Jacob’s chance to make Cyril and Shamila (in)famous

If you had an overseas visitor innocent of the recent political history of South Africa and wanted to give them a quick catch-up read to help them understand our daily media reporting, this story does the job admirably. They may end up bombarding you with a bunch of astonished, disbelieving questions, but at least they’ll be informed by this brief and fascinating treatise on the evolution of State Capture. If they were ignorant of recent developments and are not astonished and astounded upon reading this, do like the late, mad satirist Spike Milligan suggested in getting rid of guests. Don’t change the bed linen. Unless of course they come from Venezuela – then you can be kinder. For me the chief valence of this article, which includes head-shaking figures of how many public state capture probes and commissions there are and how many outstanding cases of corruption are piled up in NPA chief Shamila Batohi’s in-tray, is that it’s written by a Professor of Sustainable Development. There-in lies the rub, because the Zuptoids are still very active and embedded everywhere. Good luck Cyril, good luck Shamila; both potential legends-in-waiting… Now let’s hear Jacob Zuma at the Zondo Commission on Monday. – Chris Bateman

By Mike Cohen and Nkululeko Ncana

(Bloomberg) – Former South African President Jacob Zuma will face a judicial panel for the first time next week to answer accusations that he consented to and benefited from widespread looting during his nine-year rule.

Lawyers for the commission of inquiry will question Zuma, 77, about claims by previous witnesses that he allowed members of the Gupta family, who were his friends, to influence his administration’s appointments and to flout government rules to further their business interests. He will also have to respond to testimony that he took bribes from services company Bosasa in exchange for political backing.

Zuma is scheduled to testify from Monday to Friday at the public hearings led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. He’s described the inquiry as a political witch hunt and insists there’s no evidence he’s done anything wrong. While Zuma’s lawyer confirmed he will attend the hearing, the former leader has declined to give substantive answers to the claims in the past, and it’s unclear if he will this time.

“I was asked to appear before the commission and we’ll see how it goes when we get there,” Zuma told the national broadcaster SABC in response to a question about whether he will testify. “I will be attending.”

The Guptas, who’ve left the country, have also denied wrongdoing.

Zuma, who set up the inquiry after pressure from the ruling party, was forced to step down as president in February last year and was replaced by Cyril Ramaphosa. The commission is expected to sit for another year.

These are some of the key allegations made at the hearings that are likely to be put to Zuma:

  • Former Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas said Zuma effectively ceded presidential authority to the Guptas, who offered him the top ministry post and a R600m ($43m) bribe if he agreed to fire top Treasury officials blocking their business interests. He declined the offer.
  • Themba Maseko, former head of the government communications service, testified that Zuma asked him to help the Guptas, who told him to direct the government’s R600m advertising budget to the family’s newspaper and television channel. Maseko said he was fired on Zuma’s orders after he refused to comply.
  • Former lawmaker Vytjie Mentor said one of the Gupta brothers suggested she could become public enterprises minister on condition she agree to scrap South African Airways flights to India. That would have let the family decide on an airline to run the route. She said Zuma was at the Guptas’ home when the offer – which she refused – was made, although he wasn’t at the meeting itself.
  • Nhlanhla Nene said he was fired as finance minister in 2015 for resisting Zuma’s attempts to force through a deal to buy nuclear power plants from Russia.
  • Fikile Mbalula said he first heard about his appointment as sports minister from one of the Gupta brothers a few days before Zuma officially named him to the post in 2010. Mbalula is now the Minister of Transport.
  • Ex-Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi said the Guptas exerted an inexplicable influence over Zuma and had the power to summon him to their home. Zuma ignored pleas from his fellow ruling party leaders to break ties with the family, saying they had helped his children when he was in need, according to Ramatlhodi.
  • Angelo Agrizzi, Bosasa’s chief operating officer from 1999 to 2016, testified that the company agreed to pay 300,000 rand a month to Zuma’s charitable foundation in return for protection from prosecution. Bosasa Chief Executive Officer Gavin Watson gave the money to the foundation’s chairwoman, according to Agrizzi, who said he counted the cash and was present when several payments were made.

South African probe into corruption awaits a star witness — Jacob Zuma

By Mark Swilling*

It’s been almost a year since the Commission of Inquiry into allegations of state capture in South Africa began to hear testimony. Also known as the Zondo Commission, it is headed by Deputy Chief Justice Zondo Raymond, who has listened to 130 days of live testimony from more than 80 people. It is probing allegations that the government was captured by private business interests for their own benefit.

State Capture Inquiry
Zondo Inquiry. More of Zapiro’s brilliant work available at www.zapiro.com.

