The leaked preliminary Public Protector report, which implicated banking giant Absa in the looting of state funds during the apartheid era, should not be turned into an issue of race, former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has warned.
Madonsela who addressed the Cape Town Press Club on Monday, said the protracted investigation into Absa was becoming a white and black issue and reminded guests the man that laid the complaint and who asked for the investigation into alleged state looting during the Apartheid era, was white.
She was referring to Advocate Paul Hoffman, director of the organisation Accountability Now.
Her statements were seemingly aimed at groups like the Black First Land First, who framed this investigation as one into white capital looting the state.
The group recently also took aim at “white media” inventing corruption stories about black people to try and “divert attention from the Absa billions”.
Madonsela, however, called for cool heads.
“I would like to appeal to the public that when we deal with this matter – let us not take sides. Let us just look at what really happened and if what happened was proper and deal with it appropriately.
“We need to look at it with cool heads and not allow it to be used to vilify people.”
She insisted questions must be asked about what happened with the money.
“And it is not just the [missing] money we should be concerned about, it’s also land.”
Madonsela also referred to the allegations in the state capture report.
“I am not saying there isn’t white monopoly capital. I am saying that the answer to white monopoly capital cannot just be two families advancing themselves with state resources. The answer to white monopoly capital is not people getting into public power for accumulation of wealth.”
When probed about her views on the timing of the Absa report that is widely seen as a backlash at the banks, the Reserve Bank and National Treasury who have been central in the issues driven around alleged state capture – Madonsela said she had a view on the matter but didn’t share it.
Independent analyst Ralph Mathekga told City Press the timing of this leak was very significant as it could be seen as an attempt to neutralise the banks that broke ties with the Gupta family.
Madonsela, however, was more cautious. “I have a view on the timing. If it will be used for nefarious purposes – that is possible,” she said.
Mathekga did not rule out that these findings in the leaked report provided much needed ammunition for the Zuma faction against detractors and even the previous ANC administration.
Amid the issue around the timing, questions had since been raised on whether any changes had been made to Madonsela’s report since she left office.
Madonsela again opted not to comment on whether the leaked version of the report was indeed her version.
Madonsela did not get the opportunity to sign off the provisional report before she left office last year.
One of the recommendations in the leaked report as reported by the Mail & Guardian was that Absa might have to pay back more that R2 billion relating to the transaction for financial assistance to the part of Absa that was then still Bankorp under the apartheid government.
Madonsela however made it clear her goal was “never to use the report for nefarious purposes”. She said the leaking of Public Protector reports had always, even in her time, been for nefarious purposes and she couldn’t understand why.
“In this case, we had promised Absa and the South African Reserve Bank to share the findings with them quietly before moving forward ... How it ended up with other parties and how people now claim to have an electronic report I don’t understand.”