THE RELEASE of the so-called state capture report last week has no doubt plunged the ruling party into a crisis. Given its leadership role in society, any tremor within or affecting the ANC sends shockwaves to the rest of society.
Its president and our head of state, Jacob Zuma, stands accused of improper and unethical conduct on matters relating to the appointment and removal of cabinet ministers - something triggered by the removal of former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene in December last year. That has since opened up a whole Pandora’s Box.
And therein should Nene's comfort lie: he had to be fired for the cancer to be exposed and dealt with. The allegations and observations made in the report are very disturbing. If they are proven true - a judge has yet to confirm their veracity - then the rot had obviously gone far and deeper. Writing in this column in March when state capture allegations were made, I advanced the argument that what would help the country get to the bottom of this matter is an independent judicial commission of inquiry.
I was not alone. The SACP had also called for such a commission.
It is against this background that one welcomes the former public protector's recommendations that a commission of inquiry must be appointed to probe this matter further. But let me sound a word of caution. Commissions of inquiry have been appointed before but hamstrung by their terms of reference. As a result, their legitimacy and that of their findings have been left in question.
There is an argument that state capture did not start with the Guptas and that captor firms go beyond this family's businesses. For the commission and its findings to enjoy legitimacy, this argument must not be ignored. Therefore, there would need to be careful consideration in the crafting of the commission's terms of reference. The last thing we want if the country has to resolve this matter are perceptions and arguments later that the commission itself was "captured". Of course, one is aware that the issue of the commission of inquiry is not fait accompli as there are those who are calling for the public protector's report to be taken on review. Eskom, one of the implicated institutions, has gone on record that it will do so. President Jacob Zuma may well decide to do so too.
But as the legal battles rage - and they may do so for quite some time - what are we to do as ordinary citizens? We must make our voices heard. It is our country that is affected and it is our collective resources that captors want to lay their hands on. We must debate the issue of state capture (it is our right to do so) and in this regard I note that the ANC itself has, in its response to the report, encouraged society in general to discuss the allegations contained therein and deal with its outcomes. But beyond discussing, we must take to the streets, like civil society groups did last week, in protest against state capture. It is our responsibility, both individually and as a collective, to be vigilant that state institutions do not end up being "owned" by specific individuals enjoying a high discretionary power. We must be prepared to be part of a vocal civil society that points at governance deficiencies and calls for better accountability - not because we hate any political party or specific politician but because we love our country more. Such a civil society is emerging and I witnessed it at the Save South Africa gathering at St Albans Cathedral in Tshwane last week. It drew citizens from across the political divide and class interests. I saw trade unionists and captains of industry there. I saw communists and capitalists. I saw stalwarts of the ruling party. I saw atheists and people from different faith groups. All were marching against the social crisis that has been brought about by corruption, mismanagement of the country and political intrigue.
A civil society like Save South Africa will play a critical role in waking up from slumber men and women who will take our country forward. I have no doubt that the dropping of the charges against the minister of finance is, in no small measure, a result of the pressure that was exerted by society in general.
The Save South Africa initiative has reminded me that South Africans are vigilant and will not let their hard earned democracy be sacrificed at the altar of corruption and state capture.
I left the gathering with hope in my heart that there are good men and women in this country who will make sure that we do not self-destruct, but remain vigilant and protect our democracy whenever we are called to do so.
Pastor Ray McCauley is the president of Rhema Family Churches and co-chairman of the National Religious Leaders Council