During it all, echoes of former South African President Jacob Zuma’s alleged involvement have become deafening. Through various testimony, Zuma has been directly implicated by current and former senior government officials and ministers. They have alleged, among other things, that Zuma leaned on them to help the Guptas – Zuma’s friends who are accused of having captured the state – and to fast-track a nuclear deal with Russia that would have bankrupted South Africa. Also, the governance failures that have resulted in the looting of parastatals, have been blamed squarely on state capture.

Zuma’s turn to give evidence has arrived. Not only does he deny that state capture exists – he’s called it a fake political tool – he’s also cast himself as a hapless victim.

Refusing to engage the concept, he said:

There are people who did things to others in one form or the other‚ and you can call it in any other name‚ not this big name “state capture”.

The allegations against him are that he orchestrated a network of corruption that hijacked South Africa’s developmental project.

The importance of Zuma testifying before the commission should not be underestimated. It will set a precedent that will either show that those that abuse power will be held to account or that the cycle of impunity will continue, reinforcing the unjust systems that enable state capture.

Understanding state capture

Originally, the theoretical concept of state capture referred to a form of grand corruption. In the case of South Africa, it can be defined as the formation of a shadow state, directed by a power elite. This shadow state operates within – and parallel to – the constitutional state in formal and informal ways. Its objective is to re-purpose state governance, aligning it with the power elites’ narrow financial or political interests, for their benefit.

State capture rests on a strategy to align arms of state and public institutions and business to support rent-seeking.

In the events being scrutinised by the commission, the evidence being led shows that actors made sure that all the conditions were created and processes lined up to extract more money than the actual goods and services cost as a way to enrich themselves.

This reveals the systemic nature of state capture. To be successful, it requires the deep cooperation and complicity of the highest office in the land to secure rents, hollow out accountability and maintain legitimacy.

The graphic below, by Robyn Foley, a senior researcher at the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition at Stellenbosch University, outlines the alleged strategy of capturing state-owned enterprises, installing compliant officials, undermining the functional operation of government institutions and discrediting critical voices.

The graphic points to a presidency where state capture became syndicated within the state and rent-seeking. Capture is a radical departure from the norms and values upon which a democratic developmental state depends. Like most liberal democracies, South Africa’s constitution provides for checks and balances that are supposed to limit such abuses of power. When these checks are undermined, and the balancing forces are biased, the system becomes a reinforcing loop of bad behaviour, spiralling towards an oligarchic authoritarian state.

In other words, a silent coup.

How did we get here?

Zuma set his presidency on the ticket of state-sponsored development. This entailed using state-owned enterprise procurement, tighter state control and Black Economic Empowerment to realise what has been termed radical economic transformation.

But it was precisely within this agenda, and the governance arrangements that supported it, that seeds for state capture were sown. Tighter state control meant that the flows of information were controlled by only a few, while state-owned enterprises used the biggest share of procurement rands.

There was already billions moving through these state owned enterprises and radical economic transformation was the perfect ideology to bring it all together.

But black business hardly benefited at all from the profits of state capture. If radical economic transformation were to be effected through the constitutional state, it would be enacted through economic policy that supported livelihoods and employment creation. In addition, state capture has hollowed out the very institutions that would have been able to realise radical economic transformation through the constitutional state.

The unravelling

Numerous events over the past decade point to a slow burn abuse of key state resources. One of the first was the irregular landing of a civilian plane at Waterkloof Military Air Base in 2013. The plane was carrying foreign guests to a family wedding hosted by Zuma’s friends, the Gupta family.

Two years later evidence emerged that millions of rands of public funds had been used illegally for upgrades to the then president’s Nkandla homestead. This spending was outlined in a report prepared by the former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

The turning point came only months after the release of the Public Protector’s State of Capture report, when Zuma fired then Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas in March 2017. The events sent a shock wave through South Africa, triggering mass protests and mobilised public outrage, forcing Zuma to initiate the robust inquiry into state capture.

Our unpublished research shows that, to date, there have been 28 public state capture investigations, inquiries and commissions. There are also 118 outstanding cases of corruption involving government officials and politicians in the in-tray of the newly appointed head of the country’s National Prosecuting Authority, Advocate, Shamila Batohi.

The true cost of the damage cost by state capture, including the destruction of institutions and lives, is unquantifiable.

South Africans may well be seduced by the prospect of Zuma taking the stand at the Zondo commission. But he was not alone in driving the state capture project. And, the network of actors and influencers is extensive and still very much active. This much has been laid bare in testimony before the commission.

Nina Callaghan, Robyn Foley, senior researchers at the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition at Stellenbosch University, contributed to the article.The Conversation