What part of state capture don't they like?

John Kane-Berman says getting rid of President Zuma will be only half the battle won

You cannot be a supporter of the African National Congress (ANC) without favouring state capture any more than you could previously be a supporter of the National Party (NP) without being in favour of apartheid.

Even though a growing number of people in the African National Congress (ANC) as well as in the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) are bewailing the goings-on between President Jacob Zuma and the Gupta family, one thing the two parties and their union allies have always had in common is commitment to bring about a National Democratic Revolution in South Africa.

Key components of this revolutionary agenda include deploying loyal party cadres to capture all centres of power. The policy has been zealously implemented ever since the ANC came to power. There has never been any secret about it.   

Few of the ANC and SACP supporters currently up in arms at the president's behaviour have ever objected to this policy of state capture. In their eyes, what Mr Zuma has done wrong is to abuse it. Instead of using it to commandeer the state to benefit his party and its communist and union allies, he has used it to enrich himself, his family, and their business associates, some resident in Saxonwold, others at the helm of one or another state-owned company.  

When the head of one such company, Eskom, used his position some years ago to secure funding for the ANC via Chancellor House, there was little objection from all those ANC luminaries now queuing up to save South Africa from Mr Zuma.

Nor had very many of them objected when President Thabo Mbeki and the then speaker of the National Assembly, Frene Ginwala, torpedoed the investigation by the parliamentary standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) into the R47 million arms deal out of which the charges now facing Mr Zuma arise. Mr Zuma's never-ending attempts to thwart investigations into his behaviour merely echo a precedent set 17 years ago by the ANC and its obedient parliamentary caucus.

One of those now in revolt against Mr Zuma is a former ANC secretary general, Cheryl Carolus. She says she will not "forgive" him for allowing "tsotsis" to capture the ANC and the country. Yes, but if she and others succeed in getting rid of Mr Zuma, what then? Will it be back to business as usual for the benefit of the party instead of for Mr Zuma and his associates?

Or will Ms Carolus and the others now in revolt against Mr Zuma insist that the ANC disband all its deployment committees? Will they demand that the public service is no longer viewed as a centre of power to be captured via cadre deployment? Will public servants be told to do their constitutional duties instead of their revolutionary ones?   

One of those in revolt against Mr Zuma, Sipho Pityana, chairman of AngloGold Ashanti, recently said that deployment had become "vulgarised and used as a blunt instrument to bring in people who do not have any prospect of making a positive impact". Reuel Khosa, former chairman of Nedbank, went much further. "Our governing bureaucracy," he said, "is replete with [deployed] people clogging the system, squatting like parasites, and feeding the corruption monster. Deployment is the arch enemy of employment based on meritocracy and runs counter to good governance and ethical leadership."  

To hear anyone in business criticising cadre deployment is as rare as it is refreshing. Whether or not he serves out his term of office, replacing Mr Zuma with someone more ethical will be a great step forward for the country. But it will be only half the battle won. The real prize will be to get rid of the entire revolutionary ideology that drives the ANC and its allies and enables them to batten upon the state.       

* John Kane-Berman is a policy fellow at the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), a think-tank promoting political and economic freedom.