'They are stealing our future' - How state capture affects its faceless victims

The Civil Society Working Group on State Capture at its meeting on Saturday.
The Civil Society Working Group on State Capture at its meeting on Saturday.
Azarrah Karrim, News24

While the state capture commission of inquiry delves deeper and deeper into the web of capture, sourcing the culprits between factional battles, those who were most affected by the crimes believe they are being sidelined. 

The Civil Society Working Group on State Capture held a people's hearing at the Women's Jail in Constitutional Hill on Saturday.

The group consists of more than 20 civil society organisations, including Section27, Right2Know, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse and the Legal Resources Centre and the Treatment Action Campaign. 

Under the hashtag #DearJudgeZondo, attendees sent commission chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo a clear message, calling on the commission to convene a special hearing focused on listening to these testimonies.

The hearings, the group said, intended to collect and provide evidence of the impact of state capture and corruption to the country's law enforcement agencies and to the Zondo commission.

Losing jobs and money

"The deepening levels of inequality, poverty and unemployment caused by contemporary state capture should be foremost in their minds when investigating and prosecuting the crimes of powerful politicians, private individuals and corporations."

Throughout the day, people, including mine workers who worked under Gupta companies, told stories of how, because of corruption and state capture, they lost their jobs and their money – unable to find anyone who would account.

Charles Dlova, who spoke about corruption and the misuse of state resources, said the narrative around state capture disadvantages those affected.

"Some narratives, even if truthful, want to continue the existence of the status quo. Some of them are forced into spaces by outsiders because they have a vested interest in certain narratives.

"Corruption, the way it's narrated at the moment in our country, is narrated in a disempowering way," Dlova said. 

He added that it was difficult to understand this narrative, surrounded in a cloud of uncertainty, without hard yet simple facts, "even a billion rand is an abstract thing".

"We can talk as much as we'd like but after talking we must act. But when we act with limited information, are we going to take the right actions?" Dlova asked.

Grade 11 student Kevin Ramatsi also spoke about how corruption takes away from schooling.

'Stealing our future'

He said schools, which are severely underfunded and riddled with crime, drugs and gangsterism, are not getting the support they needed to create capable students.

He added that while the president is "always shocked" at what is happening in schools, he has not been told about any initiative to curb this violence.

Ramatsi said the Department of Basic Education has one of the biggest budgets from the government, adding, "if they take 30% or a quarter of that money directly to Eskom, they are stealing our future".

"Some of the libraries and computer centres in our schools are not accessible. Now we are being told about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, but some of us we can't even work a computer," he said.

Justice expert and panelist at the hearings, Yasmin Sooka, said: "It is really important for Judge Zondo to hear about what this has actually meant for many South Africans."

She said the hearings should be made available to the commission so that Zondo could see the impact of state capture for himself.

"It is really important that we begin to document people's experiences so that we can preserve them for future accountability processes," she added.

She also called for special hearings with people around the country at the commission, to bring to light these human costs.

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