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State Capture: The imperfect metaphor

28 Jul 2019 at 09:20hrs | Views
Language and its expressions and metaphors does not only deliver messages and meaning but it can also do a lot to hide the truth.

In that way language can be used, sometimes innocently and at times in true bad faith, to conceal rather than reveal fundamental truths.

The term "state capture" that has over the past few years impregnated South African political vocabulary is a telling example of how language can be used, here naively and there fraudulently, to hide the real factuality of things.  

The catchy metaphor of "state capture" buries rather than unmasks the veracity of the South African political and economic condition a good 25 years after what was supposed to be decolonisation and liberation of the fancy Republic. The true historical and political captivity of the South African state is effectively concealed behind clouds of dust about "state capture" that is a symptom of the captivity of the state and not the fundamental malady, I observe.

Much like witchcraft in the village where jostling neighbours accuse each other of the sin as a perfect insult and stick with which to bruise each other's egos, "state capture" is used by feuding politicians in South Africa to politically sjambok each other, and that opportunistic political habit and language keeps hidden the true captivity of the post-apartheid state of the South African post-colony.

The Continental Cancer of the


What is simplistically called "South African exceptionalism" by some scholars and journalists is a bad political habit that some black South Africans inherited from the racist apartheid regime.

The tendency to think that South Africa is another place and another country if not a piece of Europe in Africa is South African exceptionalism par excellence. Yes, there are some South African politicians and other thinkers who carry the very mistaken idea that the Republic is fundamentally different from other African countries if not just superior and an embodiment of national grandeur.

It is that political tendency and habit that has led some scholars and some politicians and journalists to believe that things that happen in South Africa are other things and are not similar to the things that happen in the rest of Africa. Instead of calling it what it exactly is, corruption and political patronage, the South African exceptionalists elect to call it "state capture" which perhaps gives the bad habit an air of fancy superiority.

Truth is that after the cold and rainy days of juridical colonialism politicians of the post-colonies of the Global South had grown an appetite for comforts, riches and wealth itself. When political independence finally arrived the "waBeinz" as Ngugi wa Thiongo called them, used their access and control of state power to enrich themselves, families and friends.

Ngugi's classic novel, Devil on the Cross, fictively describes how greedy politicians and businesspeople of the post-colonies brought the devil of colonialism back to life by looting state coffers, teaming up with foreign businesspeople to rob nations of their resources. Africa and Latin America found themselves with some politicians that through "primitive accumulation," looting and using the state as a business enterprise became richer than their countries.

Many of what are counted as great businesspeople in Africa and Latin America are actually what I can call "politiprenuers," people that take advantage of political connections and political patronage to make big money.

The true name of that evil political habit and tendency is corruption through political patronage, not "state capture" as some South African scholars and journalists lazily describe what is happening in the Republic, where big businesses bribe politicians in exchange for business opportunities, tenders and other lucrative contracts.

Corruption through political patronage is a continental cancer of the post-colonies and has led to deeper impoverishment of the nations that had already been displaced and dispossessed by colonialism and imperialism.

Corruption through political patronage turned some political leaders in the continent into colonialists in dark skins that, at the expense of the polities and economies of their countries looted the natural resources of the countries.

The miraculous success of such countries of Asia as Singapore is owed to the strong way in which they totally eradicated corruption. And the poverty and misery of some countries of Latin America and Africa is explicable through the way in which corruption among politicians and the business elite was not only turned into common sense but was naturalised. The corruption of big politicians and businesspeople sets a bad example for civil servants and other common people in the countries who also take chances and use their positions to loot.  

When corruption through political patronage becomes commonsense and is naturalised politics and leadership quickly decay. Big politicians no longer have advisors but get surrounded by choirs of enterprising flatterers and praise singers that spurn praises and celebrations even for the silliest decisions of the leaders.

Most African leaders get insulated from the true reality of their countries by opportunistic sycophants and flatters that would praise even the way the leader chews food and steps on the soil as she or he walks.

Flatterers and sycophants can be the true evil enemies of the nations when they are allowed to thrive by lonely leaders that are hungry for praises and flattery. It is for that reason that, perhaps the greatest technician of power in the western world, Niccolo Machiavelli wrote of "why flatterers must be avoided" by astute princes of the kingdoms and principalities. South Africa must look at political patronage and corruption within the Republic straight in the eye and stop pretending that it is something else; "State Capture," because it is not.

The True Captivity of the States

The nation-states that the Global South inherited from colonialism were imposed on countries already captured. The states in the Global South became those usable institutions that Empire used to control countries and to manage and disciplined angry and poor populations, the nations. In that way, the true state capture in South Africa and other countries of the Global South is in how political independence did not lead to liberation.

The real state capture in the fancy Republic hides in how the wealth and resources of the land remain monopolised by the white population and a few privileged blacks. True state capture is systemic and structural in the way in which it is even protected by the courts and constitutions of the Global South. Corruption through political patronage that I have described above is a continental cancer that is eating away the economies and the polities of the South and must be dealt with through such rage and firmness as Singapore has exemplified. State capture as historical, systemic and structural corruption must be confronted for what it is: coloniality.  

To call corruption through political patronage state capture is to criminally apologise for real state capture by calling rats elephants and treating symptoms as diseases.

The term "state capture" as it is used to describe corruption through political patronage is an imperfect metaphor that is used to hide rather than expose true state capture by vampiric capitalist and racist coloniality.

 Cetshwayo Zindabazezwe Mabhena writes from Sunnyside, Pretoria:

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