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Betrayal of the Promise: How South Africa is Being Stolen

A Major, New Study on the Country’s Emerging Shadow State

Press release

Calls for President Jacob Zuma to resign have intensified, including from within his own party, spurring the largest protest marches since the advent of democracy in 1994.

Until now, the academic community has contributed little to this discussion. However, on Thursday, 25 May, at 16h00, the State Capacity Research Project (SCRP) will release the report “Betrayal of the Promise: How South Africa is Being Stolen”.

This report suggests South Africa has experienced a silent coup that has removed the ANC from its place as the primary force for transformation in society. It aims to change the popular discourse from a focus on corruption to a focus on the systemic nature of ‘state capture’ as the political project of a well-organised network that strives to manage the symbiotic relationship between the constitutional state and a shadow state.

Commentators, opposition groups and ordinary South Africans underestimate Jacob Zuma, not simply because he is more brazen, wily and brutal than they expect, but because they reduce him to caricature. They conceive of Zuma and his allies as a criminal network that has captured the state.

But this approach obscures the existence of a political project that intentionally operates in extra-legal and anti-constitutional ways. At the epicentre of this political project is a rhetorical commitment to radical economic transformation which, the report argues, is being used as an ideological smokescreen to mask the extensive ‘repurposing’ of state institutions to direct rents away from development and into the hands of a Zuma-centred power elite.

Whereas radical economic transformation is a legitimate long-term vision of the ANC’s to structurally transform South Africa’s economy to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality and unemployment, the power elite’s distortion of this threatens the viability of the state institutions that need to deliver on this long-term vision.

The report traces the ANC’s history of transformation, identifies seven broad areas of capture and control and details how the shadow state was built. There is new information on the Zupta phenomenon (the coin termed to describe the network between the Zuma and Gupta families) as well as a detailed anatomy of state capture and how financial flows are being redirected.

The Gupta-Zuma network is revealed to comprise a handful of the same companies and individuals that holds the relationship between the constitutional and shadow states together, and needs to be dismantled and the perpetrators brought to justice. It also argues that a new national economic consensus is required, that details a programme of radical economic transformation within the constitutional, legislative and governance framework.

The State Capacity Research Project is convened by Mark Swilling. Authors: Professor Haroon Bhorat (DPRU, UCT), Dr Mbongiseni Buthelezi (PARI, Wits), Professor Ivor Chipkin (PARI, Wits), Sikhulekile Duma (CST, Stellenbosch), Lumkile Monde (DOE, Wits), and Dr Camaren Peter (CST, Stellenbosch), Professor Mzukisi Qobo (SAR Chair on Diplomacy, UJ), and Professor Mark Swilling (CST, Stellenbosch).

The SCRP has collaborated with the South African Council of Churches (SACC) whose own independent process, called the Unburdening Panel, had findings that matched and confirmed the arguments developed by the SCRP, using different methodologies. This triangulation of different bodies of evidence is of great significance.

For further information and interviews contact Mpho Mohapi ( and Vishanthi Arumugam (