South Africa’s top banks have accused the governing African National Congress (ANC) of pressuring them to help out a notorious business family implicated in high-level corruption.
The accusations have been made this week at a judicial inquiry into the activities of former President Jacob Zuma, the Gupta family, and what’s become known in South Africa as the crime of “state capture”.
On Wednesday, it was Nedbank CEO Mike Brown’s turn to describe, under oath, how a senior minister had put pressure on him to support the Gupta family, whose business accounts had been shut down by local banks concerned about alleged corruption.
“I found it particularly strange. It felt like a form of threat,” said Mr Brown, explaining that Mosebenzi Zwane, the former mining minister, had suggested that “things could happen to your [banking] licence if you don’t behave in a particular way” and help the Guptas to resume their banking activities.
Mr Zwane has yet to respond to the allegations raised at the inquiry.
The Guptas, who have since fled South Africa but maintain their innocence, are close friends of ex-President Zuma.
It’s alleged they conspired together to place allies in key state institutions in order to win control of lucrative state contracts and to avoid prosecution - allegations that eventually helped force Mr Zuma out of office and prompted the creation of a Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.
The ANC has promised to co-operate fully with the commission, and has urged South Africans not to prejudge its findings.
Mr Zuma has repeatedly ridiculed the notion of “state capture” and insisted he’s innocent. His son, Duduzane, who was employed by the Guptas, recently said he would be ready to testify.
To some extent, this feels like a momentous time for South Africa, as the alleged corruption of the Zuma era is exposed and, perhaps, purged from the system.
But the ANC is deeply divided. The forces accused of looting the state and undermining key institutions may be weakened, but they’re not defeated.