March 17, 2016

Yesterday’s revelations by Deputy Minister of Finance, Mcebisi Jonas, confirm what many have grumbled about in little corners for years. This is that there are some who daily spit on the souls of those who paid the supreme price to get us where we are and pretend to be the guardians of the living and the unborn.

As the storm unfolds, no doubt, the Christians among us are recalling many a biblical verse, among them Matthew 7:15-20: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

Undoubtedly, yet another source from which we can gain some understanding is the Czechoslovakian author, Milan Kundera’s famous comment on human beings’ relationship with power. “The struggle of man against power,” he said, “is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”

As we ponder over Jonas’ startling revelations, some of us cannot but contrast the present with a not-so-distant past when some of those that seem to speak a different dialect today characterised similar if not worse emperor’s clothes misdeeds in consenting language.

The changing parlance notwithstanding, our discomfort lingers when we sieve through the labyrinth of phrases being employed to explain specific phenomena in terms that appear too generalised and probably intent on purchasing immunity from personal and collective responsibility in the public consciousness.

From my inferior vantage point, one of these is the now famous phrase “corporate/state capture.” Coming from whence it emanates, it is a phrase which obfuscates and expunges recent historical processes from our collective memory as well as facilitate today and tomorrow’s power struggles. Judging from their size and what is known about their annual turn over, it is not at all apparent that the Guptas are a corporation any more than Schabir Shaik was a ‘serious’ conglomerate.

But the everlasting memory of history will proffer a nuanced and broader perspective than today’s stock of hand-to-mouth phrases. It will speak of a much more sophisticated capture, for capture there has been, than the one often presented. For some of those wont to lament a “state/corporate capture,” history may find them complicit in a crime of “organisational/state hand over” to the very forces they ostensibly decry.

Certainly in the context in which it is, the phrase “state/corporate capture” seems to be diplomatic speak for a specific problem of specific individuals and there surely must be good reasons for not calling things by their names.

Don’t get me wrong: corporations and all manner of social maneuverers the world over contest state institutions and an infamy-prone leadership is exactly the kind of soft prey that they seek.

And so, we must ask: do we once again risk riding the crest of false prophesies, entering the season of the struggle of memory against forgetting, sliding into the zone of power stratagems or any toxic combination of the above?

It’s too early to tell. But one thing we can and must do in earnest is to embrace and internalise Albert Einstein: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”


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