State Capture - Opinion

Zuma must go to deal with state capture

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State capture is the real problem, not President Jacob Zuma. But he has become the obstacle to dealing with the real problem.

Mr Zuma might have a valid point when he argues that there is problem with the terms for a judicial commission of enquiry into the issue of state capture as formulated by the previous Public Protector (PP), Thuli Madonsela. The core of his objection is that the appointment of a commission of inquiry by the chief justice, undermines the separation of powers doctrine.

Fact is, however, that the person of Mr Zuma, and his faction in the ruling African National Congress, has become so contaminated – conceived as a criminal network that has captured the state akin to a silent coup – that it could also contaminate a commission appointed by him.

The more important question, however, valid, or not, is his objection good enough reason to delay the urgent job at hand – to unpack the problem independently, holistically, and thoroughly? And, is there way to deal with both – objection and enquiry – simultaneously?

Seriousness of the problem

How serious, how deep-seated, wide-spread and fundamentally important to the wellbeing of the nation is, became clear from the report last week by academics at several institutions, including the universities of Wits, Cape Town, and Stellenbosch, among others, titled "Betrayal of the promise: how South Africa is being stolen".

The report, which can be viewed in full here, was produced under the banner of the State Capacity Research Project, as the first of a series of papers that critically examines the subject of state of capture.

It documents how the Zuma-centred power elite has built and consolidated the symbiotic relationship between the constitutional state and the shadow state to execute a silent coup.

"At the nexus of this symbiosis are a handful of the same individuals and companies connected in one way or another to the Gupta-Zuma family network," the report says.

This 63 page report adds considerable weight to the calls for the immediate appoint men of a judicial commission of enquiry, following on the heels of a report by an “Unburdening Panel” of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) on the same subject.

The Betrayal-report:

  • analysis of how state institutions have been "repurposed" to reward a political elite referred to as the "power elite;
  • concludes that Zuma sits at the head of the table, and his role has been to centralise the illegal rent seeking and undertake a number of activities that strengthen the relationship between the constitutional state and the shadow state where families like the Guptas feature prominently, along with factions that include the so-called “Premier League,” led by Ace Magashule;
  • Zuma appointees are selected to do specific things – for instance, Malusi Gigaba, still as Minister of Public Enterprises was deployed to systematically erode governance at state-owned entities so that Zuma's cadre deployments, like Molefe (Eskom) and Anoj Singh (Transnet) could to "prise open" opportunities to exploit control these entities, that had weakened institutional capacity; and
  • detail how much money the Guptas and related entities, as "brokers" and "puppeteers, have transferred millions of US dollars out of the country.

A key finding in the report is how the proponents of Radical Economic Transformation increasingly view the Constitution as an impediment to carrying out the objectives of this movement. The more earnest and noble motivations underlying this movement have been hijacked by the power elite that use it as a disguise in which to carry on with their illegal rent extraction.  

No easy task ahead

Against this background, it is small wonder that the nation has been bombarded in recent years – and, increasingly so after the Nkandla-affair, followed the State Capture report, both by the PP – with revelation after revelation of how state has been turned into a money-spinning machine for a connected power elite.  

A wide and complicated network of this elite has permutated throughout the state’s administration and its agencies, facilitated by an ill-advised policy by the ruling ANC.

Whoever, whenever takes over the reins of government from Mr Zuma will face an extremely tough challenge to get the good ship South Africa back on course to a better future for all who live in it. Presently the “engine room” at state departments and other critical mechanisms, like state- enterprises and agencies are in the hands of the old power elite and its benefitting lackeys.

Whoever lands that task would desperately need the report of a comprehensive judicial commission of enquiry as a diagnostic tool to help direct and guide future policy and programmes.

It might even be a good idea to include Mr. Zuma’s objection in the frame of reference of the commission to help guide processes if a similar dilemma should arise in the future. 

by Piet Coetzer

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