The news cycle keeps churning out stories thanks to the #GuptaLeaks. The spillage from those emails and records continues to highlight just how far South Africa has been sold. Yet the more troubling part of this narrative is that all this truth, all of this light on the rot, is after the fact. The deed has been done.
The country, its soul and its purpose, has been sacrificed at the altar of pillage and self-interest that has besmirched not only the great sacrifice of so many women and men but also has laid bare all of our imperfections. South Africa is not in the process of being hijacked or about to be sold due to state capture but it has already been stolen. The theft is made worse because our leaders, entrusted to govern and protect the Republic, are co-conspirators and accomplices to the deed, and supporters of the crime.
The crime is not only being committed now but rather we are only now becoming aware of the crime and how far the rot extends. This is not only the story of the creeping rot of patronage, corruption and theft but rather this is the story, told after the fact, of how we were all fooled into believing that we were different. The insipid pie of deceit and capture has been baked, consumed by our leaders, and has been shoved down our collective throats. We are only now becoming aware of how terrible things really are. We believed that South Africa was different and that our democratic institutions and the governing party rooted in the liberation struggle would not be guided by scoundrels, thieves and criminals. Today, we know better because of perspective and hindsight, but that is meaningless.
This is not just a story of billions rerouted to serve the interests of the Gupta family and their loyalists embodied by the administration of Jacob Zuma. This is not a story that simply implicates Jacob Zuma and the actors of the “shadow state” but rather highlights the flaws of our own democracy and the culture of impunity that extends not just into the governing party of Jacob Zuma and the Gupta family but beyond that to the State-Owned Enterprises, our opposition benches as well and where our political parties preside over both local and provincial governments.
We have not been able to arrest the decline or the creeping rot that has consumed our country. Instead of accountability, mass resignations, criminal charges, investigations expeditiously initiated and conducted impartially, we are forced to watch the fake news, the perverse spin, the obfuscation and media statements that say nothing except blame all of us for overreacting.
The avoidance of truth and accountability extends far beyond the main actors of the shadow state and is now demonstrated across the political spectrum. Electoral reform and the proper disclosure of party-political funding has been allowed to not only gather dust but has been ignored for decades. Recently, there have been moves afoot to confront party-political funding; however, we must not be naïve or ambivalent to the vested interests and conflict that exists in trying to manage the taps that have run for decades with the ensuing dubious outcomes.
The rise of Jacob Zuma, and the installation of the shadow state, did not simply happen overnight but was supported either through conduct, words or silence by a number of leading South Africans who have since found their voice and are now electing to speak out. However, their voices remained silent while Zuma, and the first family of state capture, started the process of not simply capturing and subverting the state but corrupting every lever of public power in order to serve the only agenda of supporting their lavish lifestyles, their egos and the goal of extending and cementing the creeping rot with the support of their mob of supporters within the African National Congress and the Tripartite Alliance.
It is easy to lose track of the creeping rot, the performers, the actors, the criminals and the Mafiosi that are subverting the interests of the people. It is troubling that former Cabinet ministers such as Pravin Gordhan speak of the need for South Africans to connect the dots, as those dots should have been confronted by all those who served in the governments that were elected to serve the Republic and its people. The dots of the story should not simply be connected but instead criminal investigations and charges must expeditiously be conducted into the criminals that have given rise to the shadow state.
It is perhaps wishful thinking to think that is possible, especially since Fikile Mbalula, the newly installed Minister of Police, is currently consumed by his need for letter writing to former Cabinet colleagues after it was revealed that he had in August 2011 at a National Executive Committee meeting wept about being informed by the Gupta family that he had been promoted. Mbalula should really start focusing on the issues at hand and not the side show of his ego or the conspiracy theories around sleeper cells and other tales that belong in a fictional tale. However, this behaviour is not surprising in the Zuma administration that is perfectly practised in avoiding accountability and using form over substance in order to deal with issues by avoiding it at all costs.
A commission into state capture, as recommended by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, will not alone resolve the issues as the horse has already bolted. The solution cannot simply be a political one or a compromise. South Africa needs those who still reside in the Cabinet of Jacob Zuma, in the parliamentary benches of the African National Congress, in the leadership structures of Cosatu, the ANC itself and the South African Communist Party to act against the rot that has seeped into the soul of our nation. Sadly, this in itself will not arrest the rot as it extends far beyond the names we see in our headlines, but it is a necessary step to restore faith in our democracy.
Additionally, the individuals who speak out today and recommend that South Africans should “connect the dots” must also stop talking in parables, idioms and riddles. The individuals, who know what has been lost, must act in both words and conduct to confront the criminal hijacking of our freedom. Far too much has been lost already. Far too many compromises were made in the 1994 political settlement. Far too much is at stake for the poor, indigent and marginalised. Action is urgently required to confront our culture, which is rotten, far from exceptional or unique, and is in desperate need of being confronted, exorcised and replaced with accountability and service. DM
Andrew Ihsaan Gasnolar was born in Cape Town and raised by his determined mother, grandparents, aunt and the rest of his maternal family. He is an admitted attorney (formerly of the corporate hue), with recent exposure in the public sector, and is currently working on transport and infrastructure projects. He is a Mandela Washington Fellow, a Mandela Rhodes Scholar, and a WEF Global Shaper. He had a brief stint in the contemporary party politic environment working for Mamphela Ramphele as Agang CEO and chief-of-staff; he found the experience a deeply educational one.
"Take a chance, won't you? Knock down the fences which divide. Tear apart the walls that imprison you. Reach out. Freedom lies just on the other side." ~ Thurgood Marshall