A multi-disciplinary, inter-university research partnership has, under the banner of the State Capacity Research Project, culminated in the first of a series of papers that critically examines what we have come to know as the State of Capture.
As the convenor of the project Mark Swilling explained, the name was inspired by a speech the ex-deputy Minister of Finance, Mcebisi Jonas (who attended the launch), gave a few months back entitled, The Betrayal of the Promise.
In short, it is an academic appraisal of the “system” or “virus” that has been employed to extract rents from the state, with the president as the key facilitator. “Our core argument is that a silent coup has taken place,” says Swilling. “Decisions [relating to the functioning and administration of the government] are being taken without the consent of the ruling party. Mandela’s promise has been betrayed, and we are here to ‘connect the dots’.”
One of the key thrusts of the report is the analysis of how state institutions have been “repurposed” to reward a political elite referred to as the “power elite”.
President Jacob 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 Premier League led by Ace Magashule.
This de facto system of government – deliberate and criminal in nature – was likened to a competing set of “kitchen cabinets” where “the most influential person is the one that last spoke to Zuma”. The president’s appointees are selected to do specific things – Malusi Gigaba for instance in his appointment as Minister of Public Enterprises before his tenure at Home Affairs, was sent to systematically erode the governance at state-owned entities so that Zuma’s cadre deployment (think Molefe and Anoj Singh at Transnet and Eskom) would be able to “prise open” opportunities to exploit control at these entities that had weakened institutional capacity.
The exact role of the Guptas was not pinpointed, but they are variously described as “brokers” and “puppeteers”. There is also detail provided around how much money the Guptas and related entities have transferred out of the country. (It runs into hundreds of millions of US dollars.)
One of the key findings in the report was 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.
There is much to chew on and sift through. And none of it is good. Access the report here.
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