29/05/2018 03:49 BST | Updated 29/05/2018 10:07 BST

State Capture: What Cyril Ramaphosa Knew And When He Knew It

President Cyril Ramaphosa last week told editors that it was the Gupta email leaks that first alerted him to state capture. Is that credible?



The implosion of the SABC, the NPA and the Hawks. The gutting of Sars, the assault on National Treasury and the hijacking of Eskom.

The Gupta landing at Waterkloof Air Force Base, the Sun City wedding and the nuclear deal.

The revelations by Mcebisi Jonas, Vytjie Mentor and Themba Maseko.

Various judgments by the Constitutional and High Courts, all while the ANC was bleeding electoral support.

And "State of Capture", the report of almost 500 pages by then-public protector Thuli Madonsela detailing the how and who of corruption in SA.

These were some of the events that President Cyril Ramaphosa thought were "wheel nuts" that came loose during his term as deputy president of the country and governing party under then-president Jacob Zuma. He was elected ANC deputy leader in 2012, and became deputy president of the country in 2014.

When you finally prised open the whole thing, it became patently clear that we were dealing with a much bigger problem than we had ever imagined...President Ramaphosa to Sanef members

Ramaphosa told the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) last week that he only became aware of the full extent of state capture after the first published reports were released based on leaked Gupta emails.

"Many of you [in the media] had already raised a number of issues on a piecemeal basis ... that happening, and that is happening ... then we had this and that ... but when you finally prised open the whole thing, it became patently clear that we were dealing with a much bigger problem than we had ever imagined," the president told Sanef.

When the rot at Eskom was first reported, he thought it might be an isolated incident that authorities could address, and that "it was just a wheel nut that came loose". When reports about the spread of state capture continued, Ramaphosa said he still believed it to be "just that".

READ: Ramaphosa On State Capture: 'Could I Have Done Things Differently? Possibly'

The Gupta leaks (first published at the end of May 2017), however, convinced Ramaphosa "that the wheels had come off ... completely".

"These things happened in a sequential way; the signs came one after the other, and then it became a deluge," he said.

Ramaphosa, however, served in two powerful positions while the project of state capture and grand corruption was taking off. He, like the rest of South Africa, also read the public protector's report into state capture. Some of the "wheel nuts" he refers to include:


January: An interministerial committee absolves Zuma of any culpability in the Nkandla issue.

August: Stories of dissent and instability at the NPA circulate, with Nomgcobo Jiba furious that Mxolisi Nxasana had been appointed national director above her. Also in August, then-acting SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng decrees that news bulletins will henceforth carry "mostly good news". This is amid a national debate about the Nkandla scandal.

April: A Gupta plane carrying wedding guests lands at Waterkloof Air Force Base. There are immediate shock and outcry.

November: Four ministers file an application in the High Court to prevent Madonsela from releasing her preliminary report into Nkandla.


February: Madonsela releases a report into large-scale corruption and mismanagement at the SABC.

March: Madonsela releases her report into Nkandla, and the benefits Zuma received, titled "Secure in Comfort".

May: Ramaphosa appointed deputy president.

June: Motsoeneng appointed COO by the SABC board after instructions from the newly appointed minister of communications Faith Muthambi. Also in June, the so-called SABC 8 are dismissed from the broadcaster.

August: Nathi Nhleko, then minister of police, finalises his investigation into Nkandla and finds no wrongdoing on the part of Zuma. Also in August, the EFF is ejected from Parliament after chanting "pay back the money".

READ: Tired Ramaphosa: '100 Days? It Feels Like It's Been 300...'

September: Berning Ntlemeza is appointed acting head of the Hawks after the suspension of Anwa Dramat. Also in September, Tom Moyane is appointed Sars commissioner by Zuma.

October: The first stories about a so-called "rogue unit" at Sars start appearing.

November: A report by a parliamentary ad hoc committee finds Zuma does not have to pay back the money.

December: Then-Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown appoints a new Eskom board. Nine of the 13 members have links with the Guptas. Also in December, the exodus of senior staff from Sars begins. This continued until May 2015.


February: Cellphone signals are jammed by the State Security Agency during the opening of Parliament. This was done to protect Zuma. The EFF was also violently ejected from the National Assembly.

June: Zuma visits Russia, and rumours escalate about the president's commitment to help Russia's Rosatom nuclear company sign a contract with government.

July: Brown installs new board at state arms manufacturer Denel. Also in this month, Optimum coal mine became a Gupta target with the assistance of Eskom.

September: Mosebenzi Zwane is appointed Minister of Mineral Resources after Ngoako Ramatlhodi is fired by Zuma.

November: Zwane travels to Switzerland to help negotiate the sale of Optimum to the Gutpas.

December: Zuma fires Nhlanhla Nene as Minister of Finance and replaces him with little-known ANC backbencher Des van Rooyen. Gupta advisers move to National Treasury. Van Rooyen is removed and replaced with Pravin Gordhan.


January: Denel goes into partnership with the Guptas' company VR Laser to form Denel Asia.

February: Gordhan warns of "a coup at National Treasury". Also in February, Ntlemeza and the Hawks start harassing Gordhan.

March: The Constitutional Court in the Nkandla judgment finds Zuma broke his oath of office and that he has to pay back the money.

March: Mcebisi Jonas (deputy minister of finance), Vytjie Mentor (a former senior ANC MP) and Themba Maseko (former Cabinet spokesperson) make devastating claims about the Guptas' involvement in Cabinet appointments.

March: Madonsela's investigation into state capture begins.

April: Eskom authorises a payment of more than R600-million to the Gutpas' Tegeta to help the purchase of Optimum. Also in April, the High Court rules that the so-called "spy tapes" must be released to the DA.

May: Gordhan issues a statement asking the public to protect National Treasury and its staff against an onslaught it is undergoing.

August: Gordhan is summonsed to appear before the Hawks to give a warning statement. Also in August, the ANC achieves its worst electoral results ever, losing control of the metro councils of Tshwane, Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay. Its popular support drops to 54 percent.

October: National director of public prosecutions Shaun Abrahams announces his intention to prosecute Gordhan. Also in October, Gordhan goes to the High Court to force the Guptas to stay away from him and Treasury.

November: The High Court orders the release of Madonsela's report into state capture, after Zuma tried to prevent it. Also in November, Brian Molefe resigns as Eskom CEO after consistent reports of malfeasance and corruption at the parastatal.

December: South Africa's biggest commercial banks close the Guptas' bank accounts.


March: Ntelemeza is found to be dishonest and ill-suited to head up the Hawks by the North Gauteng High Court. Also in March, the Constitutional Court finds Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini neglected her duties in relation to the payment of welfare grants.

March: Gordhan and Jonas are fired as minister and deputy minister of finance by Zuma. Gordhan is replaced by Malusi Gigaba, a known Gupta contact. Also dismissed from Cabinet is Derek Hanekom, an outspoken critic of Zuma and state capture.

April: The High Court in Cape Town declares any and all agreements in relation to the nuclear deal null and void. Also in April, the South African Communist Party publishes a report on London-based PR firm Bell Pottinger's campaign of misinformation.

May: The first reports sourced from the Gupta leaks are published in City Press and Sunday Times, followed by Daily Maverick and News24. Also in May, Molefe returns as CEO of Eskom after two months as an MP.

June: Motsoeneng is dismissed from the SABC after a ruling by the High Court. Also in June, the Constitutional Court paves the way for a secret ballot in the vote on Zuma's suitability as president, which is to be held in Parliament.