Mpumelelo Mkhabela

Does Duduzane Zuma know what he's doing?

2017-05-26 08:30
Duduzane Zuma. Photo: Brendan Croft

Duduzane Zuma. Photo: Brendan Croft

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Whenever Duduzane Zuma appears on television, typically flanked by the Guptas, he triggers some worrying questions in one’s mind.

Is he a shrewd businessman or a tool with an expiry date? Does he understand the consequences of his business dealings with the Guptas?

He has the appearance of a cunning operator. Is he a wolf that has lost the sheep’s skin? Does he think of himself as an upright businessman?

Does he know of the ethically correct way to do business in South Africa? Has he read and understood the King Codes, the Prevention of Corrupt Activities Act and the Constitution of the Republic?

What is the nature of his relationship with the Guptas? Is it cordial or coercive? Do they treat him as a partner or a servant?

Does he see a future for himself separate from the Guptas? Is he a free person? Does he have his agency? Do the Guptas instruct him or does he come up with his own looting ideas? 

Does he know that he is making history by participating in the creation of an edifice of a shadowy state that, if not stopped now, will destroy his own country?

These and more questions come to mind because Duduzane is known by a discerning public as corrupt middleman of the corrupt Guptas and his corrupt father, President Jacob Zuma. A friend of mine has remarked that Duduzane is the de facto chief “investment” officer of the Zuma family. It’s hard to dismiss this view.

The rate of returns on capital "invested" in such a business arrangement is dependent on the success of the Gupta businesses in securing state contracts and licenses while consolidating political power outside the democratic state. The return comes in the form of rents extracted illegally from the state.

The time spent bullying, lobbying, bribing and appointing state officials, including ministers, is a form of capital. The corruptible Zuma is the primary capital without whom state capture would be difficult. The bribe offered to people like Mcebisi Jonas to purchase acquiescence to capture the National Treasury is rent extracted illegally from the state itself.

The entrepreneurship skills involved are shocking. They include turning overnight a state-owned power utility company into a commercial bank that lends half a billion rand to the Guptas and Duduzane to acquire a mining company that was deliberately squeezed out of business. What a skill!

The president has denied involvement in Duduzane’s businesses. He has said all he knew was that the Guptas, who also happened to be his friends, had opened business opportunities for his son when no one could hire him. His denial is as believable as Eskom senior executive Matshela Koko’s denial of knowledge of his daughter’s business dealings with a company that has earned a billion rand in tenders dished out by a division he headed.

As more information on state capture emerges, there will be greater focus on the role of the key executors. Duduzane, who is linked to a number of daring state capture activities – from Prasa to the Jonas bribery offer – is one of the actors who will account for their activities in the near future.

Separate reports by a group of academics and the South African Council of Churches (SACC) have reached conclusions that commentators, including this writer, have long reached: that the executing authority of South Africa has been usurped. It's no longer exercised in the interest of South Africans, but in the interest of foreigners and corrupt local dealers and power brokers.

The ANC is a governing party by name. Voters were fooled into believing that they were electing a government of the people by the people when in fact they were legitimising a complicated shadowy state at the apex of which sits Zuma, his family and the Guptas. (Voters might soon correct this.)

As the report by the academics, Betrayal of the promise: How South Africa is being stolen, points out, the objectives of the shadowy state goes beyond corruption. The aim of this state is to consolidate itself as the centre of political power outside the formal democratic constitutional framework. The writers of the report conclude, correctly, that there has been a silent coup in South Africa. The Unburdening Panel Findings of the SACC also refer to a formation of a parallel state.

The illegal state obviously does not subscribe to the rules of accountability, of checks and balances. It can’t be questioned. It has its own logic of self-sustenance. Patronage oils its engine. 

The conclusions of both reports are supported by not only empirical evidence, but also by the current chaotic relationship between the ANC and the state.

The section of the ANC that has not been captured lacks political authority. It is, however, responsible for communicating to its members and the public on behalf of the ANC “leadership”. But the leadership that holds official state power is accountable elsewhere: to the shadowy state. 

This has created a huge leadership vacuum in the country. The ANC has become a joke. Whenever it issues statements commentators are quick and justified to ask: is this from Luthuli House or Saxonwold?

The “official” ANC increasingly sounds like an opposition party to the extra-judicial state which has the semblance of officialdom by virtue of being led by someone who moonlights as the president of the country.

Back to Duduzane. One cannot help but wonder whether he has an idea of how it will all end for him when the shadowy state crumbles. South Africans will eventually take back their country through the democratic process. The end for the likes of Duduzane will, as it must, be tragic.

- Mpumelelo Mkhabela is a fellow at the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation (GovInn) at the University of Pretoria.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. 

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