[Letter] Zondo’s state capture assessment is correct

Speaking at a recent Human Sciences Research Council symposium, chief justice Raymond Zondo stated that should another group of people attempt to capture the state — as with the Guptas during the Jacob Zuma presidency — they would succeed (“Parliament says Zondo’s state capture comments ‘inappropriate’", June 22).

In Zondo’s view parliament would not be able to stop this from happening, and he is correct in this assessment. The ideas and policies that necessarily gave rise to state capture, with the ANC’s commitment to the national democratic revolution (NDR) and cadre deployment chief among these, have by no means been reformed or changed to any substantive degree.

During his address the chief justice highlighted the failures of parliament in holding the executive, and government more widely, accountable during the state capture years. Here one sees the ideological commitment to the NDR, and the view that the ANC should control all of the levers and institutions of state to “transform” the economy and society. This ideological basis ensured that ANC parliamentarians — the majority — had less impetus to question and hold accountable those who were implementing the various state capture processes and plans.

Zondo explained: “The reason we failed to stop state capture is because the ruling party refused to agree to the establishment of an inquiry that would probe the allegations. There were a number of opportunities for the majority party to agree, but it did not. The Guptas continued with their projects, and the transactions that happened afterward happened because they were not stopped.”

Zondo’s address was delivered a year since he presented ANC and country president Cyril Ramaphosa with the state capture commission’s report and findings into state capture. Zondo said he had seen no changes to protect the country from rampant corruption.

With the additional incentives for corruption and capture that accompany cadre deployment, so too can policies and legislation open yet more scope for such behaviour to occur. Some recent examples of these are the localisation master plans, which open routes for state subsidies for chosen businesses and “champions”; the amended Employment Equity Act, which incentivises “fronting” in transformation and allows for those with the necessary connections to obtain government contracts; and — most concerning of all — the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill. 

The NHI would, if implemented, in effect monopolise the management of all healthcare, public and private, in the hands of the state. The vast pool of resources made available, as well as the arbitrary, unaccountable ministerial and governmental power that would accompany the NHI system, would only increase the incentives and possibility for state capture to occur once more, likely on an even grander scale than what has come before. 

To mitigate the possibility of state capture occurring again in future, the goal of ever-greater centralisation, of government at the centre of the economy and society, must be rolled back. Failing that, the ideological seeds of state capture remain, along with the great personal incentives that come with overseeing policies that provide numerous benefits for the politically connected few.

This letter originally appeared here. 

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