A letter, a judge decides, on state capture

A letter, a judge decides, on state capture

People who make rules that are imposed on the entire population of a country not surprisingly come under intense scrutiny. Recent headlines have seen the UK Health Minister, Matt Hancock, being found out in breaking his own rules and regulations – no social distancing involved – by conducting an affair with someone who he had also given a post to in his ministry. Much huffing and puffing and mucky Matt finally resigned. This was done in a long letter, on officially headed notepaper, providing an address and date. It has a standard kind of ‘resignation text’, and a sign-off at the end with a personal signature, for the rest of the letter is typed. It is the very model of a model resignation letter.

Once more we see that there are times when only a letter will do, when a letter is called for, when a letter is absolutely required in order to fulfil the informal requirements. A resignation letter is completely performative, it does the thing that it is about, it is the act which makes the resignation material.

Not a letter, but also highly performative, the acting chief justice of South Africa, Sisi Khempepe, has spoken. She is head of the judiciary and has delivered a verdict on the legal events around former president Jacob Zuma, who has repeatedly flouted legal requirements to give evidence to the Zondo Commission on state capture, and broken many other rules, regulations, laws, not to mention common decency, as well. Her words were straight down the line in clarity and performativity and sentenced him to 15 months imprisonment.

Some of Zuma’s supporters have said they would die rather than allow this, which basically means they are prepared to kill. Zuma is meant to deliver himself for imprisonment next Thursday 8 July 2021. Watch this space. And be grateful for strong, principled and independent judiciaries where they exist.

The Zondo Commission on state capture is headed by another judge and is still sitting. Its meetings can be accessed via YouTube, and make for painful as well as interesting watching and listening. How brave the people giving evidence are, for targeted killings are by no means unknown; how extraordinary their evidence is, in the detail about state capture and its relationship to a vast array of corruption devices, all in the name of money and power, power and money. Violence is the liquidity that makes this strange dynamic go round; and it seems that the gangster state is alive and well. There is now a sizeable academic and journalistic literature looking at the what, how, where, when, who, of all this, centring on the Guptas but certainly not limited to them. There are times and places when to be an academic in research mode is literally to take one’s life in one’s hands.

Last updated:  1 July 2021


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