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Minister Zwane committed treason, says OUTA

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) today (Monday 24 July) laid charges of treason against a second serving minister, for actively aiding state capture and causing massive financial loss to South Africa.

OUTA laid charges of treason, corruption, extortion, fraud and theft against Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane at the Randburg police station in Johannesburg.

“He is a puppet on state capture strings,” says Ben Theron, OUTA Chief Operating Officer.

Treason carries a sentence of life imprisonment; some corruption charges may also carry life.

OUTA provided the police with a lengthy affidavit by Theron outlining the case against Zwane.

Zwane’s conduct underlines the compromised position of President Jacob Zuma, who appointed the underqualified Zwane as Minister of Mineral Resources in September 2015 – after his CV was vetted by the Guptas – and retained him ever since despite widespread public knowledge of his behaviour.

“President Zuma’s appointment and retention of Zwane as Minister of Mineral Resources evidences his use of presidential powers to promote and protect the interests of the Guptas and their business associates, including the President’s son, Duduzane Zuma,” says Theron in his affidavit.

Zwane abused his position to promote the Vrede dairy project in the Free State with a company called Estina, which benefitted the Gupta empire; this cost the Free State at least R183.95 million. He was crucial in arranging the illegal landing of the Guptas’ wedding flight at Waterkloof Air Force Base.

He facilitated the sale of Optimum Coal Holdings assets to the Guptas and his department later authorised the release of the two mine rehabilitation trust funds linked to those mines – a total of nearly R1.8 billion – which went into Gupta accounts at the Bank of Baroda and disappeared. He also tried to defend the Guptas’ banking access.

Zwane’s rewards from the Guptas included all-expenses-paid trips to their family weddings in Sun City and India, a Dubai trip, and an all-expenses paid trip to India for himself and his local gospel choir.

High treason is a common law offence. The treason charge arises because the Constitution makes it clear that ministers may not undertake any other paid work, may not act in any way that is inconsistent with their office or risk any conflict between official responsibilities and private interests, or use their positions to enrich themselves or others; they promise to uphold the Constitution in the oath of office.

“Zwane, as a citizen of the Republic of South Africa and Minister of Mineral Resources, unquestionably owed his allegiance to the Republic. He intentionally and unlawfully participated in activities which violated, threatened and endangered the existence, independence and security of the Republic,” says Theron in his affidavit.

Zwane’s conduct was treasonable “as it violated, threatened and endangered the existence, independence and security of the Republic of South Africa, or had the effect or potential effect of changing the constitutional structure”.

The corruption charge arises from contraventions of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, which emphasises the need for honesty among public officials; some breaches of this law carry a life sentence. The extortion charges relate to exerting undue pressure to obtain advantages.

Background

This is the third action arising from OUTA’s report on state capture, “No room to hide: A President caught in the act”, which was handed to Parliament on 28 June.

The first action was against the Guptas’ banks, the Bank of Baroda and the Bank of India: OUTA made a formal complaint to the Registrar of Banks about these banks breaking the banking laws by providing the Guptas with huge bonds on their properties which far exceeded the value. Those bonds raise suspicions of money laundering.

The second action was the laying of treason charges against Minister of Public Service and Administration Faith Muthambi. While she was Minister of Communications, Muthambi not only illegally shared confidential Cabinet information about broadcasting policy with the Guptas, she also asked the Guptas to intervene with President Jacob Zuma to increase her powers. The aim there was clearly to improve her powers to enable the awarding of more deals – and more billions of rand from state coffers – for those benefiting from state capture.

Copies of OUTA’s state capture report and the documents in those two actions are available on OUTA’s website.

OUTA is a proudly South African non-profit civil action organisation, crowd-funded and supported by ordinary South Africans who are passionate about improving the country by holding government accountable and ensuring that taxes are used efficiently.

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