“Zuma Phenomenon” Was State Capture Of A Special Kind

Themba Vryman Responds To Greg Mashaba's "State Capture Debate"

In the article titled “The State Capture Debate: Limitations of Current Applications and Definitions” the contributor in my own reading, delicately attempts to guide the reader, on what was not understood by the general populace about the reported state capture under the former President Jacob Zuma and also why another former President Thabo Mbeki erred in characterising this particular reported occurence as the “Zuma Phenomenon”.

The contributor in his article goes further to delicately attempt to join together all the post-democracy president’s terms to illustrate the original sin of state capture, which he must be commended for.

However, my attempt here is to put into context why the “Zuma phenomenon” was a state capture of a special kind.

The contributor will be aware of reported and confirmed allegations about how the Guptas took it upon themselves to announce cabinet reshuffles using their media platform, invited the people to their private compound in Saxonworld to brief these intended recipients of their employment to the government of South Africa. Equally the contributor will be alive to the televised parliamentary sessions where evidence was presented on how this particular family everywhere used the name of the then President to advance their fortunes especially with regard to state business.

All of these combined together with those not mentioned above, contributed to what was to headline newspapers as state capture. The contributor is correct to insinuate the fact that state capture must not be seen to have only found life or discovered with the Jacob Zuma presidency, however what the contributor fails to grasp is that state capture as reportedly fronted by the Gupta family under President Jacob Zuma did not only usurp the powers of the president but the privilege of the president to exercise his prerogative to appoint and dismiss any member of his executive. It can be argued as a fact that any public authority delegated or borrowed to any private individuals not elected or mandated by the public to exercise such powers on their behalf is tantamount to rendering that public authority an authority of those private individuals.

On the other issue raised by the former president Thabo Mbeki about the “Zuma Phenomenon”, if one was to watch the video and simply listen with an ear to fully understand the message relayed in that interview, it is quite clear that the former president did not attempt to allege that corruption began and ended with the office term of President Jacob Zuma. In the interview President Mbeki goes to great lengths to describe how the “Zuma Phenomenon” was not an individual phenomenon, he further illustrated how since 1994 they had always been aware about how members of the ANC, old and new, always aspired to use the ANC to amass personal wealth using the ANC as a vehicle to achieve this. What must be emphasised is that state capture in any form or content has always been a party resolutions talk, corridor talks and dinner table talks that was never ever given the necessary attention which has happened now. Nowhere in that interview did President Mbeki absolve any post-democracy presidency as corruption free, rather he said during the presidency of Jacob Zuma it was entrenched to a point where a family appropriated to themselves public power protected and guaranteed by the constitution.

The response to this article is in no-way attempting to take away some of the known truths about the history of corruption, state capture and the criminality that happened pre-1994. All of these hideous crimes need to be accounted for and all of us as active citizens must always advocate for justice. However, what we must not attempt to do is to wash the sins of the new democratic leaders in our midst with the sins of the old apartheid leaders. As a nation we deserve better and must demand the best, our public discourse must be full of ideas and contestations which are progressive in nature and developmental in character to repair our nation and empower our society.

Any form of state capture is bad, to attempt to characterise this phenomenon wherever it rears it’s ugly head as a light state capture or a heavy state capture is to simply put different shades of colour to swindle the public in seeing what is really state capture. State Capture by any person is wrong for all the citizens of any country. It wrongs the well=being of the nation, it denies society the prosperity it deserves and denies them the ability to live out their best possible lives. State capture steals from the poor of the poorest. It marginalises, extremely, the already marginalised and denies the people their power to hold  the government of their choice to account.

The ANC to whom many of us have pledged loyalty to has taught us to promote the well-being of the nation and jealously guard against any injustices against our people.

Themba Vryman is an ANC member in Ward 20 Bloemfontein, he writes in his personal capacity.

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  1. This article is no different from what the media has been doing, elevating rumours to fact. Anyway the state is ‘but a committee entrusted with running the affairs of the owners of the means of production. The modern state in SA, after 1910, attest to that, with the concomitant pieces of legislation on behalf of the mine owners. President Zuma, even today continues to remind us that political power not underpinned by economic and security power(his phrases) is meaningless. He tried to rock the boat and the empire showed how vicious it can respond. The Gupta scarecrow, like the ‘Russian’ one in the west, is getting discredited every hour and will be exposed as the work of WMC. Guptas did some progressive things which so-called empowered blacks have not done, like creating media platforms for alternative views to the dominating narrative, and taking control of some of the key sectors of the economy like mining without being fronts, like many black stooges.

  2. I wish to commend you on a well-reasoned and beautiful articulated critique of my article Cde Vryman. Constructive criticism such as yours can only help us all to sharpen our analytical skills. Sadly it is becoming a very rare virtue in South Africa.
    Coming back to my article , I wish to stress to you and other readers the following issues which I sought to raise in my article , namely ;
    1.that the capture of the state by the pre 1994 players and actors was transferred to the formally democratic state and hidden by the actors and players under a veil of legitimacy post 1994;
    2 in any given country the dominant class will always control the state ( hence my reference to Lenin’s “The State And The Revolution”) ;
    3. whereas the Gupta family openly flouted their proximity to the state and used the name of the president to pursue their interests , the massive white-owned corporations were able to shield their owners under carefully crafted veils of legitimacy , hence my reference to the mining corporations which have long-term contracts with entities such as ESKOM and the low electricity tariff which was enjoyed by BHP Billiton. The situation at SAA is another case in mind;
    I agree with you in your assertion that any form of state capture wherever it occurs must be opposed and condemned in the strongest possible terms. However it is my carefully considered view that no political dispensation can escape the ugly phenomenon of state capture. Again , that is why I referred to Lenin’s thesis on the class struggle and the role of the state. In this regard I have asked Cde PK to post a link to Lenin’s work. Please do take time to peruse it at length.
    You will note that in my article I am at pains to show that even the so-called “advanced democracies” are not immune to state capture. Hence my reference to Mike Lofgren’s and Paul Tucker’s books.
    In one of my previous articles on the Vatican, I raised, albeit indirectly, the fact that even the Vatican itself, the epicenter of Christendom is not immune from capture by powerful and sinister forces which seek to pursue their narrow class agendas. Therefore I fall short of arguing that to pursue the ideal of a dispensation which is devoid of state capture is a pipe dream. This is the hard reality which , I a practicing Catholic have to grudgingly accept. Pope John Paul I died under mysterious circumstances barely a month after his election as pope in 1978 because he sought to wrestle control of the Roman Curia ( the government of the Vatican mini-state ) from the clutches of the far-right;
    That having been said , I wish to commend you again for your constructive criticism. Our readers are much more enlightened thanks to your contribution.That is how we used to discuss and debate in the “good” old days in our study platoons. Oh how I miss that!

  3. In my view if Mbeki according to the scriber of this response article considers state capture as a long time phenomenon in the ANC, he should have expantiate on illicit deals in his Presidency too. What comes to mind is the Arms deal, the take over of wines (sherry) in the economic realm by super manufacturing companies. This paranoia about Guptas appointing Ministers must end, because it baseless and has not been factually and legally proved. To further say, the family used President’s name to score lucrative tenders must be proven, and stop saturating the media with unproven statements. Recently we had an official heading the Legal affairs of Eskom lying to the Parliamentary Committee, only to be found she was defending her shenanigans. The Oppenheimers have come out telling the nation that, they bought Mandela his first car, and clothing him…. No one talked about state capture when they got concessions in business with state. I agree with the phenomenon state capture was a long thing in SA even during negotiations but, the writer does not allude to that.

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