Ex­pose all state cap­tur­ers

CityPress - - Voices - Gugulethu Mhlungu voices@city­press.co.za Fol­low on Twit­ter @GugsM

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

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