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Reviewed by:
  • Shadow State: the politics of state capture by Ivor Chipkin and Mark Swilling, and: Gangster State: unveiling Ace Magashule's web of capture by Pieter-Louis Myburgh
  • Bill Freund (bio)
Ivor Chipkin and Mark Swilling [and team] (2018) Shadow State: the politics of state capture. Johannesburg: Wits University Press
Pieter-Louis Myburgh (2019) Gangster State: unveiling Ace Magashule's web of capture. Cape Town: Penguin Books

Especially when South Africans approach election time, the publishing industry has waiting for them a series of books on politics which may contain insights but are best classed as an extension of journalism. In 2019, state capture and corruption (or as Helen Zille likes to put it, 'corruption, corruption, corruption') added spice to the recipe for an election where the votes actually failed to shift significantly and turn-out went down. The purpose of this review is to call readers' attention to a short, succinct and important book written by a team of nine, headed by Ivor Chipkin and Mark Swilling, which can easily be confused with the more ephemeral accounts such as the book focussed on the career of ex-Free State ANC premier Ace Magashule by Peter-Louis Myburgh, which received vastly more attention in recent months, not least because followers of Magashule, now the secretary-general of the party elected as part of the Zuma slate, literally tried to burn and trash copies.

Chipkin and Swilling's team have produced a more disturbing and analytical work that encompasses the national scene. None of this is imaginable if you just like to follow the crude formula that so-called neo-liberalism explains everything. If, as would be true of most politicians perhaps, you confine your vision of South Africa to black people, it is fair comment that post-1994 democracy has offered… [End Page 234]

a small black elite beholden to white corporate elites, a vulnerable and over-indebted black middle class and a large African majority condemned to unemployment and dependent on welfare handouts to survive.


White businessmen are still on the beat but they invest little and have shifted resources abroad or into financialised outfits that remain very profitable. Given the history of giant mining companies and SOEs, much of the economy, sector after sector, is and remains dominated by a handful of giants. As Chipkin and Swilling point out, corporate leaders have only very limited faith in an African-run democratic state with some neo-liberal pretensions.

The ANC negotiated parliamentary democracy from, in part, a weak position. It had little support amongst the professional and business classes and its military strategy had accomplished very little. Thus it was common cause that a second struggle was needed to transform South Africa. For many this meant a transformation that touched on class, overall inequality and basic institutions connected to education and health, for instance; socialism or barbarism, if you like. However a large body of leaders, who have been enormously reinforced by a younger post-apartheid black generation, rather see the second struggle as one with 'white monopoly capital', are deeply resentful of the continued successes in big firms of white businessmen, and are eager to use the state to achieve economic 'empowerment' for their own benefit. The way was already paved by Thabo Mbeki who also believed strongly in the 'empowerment challenge' (34). It is difficult to say what interest, if any, they have in transforming the lives of the majority. Chipkin and Swilling want to see this politics in a broad sense

…as a political project at work to repurpose state institutions to suit a constellation of rent-seeking networks that have constructed and now span the symbiotic relationship between the constitutional and shadow states.


It certainly has little to do with socialism of any sort.

In Shadow State, the extraordinary level of corrupt behaviour that took over the Zuma administration is convincingly linked to this outlook, and Zuma's wide support base in the ANC, despite his extrusion of Julius Malema, were attracted to it and probably still are. Organisationally, the regular links Mandela and Mbeki had to big business fell away in favour of links to exclusively black organisations. Zuma found surprising...


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pp. 234-238
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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