State capture thrives in chaos, it turns out
Leadership was weakened and oversight was given to someone with a keener idea of the looting plan
The testimony of Government Communication & Information System (GCIS) official Phumla Williams to the state capture commission was interrupted by an interesting aside.
Judge Raymond Zondo asked counsel leading the evidence whether testimony about the mismanagement of personnel was relevant to the commission’s terms of reference.
The reply was that it was because — and I am paraphrasing the very articulate reply offered by Kate Hofmeyr — the destruction of the department would in time be shown to be a necessary step for it to fall under the control of the Guptas.
And so, for six years, no director-general was appointed and Williams — who had to stand in — was stripped of key responsibilities and demeaned by the minister, Faith Muthambi.
Williams, who as an ANC activist was "tortured for weeks" by the police, now found herself the victim of a new kind of torture — bureaucratic disempowerment.
"The effects of my torture were back. I was no longer sleeping, I had nightmares. My facial twitches were back. I had panic attacks. I saw torture going through my body again," she said. "I never thought in this government people can do such things."
The full depth of Muthambi’s purpose is yet to be fully revealed before the commission, but Williams was in no doubt about the broad strokes. She put it on record that: "She was cheating the state, because she wanted that procurement at all costs; she wanted to steal at all costs."
An intriguing and particularly damaging effect of state capture has begun to emerge. In order for a government department to fall completely under the spell of the captors, it was first hollowed out.
Leadership was weakened and traditional roles of oversight were removed from responsible persons so that they could reside with someone with a keener idea of the looting plan.
And so the oversight of the SABC — a function of Mutham- bi’s ministry — became shambolic, leading to the unfettered rise of Hlaudi Motsoeneng and his ilk.
The digital migration project was also messed up. All the better to choose options that would enrich the captors.
Williams, in the meantime, has been acting DG for close to six years.
She deserves a medal.