US president Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen last week provided fascinating insight into the workings of the Trump machinery in his testimony to the House of Representatives oversight committee.

“Everybody’s job at the Trump Organization is to protect Mr Trump. Every day, most of us knew we were coming in and we were going to lie for him on something, and that became the norm,” Cohen said under heavy grilling from pro-Trump committee members.

“And that’s exactly what’s happening right now in this country,” he said. “That’s exactly what’s happening here in government, sir.”

Cohen is no paragon of virtue. He has been disbarred and sentenced to three years in jail for fraud, tax evasion, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress. He is, however, exactly the kind of slippery character Trump needed to mop up his sexual and financial misdemeanours. Former president Jacob Zuma also needed an unusual skills set around him. He required ministers, key officials in the state, political allies and body men who were blindly faithful, who would readily implement the instructions of the Guptas, and who would defend him to the hilt even when he violated the constitution. Evidence being reeled out at the Zondo commission shows how the state was “repurposed” and institutions paralysed so that Zuma’s various benefactors could plunder at will. Judge Raymond Zondo asked former finance minister Trevor Manuel on Thursday who could have stopped state capture and when the ANC national executive committee (NEC) became aware of it. Manuel said MPs and the NEC might not ...

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