The direct translation for this summer’s biggest song, Omunye Phez’ Komunye is “state capture”. A big announcement was made yesterday by President Jacob Zuma that he has appointed a Judge to head up the investigation into state capture. Well… technically president Zuma was instructed by the former Public Protector to institute the inquiry. EhCtually, the Chief Justice instructed the president to abide by the former PP’s ruling. President Zuma has now appointed a Judge to head up this investigation. EhCtually the judge was appointed by the Chief Justice. Basically, Omunye phez’ komunye Phez’ Komunye. Get it? Got it? Good.
As per the speech, the decision to go ahead with the investigation was the Presidents idea as he felt that this matter has preoccupied the South African citizen for way too long. Omunye Phez’ komunye was a very popular song in December, but for some reason it’s not as good in Jan. I wonder why? It could be because in December, spirits were high. The pun is very much intended. JanuWorry however, sobers one up very quickly. The whole point of the investigation is to remove the bodies that are on top of each other and discover who is on top of who?
My concern is that the mandate for this investigation may be too narrow. There are too many bodies “skeletons nyana” littered everywhere. To think state capture is about the capture of government would be foolish. If you think state capture is about Guptas and President Zuma, you would be naive. Firstly, a state can never claim that it is a victim, and this is what the word capture implies. The state is complicit in all its actions. Secondly, you have to know that South Africa is not unique, governments all over the world have a complicit relationship with the private sector. It’s just that first world countries call it Lobbying. You have heard the saying that “he who pays the piper chooses the tune”. The only thing that the DA and the ANC agree on, is that donors to their respective parties should be anonymous. I wonder why?! If you really want to stop the so called state capture, it’s very simple make it law that all political parties have to declare where the funds for their campaigns come from. The old National party was funded by Christo Wiesse and Shoprite, Koos Bekker and Naspers, Bill Venter and Altron, Eric Samson and MacSteel, Bertie Lubner and PG Glass just to name a few. Their companies went on to become the biggest companies in South Africa, with the assistance of the government of the day. PW Botha and the previous government were complicit in questionable dealings with private sector. Glencore ignored the UN trade sanctions with apartheid-era South Africa. Instead, Glencore imported tons of Iranian oil into the country. Glencore’s CEO Ivan Glasenberg is worth an estimated $7.3 billion. Need I remind how many people died in apartheid South Africa? Imagine had oil starved starved apartheid South Africa relinquished power 10 years earlier, how many lives would have been spared. Imagine how far South Africa would be today?! Mark Rich and his “Rich” boys Glasenberg became billionaires and never got prosecuted for crimes against humanity. You see there is a level of rich that is unprosecutable. As Bobby Axelrod says in the TV series Billions, it’s FU money. There is no Hague for this kinda rich. This scene sums it up best, click here
These intimate relations have been happening for a thousand years. Nothing new to see here folks, move along. Keep it moving. Just follow Johny.
Luckily for us, a vacuum cleaner may be on the horizon. A new bill has been passed that will help remove Omunye Phez’ Komunye to see who is F$&@ing (Funding) whom. Read all about it here
So why do we all of a sudden need a state capture investigation? I think it’s for three main reasons.
The first reason, is that influence is different from undue influence. Undue influence is influence by which a person is induced to act otherwise than by their own free will or without adequate attention to the consequences. This is dangerous kind of influence. This is influence that is powered and empowered by greed. This is like a bad drug habit. More accurately, this is the Nyawupe terrain. This is the stealing from your mother to feed your next fix, terrain. This is the terrain where the dealer has more power. The dealer owns you. Not a good place to be. Power dynamics are important in relationships and posture determines who is the piper. The first world countries may be run by private sector but their public sector continues to posture strength and power. It’s like in most homes, the dad looks to be the all powerful one but yet everyone knows behind every successful man there’s a surprised mother in law. The challenge in South Africa over the last 10 years, is that the roles have gotten mixed up. When the shot caller is not perceived to be the true shot caller, you loose both legitimacy and coercive power. The Guptas for example became shot callers on the main stage as opposed to back stage, and thus thrust a spotlight amongst themselves. Power corrupts absolute power corrupts absolutely. Pulling the strings was just not enough anymore, they wanted the ministers to know who was appointing them. They wanted them to know who was really the boss. This kinda makes sense. It is more efficient to call someone directly to ask them to do something than having to pass the message through someone else. Whether this was due to efficiency or ego, net result is that the ROE (Return on Ego) is now Zero.
