Oscar Van Heerden: State Capture and why a Nasrec victory was so crucially important

The recent and ongoing revelations coming out of the Zondo Commission on State Capture further underscore not only the extent of the rot, but more importantly, the extent of the patronage network that benefited and stood to benefit more had the Zuma faction won at Nasrec in December 2017.

Of utmost importance is the fact that State Capture was not just a criminal enterprise, it was a political project. A book written by Ivor Chipkin and Mark Swilling, Shadow State, The Politics of State Capture, succinctly outlines how the structuring of the capture of the state occurs. It states that “the nexus between the constitutional and shadow state depends on the integration of a range of skills similar to those present in most international corporations. The composition of the Zuma-centred power elite is in many respects, highly organised, following the structure of what in academic terms is called ‘war economy’. In a war economy the shadow state establishes a number of informal structures which produce systems of ‘profit, power and protection’ that, in turn, serve to further their operations, making possible continued preferential access to resources and power through an exploitative economic system”. They explain further that one of the key requirements in establishing these shadow structures is the ability to secure a system of command and control over the way the resources are accessed, moved and distributed. The Saxonwold shebeen springs to mind, where such power and distribution occurred. Once access to the source of extraction is secured, networks of middlemen or brokers must be established that can move resources externally (Dubai among others), usually transnationally, to sustain loyalty. Chipkin and Swilling say that the skills of this patronage network are localised within a number of groups. The network consist of three elements: The controllers, the elites and the entrepreneurs (also known as the brokers). The controllers, or patrons, of resources sit at the apex and are usually the strongmen directly responsible for predation and exploitation. Their function is to secure access to and maintain control of resources. This they do at the exclusion of those elites who are out of favour. This creates an atmosphere of fear among the elites of being ousted, or falling out of favour with the patron(s). Jacob Zuma and the Guptas were controllers. The elites, on the other hand, establish and maintain patronage networks, which facilitate the distribution of benefits. In South Africa, besides some of the known politicians, we also have Anoj Singh (Eskom), Brian Molefe (Transnet & Eskom), and many more. The entrepreneurs or brokers are middlemen who facilitate the movement of funds, information and/or goods both domestically and across transnational networks, using recruitment networks, lending networks, remittance transfers and smuggling networks. Examples here, according to the book, are Transnet’s Iqbal Sharma, Eric Wood, CEO of Gupta company Trillian, Salim Essa and Ashok Narayan, former MD of the Guptas’ Sahara Computers. These people secure domestic and cross-border operations through which resources can be moved to international “clearing hubs” and enter legitimate trade activities. So, let’s not reduce this undertaking to one of criminality only — it would be a mistake. By the way, another such State Capture political project happened in South Africa before 1994, so it is nothing new. The apartheid National Party government did exactly the same thing to the benefit of by and large the Afrikaner minority, whether it be through forced removals to give better land to themselves, or be it huge subsidies for large-scale Afrikaner farmers to ensure success, or subsidies for huge co-operatives such as KWV and Distell, to mention a few. They created numerous employment opportunities for Afrikaners at the expense of others in state owned enterprises such as Eskom, Telkom, Sasol, SAA, the Post Office, Transnet and government departments in general. I mention this not to justify Zuma’s failed project, but to simply illustrate that just like we the people ultimately had to put a stop to a predatory apartheid state, so too did we have to put a stop to the Zupta project. I’m here to tell you, even with the academics’ report on State Capture, the SA Council of Churches Unburdening Panel report, the 101 Veterans’ activism and #GuptaLeaks, the fact is that all these would have been rendered useless because the Zuma faction was firmly in charge of the Nasrec conference and its processes last December. Registration, accreditation and verification of provincial delegations, all were closely monitored over the months leading up to the conference. State apparatus was brought to bear to ensure a particular outcome. Millions was lost in this endeavour by the Zuma group. The CR17 camp did not stand a chance, I’m afraid. They were disorganised, at times seeming not to understand the modalities of election politics at the conference and they certainly came to a gunfight with a knife, I thought at one point. Which had been the case at the previous two ANC National Conferences as well, both Polokwane and Mangaung. In Polokwane the Thabo Mbeki group thought they were in opposition with principled cadres, After all, it is your democratic right to challenge any possible contender for the top job in the ANC, but they were mistaken. The Zuma group was unprincipled, they violated the ANC constitution, they intimidated and manipulated branches, regions and provinces. They bribed at will and hence ensured that they mustered the necessary votes and support at the conference. Now, when you deal with such unscrupulous characters, you will lose, which is exactly what happened at Turfloop, outside Polokwane. I say again, State Capture was not just a criminal enterprise, it was a political project. I am the first to state the obvious — the outcome of Nasrec was not perfect, but in order to stop this destructive project from repeating itself, it meant entering into certain political compromises, as long as the real enemy was defeated. But the defeat and total destruction of the State Capture project is incomplete. The outcome and subsequent corrective measures after the Zondo Commission is of crucial importance. Hence, Deputy Chief Justice, Zondo, we cannot afford the commission ending up as simply a witch hunt. With a general election looming large on the horizon, President Cyril would be best advised to ensure that some, including the Gupta brothers, are arrested to send a clear message to all: Never again will we allow such plunder. It seems, too, as if the ANC has left the building. Where is the support for Mcebisi Jonas during his testimony or others that have dared to come forward and reveal all. Where are the leagues, the NEC types, the Top Six? It would behove the SA prosecutorial authorities to contact Interpol, the government and the monarchy in the United Arab Emirates to extradite the Guptas to where they will face the full force of our laws and when found guilty, to spend the rest of their natural days behind bars. I fear that anything less will hurt our country and its collective psyche far beyond just what the upcoming general election might do. DM