Zondo commission report: An important omission in Ramaphosa’s address

State capture, the president has said, was an abomination and a trauma.

Imagine for a moment the Jurassic World franchise stripping out all mention of genetics. Or the Alien films dispensing with the space travel. Or the Terminator movies dropping any reference to artificial intelligence.

The movies might still have their attractions – the skop-skiet-en-donner, spellbinding special effects, the snappy one-liners – but they’d be missing their key themes. They’d be content without context, and I can’t see them working for audiences.

If you’ve seen President Cyril Ramaphosa’s response to the Zondo commission report and its recommendations, you’ll have a sense of this.

State capture is a betrayal

State capture, the president has said, was an abomination and a trauma.

It represented a fulsome betrayal of South Africa’s democracy, economic prospects and its people’s aspirations. To deal with all this, the president has compiled a 76-page response. Just how effective this is likely to be remains to be seen.

ALSO READ: Amended state capture report released

It’s heavy on prosecutions, asset recovery, strengthening some institutions and processes while instituting others.

So, assuming it’s taken seriously, there may be some explosive political action (though since government is not an action flick, maybe this will be a matter of years).

Some of this will be a lot less dramatic but, ultimately, a lot more important.

Ramphosa’s last address

In his address last Sunday, the president said: “We see the effects of state capture in other areas, in our weakened institutions, in the substantial public debt of some of our institutions, in poor service delivery and in diminished public confidence in the state.”

NOW READ: Ramaphosa to address nation on Zondo state capture report

Perhaps the most important part of his response is in omission. The Zondo commission wrote an exhaustive critique and unambiguous condemnation of cadre deployment, nary a word of which has merited a mention in the official response.

Illegal and unconstitutional was how Zondo described it. Accurately enough. With no authority to do so, a party committee would meet and determine (recommend, sorry) candidates for positions in institutions designed to be impartial, meritocratic and career-oriented.

This was the original, unabashed exercise of state capture. It has also been a feature of the country since the late 1990s.

It is a contributor not only to the failings of everyday governance, but to the integrity of the institutions on which that governance depends. State capture cannot be understood without it.

To ignore this is the political equivalent of writing Dr Henry Wu, Ingen and BioSyn out of Jurassic World, Weyland Yutani out of Alien or Skynet out of Terminator. The plot cannot be understood without them. Nor can it be resolved without an appropriate reckoning.

Left in place, each of these villains was likely to continue doing what it was scripted to do. Left in place, cadre deployment will ensure the ongoing degradation of our institutions and the continuing crises of governance.

Sadly, the only response from the president has been a hearty defence of the practice.

Illegality and practical damage

Perhaps this is not surprising. To admit both the illegality and practical damage this has done would be to call into a question the moral and political claims the ANC has made as a party of government and as a movement ordained by history.

“There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves” goes a line from the Terminator films. Having chosen the fate that brought us to this point, the question is what fate those in power will make for our future.

-Corrigan is project manager at the Institute of Race Relations

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Cyril Ramaphosa State Capture Zondo Commission

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