Home World Politics State Capture, Free Education and Poverty (in South Africa)

State Capture, Free Education and Poverty (in South Africa)


steelknivesThe Zulu greeting, “Sawubona” (meaning “I see you”) has been co-opted as the name for South African Airways’ magazine. 

by Dee McLachlan

Well, I can confirm — terrorism is a thing of the past. On my travels to South Africa, a few weeks ago, I was allowed to eat with a metal knife and fork on South African Airways. Maybe the logic is that if a terrorist hijacks the plane with a metal knife — well, there are 260 passengers also holding knives in retaliation. The airline was more worried about the new Samsung phones with faulty batteries.

I personally find the whole security business such a farce. I avoided the body scanners, but was subjected to the most ridiculous “explosives test” analysis. They should have used that little “swabber” on the rubble of Building 7.

Question to government: Over the millions of travelers, has a single suspect been detained for having a positive explosive residue on his carry on luggage at any  Australian airport?  

South Africa

I was in south Africa for nearly three weeks — just enough to get, once again, the country’s vibrant melting pot of cultures. I find it heartening when I see the youth creating friendship groups across race and colour — much more so that in Australia or America.

During my stay in South Africa there were two issues that dominated the media and a third that dominated my thoughts. 1. Protests at universities for free education, and 2. State Capture, and 3. The widening gap between rich and poor.

Free Education

One might recall my articles 18 months ago when students threw faeces at the statue of Cecil John Rhodes at the University of Cape Town (UCT). This turned into a well-supported and structured movement at the university.

Now it is about free education, and a broader view to modify “colonial” education. The revolt against colonial thinking continues.

“Stun grenades boomed and gunshots crackled as police cleared protesters at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, the most prominent site of a student movement that recently shut other universities and prompted official warnings that badly needed medics, engineers and other skilled workers might not be able to graduate this year.” [Los Angeles Times]

(Note for the Aussie students: Welcome to increasing HECS debt as higher fees loom.)

State Capture

We have all heard about, and are not surprised to learn, that corporations wheedle politicians to work in their interest. Monsanto actually wrote the wording of its own Monsanto Protection Act, which was then secretly passed. Allegedly Senator Roy Blunt gave Monsanto the pen and paper.

Leaders elsewhere learn these tricks, and so this type of corruption happens in Africa — possibly with less smoke and mirrors.

But in South Africa, they now have a name for it: State Capture.

And what is happening is not dissimilar to the Clinton campaign and the business of the Clinton Foundation.

In South Africa, it is now known that money provided by the Gupta family fuels the “patronage machinery that Zuma and his cronies use to fight for dominance in the ANC.”

State Capture has been defined as

“…the efforts of firms to shape the laws, policies, and regulations of the state to their own advantage by providing illicit private gains to public officials.”

The quote above is attributed to Joel Hellman (The World Bank). It is quite a clean and simple term — and I believe it applies to all Western democracies in some form or other. It is just more blatant in the budding democracy that is South Africa.

I see so many similarities in the way the US and the South African political system work. Should Clinton be in jail as millions suggest? She might soon be president. Well, the same applied in South Africa.

In 2009, in South Africa, Jacob Zuma of the African National Congress (ANC) had 783 corruption charges against him dropped by the National prosecuting Authority (NPA). This allowed him to run for president the same month.

The hundreds of corruption charges related to major government arms dealings in the late 1990s and the case is still haunting the President.

For several years my brother has told me about government corruption on a grand scale — with Zuma surrounding himself with mates —“friends on benefits” — so he can retain power. And they have supposedly “captured the state” and are enriching themselves with the help of the wealthy Gupta family — through “deals with benefits.”


Some months ago, the Public Protector Thuli Madonsela launched an investigation, at The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) request, after the Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas said that the Gupta brothers tried to secure him the position of finance minister.

On the 22nd of October it is reported that “Opposition parties have been left shocked by new Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s decision not to oppose the application by President Jacob Zuma…  to block the release of the state capture report.”

When I arrived in Cape Town I was reading about the Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan trying to hold the ANC government to account for its corruption:

“He has made no secret of the fact that he and his team have been on a mission to eradicate corruption “on an almost industrial scale” in the past few months — but the elections meant a ceasefire of sorts between him and those involved in so-called state capture.”

And then — conveniently, Minister Pravin Gordhan was charged for granting early retirement to a fellow associate.

pravin2Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan features in The Cape Times

It just happens that Gordhan is hugely popular and many have described the fraud charges against him as frivolous and unfounded.

But this is the way of politics.

At least much of the fight there is transparent. In other (older) democracies, they have captured the state by stealth.

The Great Divide

It is clear when you visit the country, that if you are born into poverty — it is likely that you will remain in poverty.

People have to find dignity by building their own shacks where they can. In the photo below, a city of shacks has grown alongside expensive million dollar homes in Hout Bay — once a suburb for the elite.

hout-bay-squattersDistrict 9 — no sorry, I mean the squatter camp in Hout Bay.

I expect one day in Australia, the crisis of rent and property prices will be so out of reach, that many will be happy to resort to shack building. But don’t expect anyone shacks around Albert Park Lake anytime soon. Though it might interrupt the Formula 1 race and the champagne drinking — in Australia, we are being brainwashed and trained with financial punishment (fines) into being compliant.




  1. It is hard for we Aussies that have not been to South Africa to compare or comment on this topic, except to say this same cronyism applies to Australian politics. Look no further than Malcolm Turnbull’s escapade in the privatisation of Telstra and the introduction of the NBN.

    • Dee, I am commenting on your idea that the hijacker on your South African plane, if he used a knife, would be met with the metal cutlery of the passengers.

      In the Seventies there was a blackout of electricity that made the New York subway go completely dark. The next day it was said in the newspaper that there had not been any violence during that outage.

      Then someone wrote in to say “Of course you wouldn’t knife the guy next to you, because in the dark you wouldn’t know if he was carrying a machete.”

      Great minds think alike, Dee.

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