State capture is also not new to this continent and elsewhere. Most African countries have experienced some form of capture by ruling elites and sometimes a ruling family. The continent is littered with dynasties.
While Angola and Zimbabwe’s first families appear to have been consigned to the dustbin of history, there remain others in Gabon, Togo and Equatorial Guinea.
They have their own Guptas.
Although Zuma was fond of state visits, both inside and outside Africa, commentators questioned the quality of the outcomes and of the business delegations that accompanied him. For example, while a large number of SA’s biggest corporations have investments in Nigeria, it was a little-known individual close to Zuma and the ANC who spoke on behalf of South African business at a well-attended forum during Zuma’s 2016 state visit to Abuja, Nigeria, raising more than a few eyebrows. Then there was Zuma’s controversial visit to one of Nigeria’s 36 states in 2017 to attend the unveiling of a large bronze statue of himself, an act inexplicably described as one that would help to strengthen socioeconomic relations between SA and Nigeria.
It was an exercise in moral bankruptcy — the honouring governor spent about R14m on the statue while failing to pay salaries to state workers for months.
The former president’s foreign priorities in Africa were often less about SA Inc and more about Zuma Inc, particularly in commodity-rich states such as Equatorial Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
SA’s membership of the Brics grouping since 2011, although scoffed at by many critics, was an important milestone in Zuma’s presidency. His moral laxity and greed, however, overflowed into relationships with key players in the bloc — China and Russia — undermining the broader benefits of Brics membership.
With the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as president, SA is hopefully back from the brink with a chance to re-establish a reputation as a capable state and a pivotal player in Africa’s development. As many have noted on social media, the dramatic events of the past few weeks signal the resilience of SA’s institutions, its media and civil society. This is not something enjoyed much in Africa.
A new administration presents an opportunity to revitalise SA’s foreign policy and regenerate important bilateral, continental and international relationships. The successful outing to the World Economic Forum in Davos highlighted the residual goodwill towards and confidence in SA. Ramaphosa tried to repair the country’s reputation and build bridges with African and international leaders.