Let's Think

State capture is ANC policy and root of problem

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President Jacob Zuma – his friends the Gupta family intertwined with a wide patronage network – is but the symptom of a more fundamental problem lying at the core of ANC policy.

State capture is, and has always been, the core policy of the African National Congress from the word go – the aim not classical democracy as such, but to bring about a so-called national democratic revolution.

The core instrument of the ANC to capture the state has always been the deployment of party cadres to the levers of state power. It could only lead to, and did lead to a toxic mix of party politics and all-serving state power.

It is a problem that did not start with the ascendency to power of Jacob Zuma. In fact this toxic mix greatly assisted his rise to power and allowed him to escape until now the consequences of his involvement in the infamous weapons procurement deal.

In an article on The Conversation website, professor Dirk Kotzé last week reminded us how eight years ago “Judge Chris Nicholson found that then President Thabo Mbeki had used state institutions to execute a political strategy to get rid of Zuma. The judge quashed the charges of corruption, money laundering and fraud against Zuma, removing a major obstacle to his becoming president of the country”.

To the collective shame of the South African society as a whole, and particularly its leadership in all its formations, we allowed the immediate events of the day to prevent us from recognising the fundamental problem of state capture and its longer term dangers.

As professor Kotzé pointed out: “Now, as then, state institutions – in particular the criminal justice system – are being abused in internal power struggles within the governing African National Congress (ANC) and the government. Zuma’s political survival is a core ingredient in both.

“But he may have run out of road. Against the backdrop of the ANC’s mounting appreciation of its recent electoral losses, this could be the year that determines his immediate future.

“But much more than the president’s future is at stake. The most significant long-term consequence of the machinations against Gordhan is the institutional damage caused to the priority crimes investigating unit of the police, the Hawks, and the country’s National Prosecuting Authority.”

Danger of perpetuating fault line

Unfortunately, there are signs that we are running the risk to again miss the opportunity offered by the present political crisis swirling around the head of President Zuma to address this dangerous fault line in South Africa’s power construct.

From leaders and influential members of the ANC, their reactions to the crisis seem to indicate their focus remains on damage control to the party, missing the bigger picture.

In his latest reaction, for example, South African Communist Party general secretary and leading figure in the ANC governing alliance, Blade Nzimande, attacked the Gupta “parasites” and declared “we are prepared to fight this scourge in the same manner as we fought in defence of Comrade Jacob Zuma some 10 to 13 years ago, when we believed state organs were being use to d pursue narrow political agendas”.

There was, however, no indication that he recognised the fundamental problem and danger of centralised power in party-political hands – that parasites attack a sick body in need of some treatment.

Unless the body itself is healed, the problem will not disappear and the parasites of today might just be replaced by a deadlier mutation the next time around. That is if the body (the ANC) is not killed by the present one.

Hopeful signs

For the bigger South African body politic there were, however, starting with the local government elections of earlier this year, clear signs that unless the ANC ‘cures’ itself on an urgent basis, the voters will regard it as the actual parasite to get rid of, come the 2019 general election.

There are bound to be some painful, disruptive side effects on the road to recovery, but South Africa just might be on the road to a fresh start to gain real, full democracy.

by Piet Coetzer

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