South Africans should not fool themselves into thinking that large-scale government corruption only started with the rise to power of the ANC, journalist and author Pieter-Louis Myburgh said on Wednesday.
The apartheid government left a “very usable blueprint” for state capture, News24 investigative journalist Myburgh said at a discussion hosted by the Centre for Constitutional Rights and the School of Public Leadership on the extent and implications of state capture, which Myburgh said was “certainly present” before 1994.
“We shouldn’t kid ourselves that the advent of corruption is one that only occurred with the rise to power of the ANC-led government,” said Myburgh.
He singled out the book Apartheid Guns and Money: A Tale of Profit by Hennie van Vuuren, which delves into who profited from economic crimes committed during the segregation era, saying the book laid out the capturing of the National Party government.
Myburgh, author of The Republic of Gupta, said the difference between corruption and state capture was that corruption was a short-term endeavour.
“State capture is a more endearing, sustained and more structured form of corruption, one with a longer life span. If likened to relationships, corruption would be a one-night stand, while state capture is like a marriage.
“The captor and the captured become long-term bed mates in a sustained and mutually beneficial relationship, a coexistence that is grounded in crooked conduct.”
In an environment where government bases its procurement decisions on the benefits it can expect to derive from the winning bidder, one will almost always end up with a situation where tender laws and regulations are bent and broken to support the most pro-ANC bidders, he said.
‘That is how we end up buying trains that are too tall’
Myburgh said the most unfortunate characteristic of such a procurement environment was that government ends up appointing not the most cost effective and competent service providers, but those who are more willing to pour cash into the ruling party’s coffers.
“That is how we end up buying trains that are too tall. This is how textbooks don’t get delivered to the most impoverished and disenfranchised children in our schooling system.
“And this is how a state-owned power utility spent billions of rands on coal that doesn’t even meet the minimum quality requirements, thereby putting our entire electricity network, and by extension, our entire economy, in jeopardy.”
Legal journalist and author Karyn Maughan agreed that democratic South Africa “learnt how to do this nonsense” from apartheid.
“The looting that occurred from apartheid was extreme. We still don’t know the full extent of it but… there was a blue print for corruption.”
Maughan said it wasn’t helpful pretending that state capture was introduced to South Africa “when the Guptas got on that plane in 1993”.
“It’s always been here. But does that make it okay? No,” she said.
“The poorest of the poor deserve, like all of us do, a government that has authoritative moral leadership. Yes, most governments are corrupt. But when it gets to the extent where people are protecting who they want for finance minister? How can that not be an urgent sense of crisis for us?” — News24