As I have said influence over the state is nothing new. It happens all over the world and in first world countries. In fact, first world countries influence and lobby third world countries. The US has been financing and influencing many drug cartels, coups, regime changes and governments. You just need to watch the Netflix series El Chapo or Pablo Escobar to understand this. It’s how the world works. In may occasions the influence is done by what they call economic hitmen. The trick though, is that you should never be seen as the one who pulls the strings. Why do you think there are still spies after the Cold War?! Cold War governments simply took those spies after the cold war ended and repurposed them for industrial espionage and as economic assassins. Why do you think African countries with the richest minerals are poor or unstable or both? It’s not coincidence. That instability, I can assure you serves some foreign government benefit, as well as the the benevolent dictator of that African country. Russia in the last US elections committed the biggest sin. Putin simply chose to pull a middle finger to the US to show them that he was still relevant. Russians are consummate spies, these guys had a state sponsored doping program for the Olympics. Their ladies gymnastics team gurgles with peanut butter every morning. These guys could have easily meddled in the US elections without anyone knowing about it. Hey, they have Snowden on asylum. But what is the fun of pulling of the biggest heist in history if no one knew about. We live in Information Age my friends. So showing the the world that you have the biggest D*^% (DATA) center is important. In the eighties, it was about showing of your nuclear arsenal. It took Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) to cancel that one out. It is pointless when we both know that our missiles are the same size and that we are both Venda. The US hates Donald Trump more for Russia meddling in their elections than they hate him, for being racist and misogynist combined. People generally don’t mind if their themselves meddle in their own internal affairs but they generally don’t like an outsider. This is why African Americans can call each other the N word but no one else can. Same reason gay people can call each other certain names but no on else can. And this is why it was easy for the media to vilify the Guptas, rightly or wrongly. That plane landing at Watetlloof violated the 1st rule above, the second and the third one below.
Influence of party but Never the state.
You can influence a party but never a state. This is again where the lines got crossed in South Africa. When a third force decides who is the cabinet and who the ministers are, that is a big problem. This is not capture but it is relinquishment or worse dereliction of responsibility. Ironically, non more important words were uttered by the president yesterday when he said “Allegations that the state has been wrestled out of the hands of its real owners, the people of South Africa, is of paramount importance and are therefore deserving of finality and certainty,”
I started this blog by saying that I would hope that the scope of this investigation be widened not only to state capture but to private sector capture. It is clear that if the state is “captured” that means someone is doing the capturing. The private sector over the last 10 years have committed many despicable acts of fraud that they call collusion or price fixing. They did it in construction, food production, banking, retail, mining, pharmaceuticals. In almost all South African industry there has been collusion to fleece the state and us its citizens. If you are going to clean, move the table, do not clean around it! KPMG, PWC, McKinsey, SAP, Steinhoff, Aspen, Naspers, and all the companies that were involved in price fixing and collusion should be investigated equally, because where there is a fire there is someone burning evidence. India has just banned PWC from auditing any of the listed companies in the country for two years. PWC failed to spot a $1.7bn fraud in the now defunct Satyam Computer Services. Did they fail to spot it or were they complicit in it? Who audits auditors? How do you give a bad audit to a company that you make your revenue from?…don’t know about you but the whole auditing field smells like perverse incentive. Sing it with me, “Omunye Phez komunye…”
It took an non auditing firm to catch out Steinhoff. Viceroy Research blew the lid on Steinhoff, because everyone who was making money off Steinhoff was told which hymn sheet to sing from. Viceroy Research is now rumored to be investigating Aspen Pharmaceuticals. I see stocks of a feather. It is worth noting that Aspen Pharmacare has was fined R76.4-million by Italian competition authorities for pushing the prices of older-generation blood cancer drugs sky-high, potentially disrupting their supply. Aspen aggressively raised the prices of generic drugs by between 300% and 1 500%. It is the only supplier of these older drugs. These are life or death drugs! The private sector gets away with just paying fines, they are getting away with murder. Ashika, a dear friend of mine died of blood cancer last month, just before Christmas . She was a young mother of three young kids.
A good thing that can come out of state capture investigation is that if indeed it is found that the state is guilty of being “captured” this may be the base for the new public protector to institute an investigation against the private sector. A public capture investigation.
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