Democratic Alliance (DA) federal council chairperson Helen Zille offered tentative praise for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s use of the phrase “capable state”, but also said she believed the president was behind her own party, which had been using the term “for over a decade”.
“I suppose using the right words represents progress,” she said. “The Pres has now adopted the phrase ‘capable state’ that we have used for over a decade.”
The former DA leader, who came out of political retirement as a senior policy at the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) to contest the party’s internal election for the powerful position of the party’s federal council chairperson, which she won in October last year, also believes her party can take credit for popularising the term “state capture”, which she says was “used for almost 20 years before it was ‘discovered’ by the media in 2015”.
Zille’s remark comes after the president argued in a letter to the nation that the most pressing challenge facing South Africa was the need to build a capable state.
“A capable state starts with the people who work in it. Officials and managers must possess the right financial and technical skills and other expertise. We are committed to [ending] the practice of poorly qualified individuals being parachuted into positions of authority through political patronage. There should be consequences for all those in the public service who do not do their work,” he said.
The term “state capture” was first used by the World Bank around 2000, to describe the situation in certain central Asian countries transitioning from Soviet communism, where private interests are believed to have significantly influenced these state’s decision-making processes to their own advantage.
The term was adopted by South African media following allegations of an overly close and potentially corrupt relationship between the Gupta family and ANC members including former president Jacob Zuma, with the term widely used by 2016.
The origin of the phrase “capable state” is less clear. The term was used by the National Planning Commission document on the National Development Plan in 2011.
The term also forms part of the DA’s “values and principles” as detailed on the party’s website.
“Our party is uniquely founded in faith in the South African people. Through our individual and collective efforts, and enabled by a capable state, the South African people hold the power to make our country a shining beacon for Africa and the world,” the party says.
I suppose using the right words represents progress. The Pres has now adopted the phrase "capable state" that we have used for over a decade. Similar to "state capture" that we used for almost 20 years before it was "discovered" by the media in 2015. https://t.co/mVEasztRzM
— Helen Zille (@helenzille) January 20, 2020
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman)