Eusebius on TimesLIVE
PODCAST | #DebatingZondoPart4 — utterly pointless or closer to justice now?
TimesLIVE contributor and analyst Eusebius McKaiser hosted a Twitter spaces conversation with senior Sunday Times investigative reporter Thanduxolo Jika in which they explored whether the latest instalment of the Zondo commission's report into state capture gets us closer to justice.
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The first part of the conversation delved into some of the commission's findings to then explore the implications for SA's democracy. Jika, who has covered the state capture story for many years, detailed examples from part 4 of the Zondo report, such as the Free State asbestos debacle, that establish the facts of grand-scale looting from the state.
He points out that the commission was able to connect many dots forensically, such as former president Jacob Zuma's ubiquitous presence in the Gupta brothers' execution of their state capture project. The centrality of Zuma is now well established. The losers are millions of people who did not receive state services they were legally entitled to and politically promised, such as the removal of asbestos.
McKaiser and Jika also explored the usefulness of part 4 in helping us understand the energy insecurity SA continues to experience. The capture of Eskom, and the protagonists responsible, are detailed in painstaking minutiae that will enable the NPA to begin criminal investigations.
The report is not, however, without weaknesses. McKaiser argues that the role of consulting firm McKinsey is underemphasised in the story of Eskom's capture. He warned that private players who pay back nominal amounts of money they received from unlawful contracts do so pre-emptively to stop bad publicity about their role in state capture. The findings against these companies, he argues, ought to be more damning and their true total contribution to economic ruin is yet to be properly calculated.
Jika added that similarly, the ANC needs to be held politically and legally accountable. He agreed with McKaiser that minister Pravin Gordhan's attempt to moralise, in a story run in the Sunday Times about state capture criminals, is disingenuous insofar as the ANC itself needs to be judged for enabling state capture and benefiting from it. They debated the tendency of some in the ANC to insist that the party can easily be divided into two camps: constitutionalists wholly committed to the rule of law and anti-constitutionalists who chip away at our democratic foundations. In reality, argues McKaiser, there is one ANC and it has yet to be fully held liable for years of state capture.
The conversation ended with a debate on how to characterise the SA state. There was agreement that it is important to watch out for the signs of a democratic state that has been sliding towards a gangster state, including the politicisation of the criminal justice system. While words such as “thugs” trigger many ANC leaders, McKaiser argues that the idea of a gangster state is not inflammatory or rhetorical, but a serious political concept that applies to the current reality. This is why, added Jika, the ANC has been eager over the years to politicise appointments such as deciding who the head of the NPA should be and who gets seconded to state-owned companies' boards.
When the state gets repurposed for perpetual looting, corruption evolves to state capture and a gangster state is formed. Zondo's recommendations on how to depoliticise many of these appointments is crucial to rebuilding the state.
McKaiser and Jika ended by framing a set of further questions — such as how we might reduce the reliance on political parties in all political systems — as issues to think about beyond the scope of the Twitter conversation convened on Friday, which is now also archived as a podcast episode on Eusebius on TimesLIVE, available on all podcast platforms.
To listen to previous episodes, go here.
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