Expose all state capturers
It’s really great that we are talking about so-called state capture. It is vital that all private interests influencing government, particularly those that have been operational for decades, be exposed.
Furthermore, it is simply not true that state capture is a post-1994 phenomenon, nor is it unique to South Africa. Realising this is important to understanding it.
However, the focus on one family has done a strange thing to public discourse around state capture, where the main concern for many appears to be who else might be involved in worse or deeper state capture than the Gupta family is alleged to have done, and the argument then being that – until we’ve dealt with all the others – we can’t deal with what we might know now.
I’ve written before how this zero-sum approach is not useful. Those who are calling for an investigation into white business’ capture of the state, to prove how bad it is, often do so not realising what they are implying: that the state (or more accurately, government) has a long-standing habit of essentially selling out its citizens to whoever offers them the most benefits. Single-mindedly focusing on who is worse unintentionally gives the state a pass and almost charges it as a helpless player.
Similarly, the often-demanded Ciex Report – a report done by a UK-based agency looking into apartheid plunder, alleged to amount to billions, which was also said to have continued into the new democratic dispensation – is spoken about as if it would only implicate white private business, when it is most likely that senior state officials would be implicated too.
However, much of the demand for its release hinges on proving how much worse white businesses are, instead of looking at the extent to which the state continues to be implicated in dubious dealings, and with money intended for public good.
If we are to say we want to focus on perpetrators of state capture, government’s alleged widespread involvement should concern us deeply – perhaps even more, because the state should only act in our interests, but seems unable to do so. Additionally, we should ask what weaknesses in our current institutions make capture by private interests seemingly so pervasive.
It is simply not true that state capture is a post-1994 phenomenon