Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Over the past few weeks, the Zondo commission has begun to expose the most fundamental truth about how state capture precipitated our country’s decline. The simple truth now on full public display at the commission is that state capture was never a side project engineered by the Gupta family and a few isolated rogues in government. Instead, the testimony delivered in front of judge Raymond Zondo is exposing that state capture is in fact the guiding ideology of the political party that has misgoverned SA for the past 27 years.

The ANC’s ideology of state capture is principally expressed through two policies: cadre deployment and BEE. These two policies provide the golden thread that binds together all of the testimony delivered at the Zondo commission since its inception over two-and-a-half years ago.

All of the government abuses exposed by the commission — from the manipulation of the State Security Agency to bribe journalists to promote the ANC and destabilise the DA-run Western Cape, to the neutering of parliament to protect the ANC and the appointment of ANC-aligned looters to all senior positions in the state and state-owned enterprises — happened because the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment subverts the constitution by giving the party the power to make appointments to all positions in the state.

State capture, including the crimes allegedly committed by the Gupta family, would never have been possible if the ANC did not have the ability to appoint party loyalists to positions of power. The only reason the likes of Brian Molefe, Matshela Koko, Hlaudi Motsoeneng and Tom Moyane assumed control over the commanding heights of the state in the first place is because the ANC’s cadre deployment committee has the power to appoint officials on the basis of loyalty to the ANC, rather than on the basis of demonstrated merit.

Section 197 (3) of the constitution clearly states that “no employee of the public service may be favoured or prejudiced only because that person supports a particular political party or cause.” Yet this is exactly what cadre deployment has been doing for over two decades. The policy is explicitly designed to favour and reward people who are loyal to the ANC with powerful positions in the state. In turn, these people are expected to abuse their office to protect and promote the interests of the ANC. Cadre deployment has not only blurred the line that is supposed to separate party and state. It has erased the line.

But the ANC’s ideology of state capture finds its fullest and most devastating expression when the racial fig leaf of BEE is layered on top of cadre deployment. Once loyal cadres are deployed into a powerful position they use the mechanism of BEE to lock out competition from bona fide commercial operations, while ensuring state tenders are awarded to their preferred “empowerment” shells. Cadres then use the inflated contracts awarded to these “empowerment” companies to channel patronage back into the coffers of the party that appointed them — while naturally also skimming some of the loot off the top for their personal benefit.

The result is a vicious cycle that is destroying SA. Service delivery collapses because cadres are appointed to key positions instead of skilled professionals. Delivery is further eroded and corruption explodes because state contracts are inflated and awarded to BEE shell companies that funnel money into the pockets of the political elite while failing to deliver the services they were contracted for. In cases where the effects of this cycle are exposed, attempts at oversight and accountability are neutralised by ANC cadres in parliament, who abuse their majority to ensure that the vicious cycle is not disrupted.

The ANC has never made a secret of its commitment to state capture. As far back as 1997 the original architect of state capture in SA, Joel Netshitenzhe, published the magnum opus that would lay the ideological foundation for the eventual devastation of SA’s state and economy. In an article published in the ANC journal Umrabulo, Netshitenzhe announced that the ANC intended to “extend the power of the NLM [National Liberation Movement] over all levers of power: the army, the police, the bureaucracy, intelligence structures, the judiciary, parastatals, and agencies such as regulatory bodies, the public broadcaster, the central bank and so on.”

With this sentence Netshitenzhe perfectly and publicly articulated the ANC’s vision for SA as a country where all levers of state power are captured, controlled and, inevitably, corrupted by a dominant political elite. The entire ANC officially endorsed this plan at its Mafikeng conference. Over the ensuing decades the party methodically implemented Netshitenzhe’s vision. But the combination of cadre deployment and BEE would only reach its full destructive potential from 2013 onwards, when the ANC appointed a new chair for its cadre deployment committee: Cyril Ramaphosa.

Between 2013 and 2017 Ramaphosa managed the process that methodically “deployed” an entire class of brazen looters throughout all organs of state. As the chair of the deployment committee it was Ramaphosa who directed the state to appoint everyone from Molefe to Motsoeneng to tighten the ANC’s control over the key levers of power. Uncomfortable though it may be for some to admit, Jacob Zuma and the Guptas could never have perpetrated their schemes without Ramaphosa’s active assistance as head of the deployment committee.

In addition to his critical role in deploying looters to capture the state, Ramaphosa is also a key architect of the corruption and decline caused by BEE. As a BEE billionaire who leveraged his political connections, he is not only a principal beneficiary of the policy. He is also an outspoken activist for further intensifying BEE, as evidenced most recently by his commitment to only supporting businesses in the tourism industry decimated by lockdown if the owners have the “correct” skin colour. Now just watch as tourism “businesses” owned by ANC cadres suddenly mushroom over the coming months.

If we are really serious about tackling state capture at the root of the rot, it is time to admit that the ANC, with its policies of cadre deployment and BEE, is the fundamental cause of ongoing looting and SA’s resultant decline. We need to admit that the Guptas were only one part of the bigger project of state capture, and that none of their misdeeds would have been possible without cadre deployment and BEE. And we need to do away with the convenient fallacy that a few isolated rogues simply waltzed in and stole R1.5-trillion from the people of SA.

State capture was not some unhappy accident. State capture has always been the explicitly stated goal of the ANC. The sooner we recognise that the ANC and its ideology is the problem, the sooner we can hold everyone from Zuma to Ramaphosa accountable for their mutually reinforcing roles in state capture, and the sooner we can begin the hard work of freeing the state from their poisonous tentacles.

• Dr Schreiber is a DA MP and public service and administration spokesperson

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