or the terms of reference for the commission he will have to appoint, they are not likely to help him avoid indictment on more corruption charges beyond the 783 which a High Court has already ordered to be reinstated.
The North Gauteng High Court heard this week in Zuma’s latest appeal to avoid a proper and credible investigation of “state capture” that he is profoundly implicated, just as the Public Protector report of last year into “state capture” found.
Regardless of what now happens in his county, Mr Zuma faces a joint FBI and UK Serious Fraud Office investigation. European Union investigators might be included in the probe.
The investigation was called for by South African-born anti-apartheid activist Lord Peter Hain in a letter recently written to the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond.
The Nation has a copy of that letter in which 11 members of the extended Gupta clan are named, some living in the US. Others included in the letter are Mr Zuma himself, Ms Dlamini-Zuma, four of Zuma’s children, two of Mr Zuma’s four current wives, a nephew and a brother, along with several other parties with known links to either the Zumas or the Guptas.
Additionally, the letter cites 14 companies registered either in SA or abroad, some of which have been named by the Public Protector in her report, with the roles of some others having emerged as a result of the leaked emails.
The emails outline in detail exactly how “state capture” has worked to illegally redirect public funds to private accounts or to those of companies linked either to the Guptas or to the Zumas.
Mr Hain also called on EU authorities to investigate the illegal money flows involved in funds looted from public coffers in SA and laundered through Dubai and Hong Kong to receiving parties in the US (mainly Gupta-owned businesses), hence the involvement of the FBI, and other foreign countries.
One EU country involved is Germany, home to software company SAP which this week was reported by SA media as allegedly having admitted to US investigators of having paid kickbacks for landing $100 million contracts for State-owned enterprises — Transnet and Eskom — the national railway operator and power producer respectively.
The leaked emails also show that President Zuma has had a multi-million dollar property bought for him by the Guptas in Dubai, presumably to act as his safe bolt-hole in case things turn ugly for him in SA once he exits from the presidency.
While SA and the US have no extradition treaties with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the UK does.
The involvement of UK authorities means that Zuma and members of his family now have virtually nowhere left in the world to which they may flee.
SA’s prosecuting authorities widely considered to have been also “captured” along with major state-owned enterprises by “Zuma and friends”, have yet to act on any aspect of “state capture”, despite overwhelming prima facie evidence that the phenomenon is real, and does indeed involve President Zuma, his family members, the Guptas and their associates.
Lord Hain recently visited SA to ascertain for himself the extent of “state capture” and the far-flung international reaches of the criminal conspiracy behind it.
“Based on my knowledge, the majority of the illicit funds have flowed through the UAE and Hong Kong. In both these jurisdictions, two of the UK’s largest financial institutions — Standard Chartered and HSBC — have their footprints,” said Lord Hain in his letter to the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer.
SA was, said Lord Hain in the letter, “gripped by a political, economic and social crisis, precipitated by the vast criminal network facilitated by an Indian-South African family, the Guptas, and the presidential family, the Zumas”.
“Such is the extent of this criminal network that the South African state is indisputably regarded as having been ‘captured’, with corruption and cronyism plundering taxpayer resources on an industrial scale,” said Lord Hain.
He added: “I have deep concerns and questions around the complicity, whether witting or unwitting, of UK global financial institutions in the Gupta/Zuma transnational criminal network.”
The implications of this latest development in the unfolding saga of how Mr Zuma has apparently organised or allowed the wholesale and blatant plundering of the SA public purse, in conjunction with his “friends”, as he calls them, are far-reaching, not merely for Mr Zuma and SA’s political scene but for all leaders, current and past.
On the political front, Ms Dlamini-Zuma’s faltering bid to succeed her ex-husband has been seriously weakened in favour of ANC and SA Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, as her alleged role in what appears to be “extended state capture” has been aired.
And there is now the very real prospect of an African head of State facing major national and international corruption investigations, which are likely to lead to indictment and potential lengthy jail time, if not in SA, then in the UK or US.