South Africa is passing through one of the most troubling times since 1994. The country was brought to its knees by a cynical Mafia elite in the governing African National Congress. Its presence in government had nothing to do with governance. From the president down, their goal was simple: self-enrichment at any cost. Selling their country to a bunch of foreign thugs was not daunting at all, just so long as it lined their pockets.
The much vaunted goals of creating a constitutional democracy with justice and service delivery for all was rudely cast aside in the rush to secure as much loot as possible. Virtually every goal to create a peoples’ government was dashed to the ground in the service of unbridled greed.
South Africa became a failed state! From the municipal to provincial to national government there was the power of corrupt patronage, of blatant neglect and theft on a grand scale.
South Africa’s people are thoroughly sick of the out-of-control corruption and theft of its money and resources. We are tired of the lies and even more lies to cover up incompetence, the rapacious greed and the piousness of those caught with their fingers in the till.
Let us make a bold stand to say that the former president has led the dirty pack in enabling the corruption and the literal sellout of the country. His firing of those who will not be a part of his devious game was as heinous as placing his pliable minions into key ministries or parastatals to do his corrupt bidding.
History will not be kind to this man, who lost his moral compass and ravished the dignity of all South Africans. There are others too who must be named and shamed and excluded from any form of governance. The exit of Zuma must be followed by charges of treason against the man. His criminality is nothing short of treasonous. His aiders and abettors must face similar charges.
Yet, do not let the Zuma sideshow sidetrack us, and deflect us from the very real, homegrown state capturers. Let us glance back over history.
When the Union of South Africa was created in 1910 the dominant English ensured that the state was essentially captured by their corporates. Where these did not exist, they were created.
Fast-forward to just 38 years later when the Afrikaners took power in 1948. It wasted no time in doing everything in its power to facilitate State Capture in the service of the “volk”. Many of the names of the giant banks, insurance companies and state corporations we are familiar with today had their foundations laid in that time.
The wealth of South Africa was used to eliminate poverty among the Afrikaners and and to quickly create an elite corps to channel wealth to Afrikaner hands and under their ruthless control.
Black South Africans were tolerated merely to provide the necessary muscle power to drive agriculture, mining and the manufacturing industry. Real control through State Capture was effectively in Afrikaner hands, even a few English ones.
That was the status quo when the ANC came to power in 1994. Nothing changed. The expectation was that post-apartheid South Africa would bring radical economic transformation. This was not to be, as the new government submitted to the whims of a neoliberal economic capitalism.
The capitulation was not sudden. The buyout came years previously in several meetings in African capitals and in London between the ANC and business leaders. Political power would be exchanged for the entrenching of economic power in white hands. A few trimmings were made to accommodate a few key black figures on to lily-white corporate boards, purely as a sop to the aspirations of the black elite. The captured state remained unchanged.
Popularly referred to as “White Monopoly Capital” and justly so, this reality has been deliberately ignored, trivialised and passed off as the concern of the lunatic fringe. It is not. It must become the central focus of our deliberations. That is the bigger picture that has been hidden from view and close scrutiny.
Any commission of inquiry into State Capture must include this reality. Anything less will be a sham, designed to maintain the status quo of entrenched economic power.
Inasmuch as the land question has been brought to the fore, similarly the ownership of the economy must face intense scrutiny and a total restructuring take place so that it benefits not just the elite.
A recent stunning example of this has been the debacle surrounding Steinhoff International CEO, Marcus Jooste. In one of the greatest scams, he gambled with the future of not just the company, but the investments of South African pension schemes that have, in one fell swoop, wiped out billions. Why has government had no rules that oversight bodies keep a check on, especially investments of pension schemes? Again, here it is the workers who will suffer when retirement day comes. Can there be a stronger case for the dismantling of White Monopoly Capitalism?
Let the hurricane of change blowing across political South Africa slam the corrupt facilitators of State Capture and all their fellow travellers in jail.
However, it must be understood that Zuma and his fellow travellers were mere agents and facilitators of state corruption. The real puppeteers were hidden from view (and cleverly remain so). It is they who must be called to account and punishments must be swift. We will remain a failed state if we do not tear down the curtains that hide these miscreants who do not share in the vision of an egalitarian society in a constitutional democracy.
The resources and wealth of the country must be used for the upliftment of all of South Africa’s people and most certainly not a new elite. We have had enough of that. DM
Prithiraj Dullay is an academic, author, columnist as well as a human rights and environmental activist.