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Durban - DA leader Helen Zille has warned against “state capture”, a dangerous development in which key state institutions become tools of a small ruling clique.
Writing in her weekly newsletter, the Western Cape premier said this usually started with the capturing of the judiciary, universities, the media and even non-governmental organisations.
Zille warned that this phenomenon should be guarded against because it was dangerous.
It involved a small ruling elite using state institutions as a tool to entrench their power and enrich themselves, she added.
“One of the main reasons for the failure of so many countries’ attempts to navigate the transition from authoritarian rule to democracy is the phenomenon known as ‘state capture’,” wrote Zille.
She said this trend came in “different guises”.
“State capture is in full swing. And when state capture succeeds, it is accompanied by the ruling clique’s capture of the economy, the media, the universities and many independent non-governmental organisations. I call this phenomenon ‘capture creep’,” said Zille.
She spoke of a small, ruling clique who were intent on “entrenching their power and enriching themselves”.
“State capture typically involves a big man leader, extending his power by deploying loyalists to control all state institutions in order to put the leader’s interests ahead of the people’s interests. The deal is that if the network keeps the big man in power, he will protect and reward them in office,” wrote Zille.
She said, eventually, all institutions would become “tools in the hands” of the ruling elite, including the judiciary, the prosecuting authority, the electoral commission, the police, the intelligence services, and the army.
“Instead of protecting citizens against power abuse, these institutions become an extension of big man rule.
“Eventually they abuse their power to destroy opposition, inside or outside the big man’s party,” said Zille.
She said South Africa’s future depended on the country’s defending the constitution and using “power at the ballot box to hold the government to account before it is too late”.
Zille has become the latest politician in the country to warn against those who sought to capture the state for selfish reasons.
In the run-up to Mangaung, SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande and Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini accused Julius Malema and other opponents of President Jacob Zuma of being “demagogues” who wanted to capture the ANC and later the state for business reasons.
In turn, Malema and his allies in the Anybody But Zuma camp accused a small group of Zuma’s close allies of planning to get their hands on the state after capturing the ANC at the party’s Polokwane conference.