On the 12th of October 2019, a Civil Society Working Group on State Capture consisting of more than 20 organisations, including My Vote Counts (MVC), held the People’s Hearing on State Capture on Constitutional Hill Johannesburg. The hearing held at the Women’s Jail, saw these organisations and ordinary citizens gather to share the direct impact that State Capture has had on their lives. 

The working group formed in 2018 works independently of the State Capture commission and has to date, monitored its progress, engaging with it openly on the group’s objectives. The aim is to ensure that the Zondo Commission into State Capture is effective in the end and that those who are found guilty, are held accountable for their crimes. These crimes have not gone without consequence, ordinary citizens live that reality as they bear the brunt of the failures of government institutions that lack resources as a result of corruption. 

The pit toilets that have taken the lives of South Africa’s poor children in rural areas, the SASSA debacle affecting more than 17 million citizens, under-resourced schools with poor infrastructure and load-shedding, are just some among many examples. Although Michael Komape’s (5) has become the face that we think of when we remember that there are children who are buried by their parents due to lack of proper ablution facilities, there are many more children who die in this horrible way or run that risk daily. 

In the same breath, lack of resources in schools due to the misuse of funds has dire consequences that further entrench inequality, poverty and unemployment in retrospect. A child who survives this tough and inadequate way of learning long enough to make it to university, will most likely struggle with the ways of learning at tertiary level and this is unjust. Another who becomes disheartened and discouraged as a result of poor learning conditions may have been the only hope of a better future for their family. Either way, both of these children as capable as they might be, effectively have their futures stolen from them. One has to work twice as hard in order to pass university and most likely, will fail a few times before they graduate, the other is hindered from ever escaping poverty. These are just some of the implications of state capture and it is the ordinary South African who falls victim. 

So, while the commission delves deep into the web of state capture, it is important that it does not lose sight of this fact. Service delivery and governance have been negatively impacted by the looting of funds and although the commission has and continues to provide us with a view of the level of rot in rands, we cannot even begin to quantify how much this rot has affected civilians’ lives. However, the People’s Hearing is an attempt. 

Together with other civil society groups such as Right to Know, Open Secrets, the Treatment Action Campaign and OUTA among many others involved in this campaign, MVC hopes that the submissions made at the hearing will be heard by the commission. These submissions are evidence of the suffering of innocent citizens as a result of looting, greed and corruption. They should influence the recommendations made by Judge Zondo when the inquiry concludes its work in 2020, as this is the only reasonable ending. 

Corruption is not a victimless crime. The Limpopo textbook crisis, the miners who lost their jobs or went without pay for months under Gupta-owned companies, constant load shedding and rising electricity tariffs, the little bodies that have had to be fished out of pit latrines and sent to the morgue and the increasing costs of basic needs are testament to that fact. These and many other stories should be used as a determining factor when the guilty are finally brought to account. Should this not happen, our justice system will have failed the people. 

My Vote Counts NPC is a non-profit company founded to improve the accountability, transparency and inclusiveness of elections and politics in the Republic of South Africa. We work to ensure that the political and electoral systems are open, fair and accountable to the public and that they remain relevant in the changing South African socio-political context.