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Read an excerpt from Ivor Chipkin and Mark Swilling’s Shadow State: The Politics of State Capture

The 2017 publication of Betrayal of the Promise, the report that detailed the systematic nature of state capture, marked a key moment in South Africa’s most recent struggle for democracy.

In the face of growing evidence of corruption and of the weakening of state and democratic institutions, it provided, for the first time, a powerful analysis of events that helped galvanise resistance within the Tripartite Alliance and across civil society.

Working often secretly, the authors consolidated, for the first time, large amounts of evidence from a variety of sources.

They showed that the Jacob Zuma administration was not simply a criminal network but part of an audacious political project to break the hold of whites and white business on the economy and to create a new class of black industrialists. State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) such as Eskom and Transnet were central to these plans.

The report introduced a whole new language to discuss state capture, showing how SOEs were ‘repurposed’, how political power was shifting away from constitutional bodies to ‘kitchen cabinets’, and how a ‘shadow state’ at odds with the country’s constitutional framework was being built.

Shadow State is an updated version of the original, explosive report that changed South Africa’s recent history.

An extract from this definitive book on state capture was recently featured on the Daily Maverick:

In the classical texts, tyranny, as opposed to despotism, refers to a form of government that breaks its own rules.

This is a useful starting point for discussing political developments in South Africa in the past ten years and the civil society response to it. The ANC government under Jacob Zuma became more and more tyrannical as it set itself up against the Constitution and the rule of law in an effort to capture the state.

In moves reminiscent of events in the 1980s, independent journalists, social movements, trade unions, legal aid centres, NGOs, the churches and some academics have helped mobilise South African society against state capture. A new and varied movement has arisen, bringing together awkward partnerships between ideologically disparate groups and people.

What they have nonetheless shared is a broad support for the Constitution, for democracy and for a modern, professional administration, and they are all, broadly speaking, social democratic in orientation.

The publication of the Betrayal of the Promise report, on which this book is based, constituted a key moment, helping to provide this movement with a narrative and concepts for expressing a systemic perspective on state capture that helped its readers to, in the words of former Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan, ‘join the dots’.

The particular instance of so-called ‘state capture’ that we discuss in this book is part of a familiar and recurring pattern in the history of state formation in South Africa. It is, in fact, impossible to understand the evolution of South African politics and statecraft without understanding the deeper dynamics of what we refer to today as state capture.

There is a clear and direct line of sight from the origins of the state in the Cape Colony, when it was ‘captured’ by the Dutch East India Company, through to the era of Cecil Rhodes and ‘Milner’s Kindergarten’ – the name popularly given to the young British civil servants who served under High Commissioner Alfred, Lord Milner – in post-Boer War South Africa.

The world that the first generations of mining magnates, the so-called Randlords, built on the Witwatersrand provided the foundation for the election victory of the National Party in 1948.

The post-1948 state actively supported the build-up of Afrikaner capital in a process which effectively captured the state for decades, with the Electricity Supply Commission (Escom, now renamed Eskom) and the South African Railways (now renamed Transnet) at the very centre of that political project.

The corporate capture of the apartheid war- and sanctions-busting machine has been well documented, with arms manufacturer Armscor (renamed Denel after 1994) at its centre.

Also well documented is the powerful role played by corporate South Africa during the transition, to ensure that a democratic state could do little to change the basic structure of the economy.

This was a form of capture in that powerful elite interests subverted the broad vision of transformation that inspired the mass democratic movement that had brought down the apartheid state.

The most recent instance of state capture has galvanised a broad-based coalition of forces that share a commitment to building an uncaptured South African state.

This is what our Constitution envisages.

The choice must not be between different forms of capture, it must be between capture and no capture. In taking this stand we are going up against the defeatist view on both the left and right that ‘the state is always captured, so why the fuss?’

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