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  • Print publication year: 2018
  • Online publication date: May 2019

Chapter 3 - Power, Authority and Audacity: How the Shadow State Was Built


Uyangithengisa [you are selling me out]. Why did you let her know that u knew where she [Dudu Myeni, chairperson of SAA] was going. U will compromise the mission.

According to the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism, this text message was sent by Siyabonga Mahlangu, special legal adviser to then Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba, to then CEO and chairperson of SAA Vuyisile Kona, in December 2013. It followed a meeting at the Gupta family's Saxonwold compound, attended by Mahlangu and Kona, at which Kona was reportedly offered a R500 000 bribe, seemingly linked to a controversial Airbus fleet deal.

The text, according to amaBhungane, probably referred to a discussion Kona had with Dudu Myeni subsequent to this meeting; Myeni was appointed chairperson of SAA a week later, and her appointment, it appears, had been discussed at the Saxonwold meeting. At the time an SAA source, speaking in confidence to amaBhungane, said, ‘The “mission” was clearly this contract, all of these contracts.’ With hindsight, it is clear that ‘the mission’ became a much bigger, more ominous and carefully orchestrated long-term plan, which would unfold over the next seven-plus years, culminating in what we now know as the capture of the state.

Nearly three years later, in July 2016, Jacob Zuma, in a speech in isiZulu that received very little media coverage but which was captured in a YouTube clip, said:

If it were up to me, and I made the rules, I would ask for six months as a dictator. You would see wonders, South Africa would be straight. That's why, if you give me six months, and allow Zuma to be a dictator, you would be amazed. Absolutely. Everything would be straight. Right now to make a decision you need to consult. You need a resolution, decision, collective petition. Yoh! It's a lot of work!

But clearly the necessary work had been done because the shadow state was, by then, fully fledged. Referring to its emergence, Pravin Gordhan said at the press conference after his removal as minister of finance, ‘We have failed to join the dots.’

To ‘join the dots’ it is necessary to start with the emergence of the Gupta network, which has become the lynchpin of the relationship between the constitutional and shadow states.