THERE’s an intriguing theory that gets hauled out every time Jacob Zuma’s son/ confidante/ lawyer/ butcher/ baker/ candlestick-maker is unmasked as the beneficiary of some business deal or other.
And that is, Zuma himself doesn’t know this is happening. He isn’t ordering the deployment of his cronies into positions of influence, the theory goes, as part of a calculated empire-building strategy of the masterminds behind Zuma Inc.
Rather, it is the companies themselves that are trying to ingratiate themselves with him of their own volition, perhaps in expectation that some day they’ll be able to call in a favour.
The Guptas, for example, might claim that Zuma has ordered their inclusion in a specific deal, but that’s just them name-dropping: it’s not as if the man from Nkandla is actually giving these sorts of orders.
It’s an interesting theory, especially given the number of Zuma-linked people who just happened to end up on the shareholder list of Invictus, Gold Fields’ BEE shareholder.
Gold Fields, you might remember, gave the BEE shareholding to Invictus in a deal put together by former convict Gayton McKenzie in 2010. In its circular for that deal, Gold Fields said it wanted to reward those who had helped bring democracy to the country and who “had not been the beneficiaries of BEE to date”.
The full list of 72 shareholders of Invictus was only released this week. For no apparent reason, Gold Fields suddenly decided to reveal these names. (The identity of these beneficiaries was briefly released to “shareholders” in 2010 then removed, bizarrely).
All it took was a mountain of criticism in recent days over the poor governance of keeping such a list secret, a disagreement with its former chair over how the deal was put together, complaints from BEE shareholders that the money wasn’t coming through and, voilà, Gold Fields does the right thing and publishes the list.
It would be churlish to castigate Gold Fields now, despite its snippy press release entitled “Invictus names again released” in which it points out, rather huffily, that it did release the names to “shareholders at the time of the (deal) in 2010”.
Anyway, looking down the list, you see Jerome Brauns SC, who represented Jacob Zuma during his rape trial — one of the names disclosed from the start.
But among the new names are Dudu Myeni, the executive chair of the Zuma Foundation, which collects donor funds from companies to benefit the poor.
Myeni, who has had her share of scandal, is also the chair of South African Airways (SAA), a company in which the Guptas, it is said, have a keen interest.
There is also Thuto Nkobi, who appears to be the son of the late Thomas Nkobi, who was a genuine struggle hero and the former treasurer-general of the ANC. (Schabir Shaik even borrowed his Nkobi name for his group of companies.)
Thuto Nkobi, however, is a doctor, who used to work in Hillbrow and testified during Zuma’s rape trial back in 2006.
Besides the Zuma connection, there is, of course, the McKenzie and Kenny Kunene connection.
You can’t really forget that it was McKenzie who put the deal together when you see that the beneficiaries include Veron Watson, the manager of the ZAR nightclub owned by him and Kunene, and Vuyani Gaga, the head of ZAR Events.
Others who made it onto the list include Teboho Mashoeng, Desmond Manganye and Stephen Nkgadima — who all reportedly scored mega-deals from Central Rand Gold when McKenzie and Kunene were advising that company.
There is also proof (gulp!) that McKenzie’s mother-in-law Pamela Leitch is on the list.
OK, so there are some truly embarrassing names on that list whose lifestyles that you, as a corporate citizen, don’t necessarily want to be funding.
Now, perhaps Gold Fields didn’t do the due diligence it should have on these people, or perhaps it genuinely didn’t know who they were. Either way, this debacle will be a lesson for other companies to pay greater attention.
Sooner or later the truth will come tumbling out in all its embarrassing glory.