The presidential proclamation was issued exactly a year ago – of a full judicial Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.
First it dealt mainly with the machinations of the Gupta-clan cronies of our “recalled” former president, Jacob Zuma. We are as yet a long way from any formal finding by Judge Raymond Zondo’s commission, but the testimony by Cabinet ministers, public servants and business people has pretty much borne out the analysis by the media of thousands of leaked emails, which originally uncovered the plot.
The evidence was of a brazenly audacious strategy. A tight, politically connected cabal attempted to capture control of every important public sector entity, as well as to subvert the constitutionally laid-down processes of executive government, all to serve the pecuniary benefit of the conspirators.
If this is the gist of the commission’s eventual findings, we should not underestimate the scale of the potential disaster that South Africa has narrowly averted.
If such actions had been carried out for ideological reasons, rather than just avarice, we would call it out for what it is – treason. We seem to be more forgiving of a slow coup motivated by monetary greed than we would be of a swift one motivated by political beliefs.
The testimony of Angelo Agrizzi, former Bosasa chief operating officer, marks a distinct change in tenor. The evidence spotlights yet another business family – the Watson brothers. It is less of the grand strategy of state capture and more of the tawdry mechanics of corruption.
The Guptas are Johnny-come-latelies, international business predators implicated in shady operations in India. They sensed easy prey to pillage. The four Watson brothers, in comparison, are local yokels seemingly content with narrower horizons than the Guptas.
Prominent political activists hailing from the Eastern Cape, they quickly parlayed their Struggle credentials into empowerment related business contracts, with two of them involved in the murky mining interests of Brett Kebble, and a third, Cheeky, charged in connection with a R200 million public transport system fraud. Youngest brother, Gavin, became the chief executive of Bosasa.
The Guptas, on the face of it, wanted to run the entire ship of state, after suborning its captain. Gavin Watson, on the face of it, couldn’t care a toss whose hand was on the tiller, as long as his company was assured of a steady cash flow.
The evidence given by Aggrizi is as yet untested. He claims that Bosasa budgeted about R6m a month in pay-offs, including – according to the testimony so far – to three National Prosecuting Authority staff, to three former Correctional Services commissioners and their chief financial officer, to ANC parliamentarians, and to top public servants. This was corruption at an industrial scale, executed with managerial efficiency. Cabinet minister Nomvula Mokonyane supposedly was on a R50 000 a month retainer, Aggrizi says, plus her annual “Christmas goodies” list of booze, beef and chicken.
Philosopher Hannah Arendt, describing the terrifying normality of those who operated the Nazi death machine, famously wrote of the banality of evil. Aggrizi’s testimony about the ANC corruption machine describes the banality of greed.
* Follow WSM on Twitter @TheJaundicedEye
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.