Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

It’s been said of President Jacob Zuma’s various court battles that he employs the Stalingrad strategy of attrition. The reference is to the Red Army’s desperate battle for survival against the Nazis in the city in World War 2, fighting building by building. In Zuma’s case, every adverse court judgment would be appealed, every technical loophole explored, every possible delay exploited. But now that his government is assailed by exhaustive documentary evidence of the corruption that has become known as "state capture," the response is not Stalingrad attrition as much as Stalingrad omission.

This is a simple but brilliant tactic, employed where there is no obvious recourse to the courts — even for serial litigators. It consists of routinely ignoring shocking revelations for which there is hard evidence. In this case, the Gupta state capture narrative has been backed by reputable authorities such as the public protector, the SA Council of Churches and academics from our top universities. As there is no longer a culture of shame in SA politics, there is also no expectation that those in office will acknowledge the scandalous nature of what they have been up to, let alone resign on principle. On the rare occasions that anyone does leave office because there is a cloud over his head, as Eskom CEO Brian Molefe claimed to do when confronted with his Gupta links, it seems very easy to change your mind.

Of all office-bearers, none needs to be further above suspicion than the finance minister. Yet Malusi Gigaba, still new to treasury and trying to establish credibility, refused to address the apparently damning detail concerning him in the latest Gupta revelations. He is reported to have said that this is not an issue for a media conference, but for a judicial commission.

This sounds reasonable, until you realise that Zuma’s typical response to difficulties is delaying saying or doing anything; then saying he will do something, like appoint a commission of inquiry, but taking time to actually do it; and, finally, when a commission is appointed, doing everything to encourage it to take its time. Even if a friendly judge is not appointed, commissions are inherently time-consuming — remember the Marikana inquiry — and they can be extended by ensuring the terms of reference are as broad as possible.

It should be no surprise that Zuma and his ministers say they welcome a judicial inquiry into state capture, but that it should also investigate the influence of other business players, not only the Guptas. There has been no evidence of such influence, but a lot of time can be spent looking for ghosts. Then, when the commission finally reports, there can be further delays as the president "applies his mind" to the recommendations, with legal challenges also to be considered.

While all this goes on, the looting of the state can continue — though in other respects (intense media scrutiny, the banks making life difficult for them, the auditors and JSE sponsors of Oakbay withdrawing from the relationship), the space for the Guptas to operate is narrowing by the week.

But why should the Guptas be the only ones to have captured the state? We have already seen that the ANC will not get rid of Zuma, despite the threat he poses to its electoral chances in 2019, simply because it cannot. The myth that there are "good" people in the ANC who are somehow waiting for their opportunity to restore the "good" ANC is rapidly wearing thin.

What is becoming clear is that the network of corruption is far too wide and complex to be the work of one man and a dodgy family.

No, it is not only the state but the ANC itself that has been captured — and it is so in thrall that it cannot resist and does not want to.

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