by Lerato Lephatsa
date: 10 April 2016
Recently the country that is South Africa has found itself immersed in what the mainstream media calls “state capture” by a wealthy family called the Guptas, through it’s purported relationship with President Jacob Zuma. It has been alleged that they have huge influence in Cabinet appointments which is constitutionally, the sole prerogative of the President. This has caused a stir in the country with ‘many’ people calling for the resignation of the President, to safeguard the integrity of the country as far they are concerned. It is worth noting what sort of narrative is this argument pursuing. Firstly, it gives the impression that the state is first and foremost an instrument at the service of the people and their interests. Thus it’s capturing through corrupt means, by a family such as the Guptas, impinges the state’s ability to serve the people. This ignores the fact that this state has been an instrument of the ruling class, the one that owns the means of production. As it has protected and continues to protect private ownership of the land and factories, private capital keeps the whole of society in wage-slavery.
The South African State has always been under the influence and control of private capital, in the form of the Ruperts, Oppenheimers, etc. This was underlined by how private capital was at the forefront of “the talks about the talks”, which were forerunners to CODESA. It set the tone and agenda for the end of political apartheid and the transition to the ‘new’ South Africa. This was consistent with the genealogy of the state as first addressed by Engels – that it arose during the division of society into two main classes, the exploiters and the exploited. The state came into being as a result of the ruling class/private capital’s need to enforce its will on the people – to safeguard the interests of the ruling class and appropriate and exploit the labour of the masses. This was proven again by the existence and maintenance of apartheid by the state, in order to retain private ownership of the land and factories, and private capital that kept the whole of society (blacks) in wage-slavery.
Now to argue against the apparent wickedness of the “state capture” by the Gupta family in the midst of the above facts – wherein blacks remain landless and kept in wage-slavery, the same predicament they were in under apartheid – is to obfuscate the real cause of the calls of #ZuptaMustFall. The state as an instrument of coercion by the ruling class is contested terrain for those who wish to advance their interests. As a result the fight for hegemony by the different factions within the ruling ANC and the different private interests they represent, is what #ZuptaMustFall is all about. The rapid rise of the Guptas as private capital, that has the state advancing it’s interests, is a serious threat or at least a cause for concern, to the barons of the SA Economy, the Ruperts et al. In this context the immense influence the Guptas are purported to extert over the current government is seen by President Zuma’s decision to remove Nhlanhla Nene as Finance Minister and replace him with Des Van Rooyen. This send alarm bells ringing to the barons stationed in London, so much so that the SA markets tumbled and the weak rand took a further nosedive. Not necessarily because of the appointment of the new Finance Minister’s capabilities or lack thereof, but because of the signal of a powershift and the threat to the insurmountable influence the London barons seem/ed to enjoy before the Guptas. According to Pinky Khoabane’s input in the debacle, Johan Rupert flew into South Africa and summoned amongst others and in particular, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, his alleged pointman in the ANC, to make sure that the appointment of Van Rooyen and thus the strides the Zupta faction has gained, are reversed at the interest of the London faction. This was to be achieved through the manipulation of the seeming President Zuma’s innumerate flaws and his ‘publicly abhorred’ relationship with the Guptas. These two things were to be and have been used to drum up support and calls for his immediate resignation and the kicking out of the Gupta family from South Africa.
What we are witnessing is a classic case of the state being contested for purposes of serving the interests of certain private capital. It is not the withering away of the state or the loss of it’s ‘sovereignity’. It is the sectarian split the founders of the SA state deem necessary so as to save it from being usurped by the Guptas or by any other private capital outside the London circle. In his notes towards the definition of culture, T.S Eliot remarked that there are moments when the only choice is between heresy and non-belief – i.e., when the only way to keep a religion alive is to perform a sectarian split. To the founders of the nation state that is South Africa, the #ZuptaMustFall meme is the new heresy. It provides the opportunity for white private capital to restore it’s control over it’s creation, the state.
The second aspect of #ZuptaMustFall provides a curious reading, especially from the perspective of democracy and acceptable democratic ethos and practice. Those calling for the resignation of the President at the backdrop of public ‘revelations’ by first Vytjie Mentor, then Mcebisa Jonas and later Thami Maseko, do so without regard to some of the key pillars of democracy. The audi alteram partem principle is one of the cornerstone of democratic practice. It dictates the need to provide the chance to each side to have their version of the story heard. This has been flouted by the #ZuptaMustFall chorus and to this end has completely muted this very obvious practice. President Zuma is called on to step down over untested allegations, without due process being undertaken to prove them and without his side of the story being heard. This underscores the desperation and just how high the stakes are amongst the warring factions. The Slovenian scholar, Slavoj Zizek, in his take of tyranny and in particular Stalinism, argues that the horrors of such is not that bad people do bad things , they always do, but that good people do horrible things thinking they are doing something great. This is the position of most supporters of the calls for the President to step down without due process. They are supporting the flouting of basic democratic fundamentals just to get rid of one man. Yet no one details this better than G.K. Chesterton when he said ‘Men who begin to fight the Church for the sake of freedom and humanity end by flinging away freedom and humanity if only they may fight the Church … The secularists have not wrecked divine things; but the secularists have wrecked secular things, if that is any comfort to them.’ Those purporting to love our ‘hard-earned’ democracy and accusing President Zuma of leading it’s slow erosion and imminent collapse of our democratic institutions, seem eager to fling away democratic practices just to get rid of Zuma. This further highlights the intensity of the battle for the control of the state. The self -styled defenders of our democracy are fascists after their own state capture. To paraphrase Zizek, with saviors like these who needs the Guptas?