In 2001 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) spoke of a “pernicious and intractable problem” known as state capture that was afflicting transition economies.
State capture, the IMF said, involved “so-called oligarchs manipulating policy formation, and even shaping the emerging rules of the game to their own, very substantial advantage”.
For years, President Jacob Zuma’s administration has been dogged by claims of having fallen prey to a systematic programme of state capture by the Gupta family.
The brothers’ access to Zuma and his Cabinet, as well as to the various state-owned enterprises under their control, has, from an observer’s point of view, seemingly grown in leaps and bounds in the years since their arrival in South Africa.
Over time, the family’s compound in Saxonwold has become synonymous with the concept of state capture, with one cabinet minister after another being invited for curry and a chat about which pending tender or contract involving a public enterprise should be awarded to whom, and who should be appointed to which strategic position.
Even before the scandal broke over the Guptas’ private use of Air Force Base Waterkloof near Pretoria to land charter planes full of VIP wedding guests – who were met by a convoy of SA Police Service VIP protection officers – it was clear something was awry in how the family used its seemingly untrammelled influence over the state.
Suspicions came to a head when former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene was unexpectedly, and unceremoniously, removed from his post in December, allegedly for opposing a Gupta-state sweetheart deal.
An ill wind continued to blow over South Africa as attempts to oust his successor, Pravin Gordhan – again reportedly over the G-word – became apparent.
When the Public Protector announced a probe into alleged state capture by the Gupta family, one would have thought our president would be relieved.
After all, he is the one who has consistently claimed to have done no wrong.
He should have been the first to cooperate and ensure his Cabinet ministers did the same.
Instead, we are told Zuma has again failed to cooperate and, along with Des van Rooyen – the four-day finance wonder and the man the Guptas allegedly wanted to run our fiscus for much, much longer – has gone to court to oppose the release of the report.
This is strange conduct for men with nothing to hide.
In Zuma’s case, surely he should want to know which of his ministers are owned by private business and which key officials in public enterprise are bought and paid for by the Guptas?
If Zuma wants the country to believe he practises what he preaches about good governance, he must cooperate fully and unconditionally with this probe.