The CSWG on State Capture in South Africa, founded in 2018, is a coalition of 23 civil society organizations (CSOs) that supports and strengthens the work of the Zondo Commission, the public inquiry that was initially created to investigate the Gupta-Zuma corruption scandal. The non-profit organizationOpen Secretsacts as the coalition’s secretariat. 

We must remember that, in South Africa, the term political capture of the State — or simply State capture — is a more apt description than corporate capture, which, with the exception of the CSWG’s work, remains underexplored in that country.

One of the CSWG’s most notable contributions was organizing thePeople’s Hearing on State Capture,in October 2019, which featured public testimonies by witnesses and victims of State capture. It was chaired by the international criminal justice expert, Yasmin Sooka; gender and political activist, Nomboniso Gasa; and Xolobeni human rights defender, Nonhle Mbuthuma. 

Its final recommendations identified five areas that require critical attention:

  • Strengthening and building the capacity of criminal justice agencies;
  • Holding enablers of State capture to account;
  • Improving the financial accountability of political parties through amended regulations;
  • Addressing the endemic nature of corruption in State-owned enterprises; and
  • Addressing the impact of corruption and how it undermines the fundamental rights of vulnerable groups.

Similarly, in “An Agenda for Action: A Joint Submission by the Civil Society Working Group on State Capture,” the CSWG outlined recommendations for the protection of the rights of vulnerable groups, including transparency and accountability in public procurement processes and whistleblower protections. Also, regardingState-owned enterprises(SOEs), it recommended revising the appointment and dismissal processes of company executives, transparency and accountability insofar as SOEs’ relationships with other parts of the State, political party accountability as well as regarding the role of Parliament, and interrogating the use of “emergency conditions” to initiate procurement deals.

The CSWG’s secretariat is hosted byOpen Secrets,a NGO that exposes and builds accountability for private sector economic crimes that have impacted human rights, through investigative research, advocacy, and the law. Notably, the organization has conducted significant research into the “enablers of State capture,” or the corporations, economic service providers, and other private interests that “supply” State capture. The report“The Enablers: The Bankers, Accountants and Lawyers that Cashed in on State Capture,”co-authored by Open Secrets and Shadow World Investigations, is a prime example of this work as it explores the key role played by “enablers.”

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