A year ago President Jacob Zuma did the unthinkable when he replaced the finance minister with his “weekend special”, a political lackey.
South Africa went into a tailspin: The rand and stocks plummeted and investors retreated. A bewildered National Treasury had to pick up the pieces and plead the country’s way out of junk-status downgrades.
But crucially, the extent of the president’s relationship with the Guptas was pried open for all to see.
What you may not know is that the revelations of political influence and “state capture” throughout 2016 came on the back of a seven-year pursuit of the truth.
AmaBhungane first highlighted the Guptas’ links to Zuma in its very first series of articles, in early 2010, in the Mail & Guardian.
It was under the spotlight of our Zuma Inc investigation, which probed the business interests of the extended Zuma family, that we flagged the connection.
A look at some readers’ comments illustrates their misgivings about our early instincts.
“Get lives and report on something truthful. Spend more time verifying your stories than turning this into a soap opera.”
“A lot of unnecessary hot air about nothing.”
Thank goodness the media and civil society didn’t give up. AmaBhungane kept chiseling away at the story over the years.
Following the release of former public protector Thuli Madonsela's State of Capture report, little doubt remains: the “Zuptas” are real.
But Madonsela’s term is over and it remains unclear what her successor might do about the investigation – and, for that matter, whether the suborned Hawks and other institutions will act as they should.
So just imagine, for a minute, that you live in a country where journalists quit unpopular investigations, or give in to pressure and censorship.
For a start it would mean that our exclusive today – detailing how the Guptas appear to have used their political connectivity to shake down companies wanting to do business with Transnet – might not have seen the light of day.
Investigative journalism is a necessity for accountable democracy in South Africa.
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