Recent political events in South Africa have lead to a number of political changes that have left the general public with feelings of concern and uncertainty. The issue of state capture had been at the forefront of democratic governance since the former Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, published her findings in the report: State of Capture, which was released in October 2016.


It is with this background that the State Capacity Research Project (SCRP) released the report Betrayal of the Promise: How South Africa is being stolen (BotP). SCRP is an interdisciplinary and inter-university research collaboration that aims to educate the public by discussing all issues of ‘state capture’ in South Africa. The report is lengthy and intricate, but there are a few central events the report highlights that are particularly noteworthy; four events to be exact:

The Marikana Massacre on 16 August 2012; the landing of the Gupta plane at Waterkloof Air Base in April 2013; the attempted bribing of former Deputy Minister of Finance Mcebisi Jonas to sell the National Treasury to the shadow state in late 2015; and the Cabinet reshuffle in March 2017. These four events were said to define the new era, the era of a so-called ‘silent coup’.

Betrayal of the Promise

The concept is founded on the promise that was made on the 10th May 1994 at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration. Mandela made a promise to liberate our people from poverty and suffering and, among other things, to end discrimination. He promised a society where black and white people would walk tall together, without fear in their hearts – “a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.”

The authors contend that it is this very promise that has been broken by the leadership of Jacob Zuma and the power elites. These power elites are described as a well-structured network of people located in government, state institutions, state owned enterprises (SOEs), private businesses, security agencies, traditional leaders, family networks and the governing party.

It is this group of Zuma-centred power elites that have created a ‘shadow state’ that runs alongside the constitutional state. The shadow state is the “network of relationships that cross-cut and bind together a specific group of people who need to act together for whatever reason in secretive ways so that they can either effectively hide, actively deny or consciously ‘not know’ that which contradicts their formal roles in the constitutional state.”

The question then remains: how is this whole operation run? At the heart of the relationship between the shadow and the constitutional state lies the same group of people and companies that are all connected to the Gupta-Zuma network. The coordination of this network is the shadow state, these well-placed individuals at the centre of state power (in government, SOEs and the bureaucracy) all making decisions in the constitutional state.

“Those, like Jonas, Vytjie Mentor, Pravin Gordhan and Themba Maseko who resist this agenda in one way or another are systematically removed, redeployed to other lucrative positions to silence them, placed under tremendous pressure, or hounded out by trumped up internal and/or external charges and dubious intelligence reports.”

It is no surprise then that the shadow state is a space for extra-legal activity that is run by criminal networks – where key security and intelligence actions are coordinated.

The report goes into great depth and analyses of the deals that have been made in the last decade between Zuma and the Gupta family. Specifically, the report looks at the role that the Gupta’s have played in state capture and the shadow state, from bribing deputy ministers to calling shots in the nuclear arms deal.


The report aims to set up measures from an academic standpoint as to how South Africa can recover from this inevitable downward spiral. The report details three main resolutions.  First, the Gupta-Zuma network that comprises of 12 companies and 15 individuals all playing pivotal roles in the constitutional and shadow state, needs to be completely dismantled. President Zuma will therefore have to be removed from office, followed by strict legal action in order to bring those who were involved in the state capture to justice. This can be achieved by actually following the recommendations of the State of Capture report.

Secondly, a new national economic consensus is required. Ultimately, South Africa has never had the correct processes, but rather there have been many policy frameworks that are short-lived and ineffective. Finally, all stakeholders, in particular the political actors that will replace the Zuma-centred power elite, must commit to realising the vision of a new economic consensus within the framework of the Constitution and relevant legislation.

Links to sources and reports:
Betrayal of the promise link:
State Capture report