Real theft is by policy manipulation
Matshiqi says current talk of state capture is the mere tip of an iceberg
The greatest theft in South Africa takes place through sly manipulations of public policy that make looting legal.
This was the main message from prominent South African political analyst and commentator Aubrey Matshiqi on Wednesday night during an animated debate at the Daily Dispatch Dialogues at Guild Theatre.
The Dispatch is now in partnership with East London NGO Afesis-Corplan to host the Dialogues.
Matshiqi, who was his usual critical self, said even though theft of public resources was happening at other levels, a great deal of theft in this country happened through the distortion of public policy.
“I am in a state of despair when it comes to state capture. Our conception of it is narrow because this thing we refer to as state capture in South Africa is the tip of the iceberg.
“We spend too much time in debate over the people that have stolen the wallet, while those that have stolen the safe get away with it,” Matshiqi said to loud applause.
Matshiqi was part of a high-level panel that included senior journalist and editor Ferial Haffajee, political analyst Embrahim Fakir and Daily Dispatch editor-in-chief Sibusiso Ngalwa.
“The corruption and the looting of state resources, those are bad things. But the greatest theft in this country and others is through manipulation of policy.
“This is when the looting and stealing occurs legally. In other words manipulation of the meanings of policy are legal but the distortions that occur are profitable.
“Too many of our leaders are selling the country and its resources to the highest bidder, and they are doing it through policy,” Matshiqi said.
He said that the state had always been captured.
“But I think we only jump up and down when it is captured by people we do not like.”
Adding to the conversation – which ranged from the debates that are in the public discourse and state capture, to the roles of media and political parties in sociopolitical debates – Haffajee said that social media should be credited for giving voices to the voiceless.
“Social media has been better than the TRC at making account with our past in the way it lingers in the present and the way it determines the future,” Haffajee said.
Ngalwa said that while all seemed gloom there was hope for the country as there were elements of positivity.
“We tend to be very negative but generally there is a lot of good in our country. It is okay to critique each other,” he said.
“The media is still very important in this country, especially in our democracy. Voices that were voiceless are finding expression in the media and social media spaces.”..