If you really wanted to understand why President Jacob Zuma ordered Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to cancel his appointments with investors and come straight home, you should have watched the Gupta channel ANN7 and followed what is commonly referred to as “Paid Twitter”, the Gupta-financed social media trolls, since last week.
The long, drawn-out battle between the national treasury under Gordhan and the Gupta/Zuma axis has now exploded into an open war.
I’m told one of the reasons that will be forwarded for the dramatic presidential order yesterday is that Gordhan, his deputy and their officials were undermining the president of South Africa in their presentations to foreign audiences.
The Gupta family showed their real clout in South Africa yesterday, more than when they abused a national key point for a private wedding, more than when they had a Cabinet minister help them to buy a mine, even more than when they tried to appoint Cabinet ministers.
It’s not outrageous to say today that the Guptas have taken control of the president of South Africa. They’re not his puppets, he is theirs.
It seems likely this morning that Gordhan will be fired from the Cabinet today or soon afterwards – not because he is a bad minister or has ideological differences with the Zuma faction, but because he has boldly stood up to stop or slow down the massive state capture project by the Guptas.
The Guptas want Gordhan to go, so Gordhan will go, no matter what the consequences for the South African economy.
His deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, will most definitely lose his job – his cardinal sin being that he exposed the fact that the Guptas tried to bribe him and offered him a Cabinet job.
A Cabinet reshuffle was on the cards anyway because Zuma’s preferred candidate to succeed him as ANC leader, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has to get a Cabinet position to raise her public profile from where she could launch her leadership bid.
Zuma will probably use the occasion to get rid of other critics, like Derek Hanekom and communists like Thulas Nxesi, Senzeni Zokwane, even Blade Nzimande, Rob Davies and Ebrahim Patel.
He also needs to make space for new Gupta blood in the Cabinet in the form of Brian Molefe and Sifiso Buthelezi.
Gordhan should have read the writing on the wall when the Gupta propaganda machinery drastically increased its vile anti-Gordhan output last week.
It was non-stop on ANN7 and on the Gupta-deployees’ Twitter and Facebook timelines: Gordhan regularly received an R11 million pension payout, he is colluding with the banks in their battle against the Guptas, he owns shares worth millions in the banks and other branches of white monopoly capital, and so on. All false, of course.
The recall of Gordhan yesterday had everything to do with today’s court case between him and the Guptas. Zuma has now joined the case on the Gupta side to stop an application that seeks to stop the executive from interfering in the business of banks.
The Guptas wanted Gordhan to appear in court in person, which would be highly unusual, and they want him to personally pay for the legal costs should he lose his case.
Last night senior sources even speculated that Zuma was going to fire Gordhan early this morning, meaning the court case would disappear.
This would suit the Guptas, goes the argument, because they fear the revelations Gordhan could potentially have made about their shady business dealings.
It is deeply ironic that the investor road show Gordhan was on over the weekend was born out of the shock to the economy when Zuma fired Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister on 9 December 2015. Government and business then put together teams to tour the world to reassure investors.
Zuma could never hide his anger at having been forced to back down and appoint Gordhan instead. At last he has his revenge, about 450 days later.
The events of yesterday and the possible firing of Gordhan won’t only have a devastating impact on the economy, it will seriously escalate the conflict between the two main factions in the ANC.
This is Cyril Ramaphosa’s big challenge.
If he remains silent and can’t show that he could stop Zuma from wrecking the economy for personal gain, he can’t seriously hope to be a viable candidate for the presidency of the ANC in December.
The blood will be on the walls in Luthuli House in the days ahead, and we, the citizens and taxpayers, will soon be poorer as the currency slips and investors turn their backs on South Africa.
And our president doesn’t give a damn.