The beginning of the end for state capture in South Africa

outloud title bar[notice]A monthly column by Vivienne Solomons who is a legal consultant who passionately believes that God wants His people to make a difference right where they are and to stand up for what is true and just. She is also passionate about encouraging young women to walk victoriously with God and she is engaged in a challenging faith journey as a parent of a child with special needs.[/notice]

Atul Gupta and President Jacob Zuma. (PHOTO: IOL)

If I am honest, there are days when I despair of being a South African living in South Africa. I am sure you can relate. Sometimes the events that are played out across the political landscape threaten to overwhelm and I find myself having to fight my way out of a negative mindset.

It is then that I have to encourage myself in the Word and pray. Even if I don’t feel like it. Even when the circumstances scream crisis at every turn.

Faith stirred
Then there are days like today when my faith in our country is stirred up anew and hope for a thriving democracy is fanned into flame once again.

For today, November 2 2016, the Office of the Public Protector released the much anticipated State of Capture Report on an investigation into alleged improper and unethical conduct by the President and other state functionaries relating to alleged improper relationships and involvement of the Gupta family in the removal and appointment of Ministers and Directors of State-Owned Enterprises, in accordance with the ruling of the North Gauteng High Court that it be made public by 5pm.

As many of us are by now aware, state capture is a form of grand corruption. The World Bank defines it as the efforts of firms to shape the laws, policies, and regulations of the state to their own advantage by providing illicit private gains to public officials.

The International Monetary Fund has explained state capture in this way: While most types of corruption are focused on changing the implementation of existing laws, rules and regulations with respect to the one paying the bribe, state capture is where corrupt efforts are directed toward influencing how these laws, rules and regulations are formed.

State capture classically takes the form of bribes to parliamentarians to ‘buy’ their vote on important pieces of legislation; bribes to public officials to enact favourable regulations; or bribes to judges to influence the outcome of court decisions. This is how firms systematically encode advantages for themselves into the legal and regulatory framework of the economy. Consequently, and here is the sobering part, the capture economy rewards connections over competence and influence over innovation.

On the one hand, it is fuelled by private investments in politics that weaken the state; and on the other it deters private investments in the economy, whether foreign or domestic, creating obstacles to the entry of small and medium-sized enterprises, thus undermining the key sources of sustainable growth.

Sadly but perhaps not surprisingly, and as has been widely reported in the press, the State of Capture Report prepared by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, found that there was evidence of corrupt activities that should be referred to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and was critical of the executive in that it failed to act in response to claims that there had been interference in the appointment of cabinet ministers. Interestingly, the Report also directs President Zuma to, within 30 days, appoint a Commission of Inquiry (in accordance with Chapter 5 of the Constitution) into the state capture matters investigated.

A miracle
While the contents of the Report are a great cause for concern, the fact that the Report has against all odds finally seen the light of day is nothing short of a miracle, proving that our constitutional democracy is very much alive and well. So let us pause and celebrate this milestone. And let us continue to pray for what happens next. For there is much work to be done by all of us in forging this great nation.

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