UNPACKING STATE CAPTURE:HOW THE GUPTAS’ THE NEW AGE NEWSPAPER COULD PREDICT THE FUTURE
The State Capture Commission’s first report found that “millions of Rands from the public purse were diverted to the TNA” from Eskom and Transnet with “no discernible value for the entities or government departments”. It found that the contracts between TNA and Transnet, Eskom and SAA were irregular and wasteful, and those involved were likely guilty of financial misconduct. Rudie Heyneke, portfolio manager at OUTA, says the Guptas’ newspaper The New Age (TNA) was Jacob Zuma’s pet project.
“The TNA received crateloads of government money for nothing. Curiously, TNA was also able to predict Cabinet decisions before Cabinet made them, raising questions over who was making those decisions,” says Rudie Heyneke, OUTA’s chief investigator into state capture, and the man who is still sifting through the e-mails contained in the infamous Gupta Leaks.
TNA history and archives
TNA started as an online publication in September 2010, with the first printed publication on 6 December 2010. Zuma explained his personal involvement with TNA during his testimony at the Commission on 15 July 2019. “At that time I was the President of the ANC. I then said to them [the Guptas]… making a suggestion. Can you try a business – a media business – because you are comrades? We need an alternative voice.”
According to the Commission’s record, Zuma continued his testimony, saying he asked the Guptas about the possibility of starting a newspaper. “They have never thought of the idea and we discussed this. They finally said I think it is a good idea because it is business as well. I said fine. So they said no we will do something about it. They came back to say now they have decided they want to establish a newspaper. As soon as – they agreed because this was me as an individual talking about what we had seen as a problem that the media in this country is very negative.” [sic]
Zuma also testified how he proposed some names for the Gupta newspaper, and the Guptas liked the name New Age. Thus The New Age was born and baptised.
Heyneke, who is also OUTA’s state capture expert and chief investigator of the e-mails contained in the Gupta Leaks, says although TNA is long gone, its website shut down and premises auctioned off, OUTA holds a collection of the archived copies of TNA’s published pages. “Those pages show that TNA was a newspaper with remarkable powers for seeing the future – or it had access to those involved in manipulating government.”
He says there are important examples of how the newspaper accurately “predicted” certain important events and appointments during Zuma’s presidency. One such example is what transpired at Transnet after Malusi Gigaba was appointed as Minister of Public Enterprises on 1 November 2010. “One of his first tasks was to appoint a new Transnet board, which in turn would hire a CEO for the entity,” Heyneke explains. “The Commission report describes how Gigaba did the Guptas’ bidding in this, and TNA archives are evidence that the Gupta-linked newspaper knew ahead of time who would be on the board, and that that board would three months later hire their friend as the CEO.”
Heyneke says it’s no coincidence that TNA correctly predicted the new Transnet board would include Mafika Mkhwanazi, Don Mkhwanazi, Ellen Tshabalala and Mike Fannuchi. (See the page here.) “It is also important to note that it was only the second day TNA appeared in print.”
The following day, on 8 December, Cabinet met and approved the new Transnet board, which included all four of TNA’s predictions. It also included Iqbal Sharma, one the most important people in the Gupta group. The Cabinet announcement of the following day is here.
Also in that report of 7 December, TNA predicted that former PIC CEO Brian Molefe would take over as Transnet boss. “This was particularly prescient, as it would be the new board’s job to run the process for recruiting the new CEO. TNA quoted Molefe as saying ‘I haven’t been informed. I don’t know anything about it.’ Later, of course, it emerged that Molefe would be a staunch Gupta acolyte and regular at the Guptas’ Saxonwold compound.”
On 10 December 2010, TNA again tipped Molefe as the new CEO for Transnet, saying his appointment was expected in January. This page is here.
On 26 January 2011, the advert for the Transnet CEO position was published, with a closing date for applications of 1 February.
When Gigaba announced Molefe’s appointment as CEO on 16 February 2011, he thanked the board for their “sterling work in ensuring that we met the shareholder's tight deadlines for the process. It was not an easy task. It is quite heartening to note the calibre of individuals - hugely talented men and women who are keen to serve their country in this capacity.”
However, on 17 February, Prof Jürgen Schrempp, a non-executive Transnet board member from Germany, notified Gigaba of his resignation. Schrempp wrote that he had “learned from the media about the decision to appoint a new CEO without having been consulted or officially informed. To quote the newspaper, ‘The parastatal’s board of directors submitted a short list of three candidates for CEO to the cabinet for selection after it considered 63 candidates’. At no stage was I involved or party to this process… In order to protect my reputation and integrity I have no other option than to step down from this post.”
Friends of the Guptas
The Commission’s report furthermore notes that “Mr Gigaba was prepared to do wrong for the Guptas or Mr Zuma.” This refers to Gigaba’s “indefensible reinstatement” of the fired Siyabonga Gama as CEO of Transnet Freight Rail and “his role in the appointment of Mr Brian Molefe as Group CEO of Transnet in circumstances where, by his own admission, he was a friend of the Guptas and, by Mr Brian Molefe’s own admission too, he (i.e. Mr Brian Molefe) was a friend of the Guptas and that he (that is Mr Gigaba) overlooked a better candidate, Dr Mandla Gantsho, who had scored higher points in the interview than Mr Molefe and decided to appoint another friend of the Guptas. That was a position that the Gupta-owned newspaper had stated (long before the position was advertised) would be occupied by Mr Brian Molefe.”
The report said further: “Mr Gigaba did so either because he had been instructed to do so or because, even if he had not been instructed to do so, he knew that Mr Molefe was the candidate that the Guptas wanted to be appointed to that position. As I say elsewhere in the report, one friend of the Guptas appointed another friend of the Guptas to a strategically important position.”
Heyneke says the State Capture Commission report makes it clear that Minister Gigaba would do the Guptas’ bidding, including appointing Molefe. “The Guptas gave the instructions, and apparently could not resist leaking this ahead of time in their newspaper.”
*Also read OUTA’s recently published book Permitted Plundering: How Parliament Failed South Africa by Ilse Salzwedel for more information about the Guptas’ influence over Gigaba and other prominent ministers who assisted in state capture. The book is available from Exclusive Books and other bookshops, and can also be ordered here.