A primary example of political education is from experiences in South Africa.During the investigations and deliberations of the Zondo Commission, CSOs — primarily articulated through theCivil Society Working Group on State Capture(CSWG) — and journalists grabbed the reins of the public narrative to ensure that the Zuma administration (2009-18), subsequent presidential administrations, and political parties did not steer the process awry, as follows:

Civil society’s first response to state capture was characterised by mass communication. To overcome the lack of public – or, indeed, state – interest in the issue, it was necessary to build a framework of information on, and mass interest in, its scale and extent. (…) For example, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation was among the first to raise (proverbial) red flags about the landing of a private aeroplane at the Waterkloof Air Force Base in violation of National Key Points (1980) legislation. More than any other, this was the event that fully brought the Gupta family to public attention, galvanising civil society. (...)
Civil society’s attempts to respond to state capture began piecemeal, with individual actions of limited scope. However, the work of investigative journalists, legal organisations and NGOs built public knowledge of these abuses over several years. This, in turn, created the conditions for further action through the development of a common language to understand the issue. This was necessary for the eventual coordination of civil society to oppose state capture. Nonetheless, as we have seen, while civil society coordination was possible at various points, South African civil society is not homogeneous, and, over time, the coalition broke down.
The counter-state capture efforts that did emerge were varied and initially uncoordinated because organisations undertook them with different ideological origins, strategic approaches and understandings of why (and how) the South African state was captured. As information about state capture was made public, South Africans’ abilities to ‘connect the dots’, as Pravin Gordhan famously put it, produced a common set of immediate goals around which these groups could rally. This enabled them to overcome ideological differences and coordinate their efforts sufficiently to make a notable impact on the country’s political landscape at a crucial moment. The coordination was able to advance the cause of one of the medium-term goals of many of these organisations – the removal from office of President Jacob Zuma. However, at the same time, the removal of Zuma exposed a weakness in the common understanding of the problem of state capture. Several activists argue that state capture was too narrowly centered on the Zuma presidency.

Some civil society organisations now play a watchdog role. But, in contrast, other organisations continue to demand justice, transparency and reform of the political system to help remedy the effects of state capture and eliminate the conditions that allowed it to happen (Luke Spiropoulos).

At the global level, primarily through its extensive membership network, theESCR-Net’s Corporate Accountability Working Group(CAWG) is arguably the prime example of anti-corporate capture political education, which employs an innovative online comic books series called “The Power of the 99% to Stop Corporate Capture” to explain corporate capture in ways that make sense for diverse audiences. Since 2020, and together with an external art studio, CAWG’s Project Advisory Group on Corporate Capture meets regularly to plan out the content and strategic moments when new issues of the comic will be released. The first, about the corporate capture of the United Nations, was released in 2021 to coincide with the 46th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC).

The CAWG’s comic books series is not only international, but also works at the national level. For example, in the second comic, released during the Covid-19 Pandemic, there are several cases about private hospitals in Kenya, the UK, and the U.S. The objective is for concern about corporate capture to become a global conversation. According to the CAWG, CSOs are starting to have conversations about corporate funding of multi-stakeholderism, which could also become a comic one day. In her perspective, corporate capture is one of the most dangerous issues at this moment, but many people are not yet aware of it.

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