"We didn't invent state capture, we just perfected it!"

John Kane-Berman writes on what a fly on the wall at the Saxonwold Shebeen may be hearing

Oh, to be a fly on the wall in Saxonworld!

Many years ago South African Airways used to run an advertisement which stated, "We didn't invent flying, we just perfected it". A family in Saxonworld would be entitled to make a similar claim today: "We didn't invent state capture, we just perfected it."

They certainly did not invent it. That was done long ago by various regimes, including those ruling in the name of religious, communist, or fascist ideologies, who saw control of the state as essential to consolidate their power. Separation of church and state was vital to the growth of democracy. Its absence in much of the Middle East helps to explain why the development of many of those countries has been so retarded.

In South Africa, capture of the state in the name of the national democratic revolution was a key aspiration of the African National Congress (ANC) long before it got into power. Once the South African Communist Party (SACP) had captured the mind of the ANC, the latter party's adoption of revolutionary ideology followed logically. Its main instrument was cadre deployment. There was never any secret about this, nor any opposition to it from either the SACP or the third partner in the so-called tripartite alliance, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).  

Anyone who believed that cadre deployment would not be abused by cabinet ministers and party apparatchiks for personal enrichment was naive. It would nevertheless be rather entertaining now to be a fly on the wall at the famous compound in Saxonworld.

What would they be saying? First voice: "Who could have imagined in our wildest dreams that getting control of all those people running their rainbow nation would be so easy!?  Absolutely a piece of cake! We have not only the president of one of the two or three largest economies in Africa dancing to our tune, but also some of his cronies in the Cabinet, plus a whole bunch of directors of various government companies. Talk about colonialism!"   

Second voice. "True enough, but there have been a couple of mis-steps, such as that job offer to Jonas. Stupid man let the cat out of the bag, but you cannot win 'em all! We'll have to watch young Malusi closely to make sure he doesn't screw things up for us at the Treasury like that old fool Gordhan did. The courts can be a problem, so we will have to fix that by vetting appointments to the Judicial Service Commission. One of these days we will be able to get a couple of the "learned friends" over here to the shebeen to offer them jobs on the Bench. That really would be the cherry on the top!"     

Third voice, as picked up by our intrepid eavesdropper on the wall: "I was a bit worried about all that hysteria forcing those silly buggers at the banks to close our accounts for fear of breaking some stupid international rule. But we can fix that too, no problem whatsoever. After all, ol' Jacob told all the ratings agencies to get stuffed, which most people thought he would never do."    

Back to the first voice: "All this bad publicity is a bit of a nuisance. On the other hand it's quite amusing to see some of these old commies and strugglers getting so het up about their own party. Would you believe it, some of them are even telling the comrades in Parliament to go and vote alongside all those white racists and clever blacks in the DA and all those guys in red overalls to chuck Zuma out. That would really be a laugh. They don't have the gonads, of course, so it won't happen. But it will be a real giggle to watch them holding their noses as they vote to keep the old skelm in power. Ka-ching!"  

* John Kane-Berman is a policy fellow at the IRR, a think-tank that promotes political and economic freedom. His memoirs, Between Two Fires - Holding the Liberal Centre in South African Politics, have just been published.