South Africa

THE INTERVIEW

Thuli Madonsela: South Africans should question whether State Capture is really over

With the release of the final report from the State Capture commission that Thuli Madonsela set in motion, the former Public Protector warns of the gravity of what has been uncovered.

Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela wants the public to take away one urgent lesson from the findings of the State Capture commission: there is a critical difference between corruption and State Capture.

Speaking to Daily Maverick two days after the release of the final Zondo report, Madonsela said it was vital to understand how much more “nefarious” State Capture is.

In the case of ordinary corruption, she says, people are bribed for financial gain. But in the case of State Capture, people are not just being bribed, but being placed into certain key state roles to carry out specific actions.

“You [as a State Capture perpetrator] have substituted yourself for the democratic process. This is the undermining of democracy by hijacking the state,” Madonsela said.

She believes that it is crucial that the State Capture commission’s findings reach as many people as possible, because: “People should be afraid that this happened and that it could happen again.”

Given the way in which secretive government bodies like the State Security Agency have been revealed to have been captured, Madonsela questions how certain we should be that State Capture is indeed over.

“What were the [State Capture] leviathan’s tentacles?” she asks. “Have they all been chopped?”

The commission Madonsela set in motion

There might not have been a commission of inquiry into State Capture at all had Madonsela, in her capacity as Public Protector, not directed former president Jacob Zuma to establish such a commission as one of the remedial actions contained in her final report, “State of Capture”.

That report was released on the eve of Madonsela’s departure as Public Protector, in October 2016. Looking back now, she says there were two aspects of the context of the time that led her to set down this particular directive.

“We clearly had a report [investigating State Capture] which we could not conclude because of the vastness of the work, and the Public Protector had no capacity to do this. Secondly, people like Jacob Zuma, his son and the Guptas had made themselves unavailable to answer [our questions].”

The original vision she had of what a judicial commission of inquiry into State Capture would investigate was far more limited than that which would eventually come to pass. In essence, Madonsela envisaged this commission answering the following: “Was the Minister of Finance fired because the president was captured by the Guptas, and was this part of a plot to capture [the South African government’s] procurement system?”

In an interview with Daily Maverick in April last year, Madonsela expressed concerns about the extent to which the Zondo Commission’s scope ended up expanding. Today, she stands by that position.

“In his own words, the Chief Justice [Zondo] confirmed that the expansion prevented deepening the focus. And of course it took longer, it took more money.”

But Madonsela also now believes that there were real benefits to the expanded scope of the commission. If it had confined itself to the question she originally expected it to answer, the final report “would not have given us the full picture of this web, this criminal syndicate”. 

In short: “We have a clearer picture [now] than we would have, had the [commission’s original] mandate remained”, Madonsela says.

“I honestly think the Chief Justice did a stellar job. [The commission] has given us something that no country has had the opportunity of: a very clear picture of the systematic hijacking of the state.”

Madonsela’s key takeaways from the commission’s work

The former Public Protector has not yet had a chance to read the full final Zondo report. Madonsela’s current work teaching law at Stellenbosch University and assisting with numerous social justice campaigns means that she also did not have the time to follow the proceedings of the commission in a comprehensive way, although she has extensive familiarity with the terrain it was investigating. 

One of her further concerns is that the public understands the extent to which she believes former president Zuma should be viewed as culpable in the project of State Capture.

“We keep talking about the Guptas having captured the state. But really it became a joint enterprise between the Guptas, Zuma and his son [Duduzane]. We keep making Zuma look like he was just the recipient of a bribe.”

This perception allows Zuma to escape far too lightly, Madonsela contends: “He was not just an enabler. He was an enabler and a perpetrator. And Duduzane is not an innocent child.”

The ANC, too, should not be allowed to wriggle off the hook: “Clearly the ‘governing party’ was not governing,” she says.

In terms of the way forward for South Africa, Madonsela supports one of the recommendations contained in the final Zondo report: that some form of permanent anti-corruption commission be established.

“Most countries have an anti-corruption commission, and it really works,” she says. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.

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All Comments 12

  • As usual, Madonsela hits the nail on the head. She would get a great deal of support if she can be persuaded to stand for President as an independent(non-political party) President. The powers of the President of South Africa need to be reconfigured.

  • It certainly is a good idea that Thulu should get more directly involved in SA politics again, to help keeping those in power on the straight and narrow. After all, she was one of those who were still young when the struggle was going on and who will have the best appreciation of what it cost to get a SA where everyone is free (I think she was one of those arrested without really having done anything wrong in the 1980’s); she will be able to stay in the fray for longer than most of the others. And if those with the moral conscience and understanding of both what could have been, had we not have the SA Constitution, and of what the intention of the SA Constitution’s clauses were (she was also involved with its’ writing in the mid ’90’s) can stay in the process for as long as possible, then just MAYBE, when they depart, the democractic culture of SA society will be deeply enough embedded psychologically so we as society will be able to sustain it pro-actively.

  • This country remains grateful for your continued bravery and willingness to speak out about state capture. Judging by treasury audits, I would hazard a guess that corruption remains (state capture) remains rife in municipalities and other areas such as the health system.

  • Great article that should be read by ALL in SA. Especially supporters of the vile ANC. This is central to fighting the scourge… The DA’s court challenge against ANC cadre deployment is now likely the single most important court case in South Africa. More than any other individual action, it is this court case and the abolition of cadre deployment that will determine whether our country will ever be freed from ANC state capture.

    DM please give the DA FULL CREDIT for this positive and very important action.

  • We all need to be eternally grateful to Thuli Madonsela for being brave against all odds
    She deserves a knighthood (or South African equivalent)

  • Let’s not be distracted by the nonsensical utterances of the Zuma Foundation.
    There is only one reality…. at the heart of state capture is Zuma, also resulting in the wide spread corruption that followed.
    If ordinary South Africans aren’t angry its because there is ignorance to this reality.

  • I agree with Prof Madonsela “He was an enabler and a perpetrator.” Too many political commentators and many in the general public view (or viewed) Jacob Zuma as an unintelligent buffoon. Granted, he doesn’t have a formal education, but that does not mean he isn’t politically savvy or is stupid. JZ knows exactly how to manipulate and threaten people, and he surrounded himself with quite a few corrupt people to carry out his agenda. His agenda was never about country first and upholding democracy.

    Prof Madonsela notes “Secondly, people like Jacob Zuma, his son and the Guptas had made themselves unavailable to answer [our questions].” And he refused to answer questions at the commission, citing some bogus reasons of CJ Zondo hating him etc. Plenty of opportunities to clear his name – telling that he never made use of those opportunities.

    A huge thank you to Prof Madonsela for ensuring the work continued (in the form of a commission) when her term of office as Public Protector ended.

    • I agree…most if not all Mafia bosses were crude, uneducated but brutal and hungry for power.
      This made them very effective in getting what they want. However, live by the sword, die by the sword – my question remains the same – when will Zuma die by the sword?

  • Yes, that would be a dream come true. Sadly she would meet the same resistance from those at the trough as Cyril has. The cancer has metastasised throughout the body politic and can only be rooted out by radical surgery.
    Begin with outlawing cadre deployment, more damaging even than the Guptas.

  • I understand that Zondo indicated he did not have the time to investigate the SAPS. I would say that another similar commission must be put in place ASAP, to do the same as he did with State Capture to the SAPS and everything that is corrupt in that sector of SA society also.

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