Exposing South African state capture

Exposing South African state capture
Photo: Daily Maverick / Brenton Geach
UN SDG Goal 16 logo: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

SDG supported: 16. Peace, justice and strong institutions

The work

In South Africa, the Daily Maverick, a leading independent news site, and its investigative team played a vital role in uncovering the extensive state capture scandal involving the influential and politically connected Gupta family during Jacob Zuma’s presidency. This scandal is considered the country’s most significant corruption case since the apartheid era.

In collaboration with other media outlets, Daily Maverick compiled the groundbreaking #GuptaLeaks dossier, publishing a total of more than 70 exposés. Drawing upon a trove of leaked emails and documents, the investigation laid bare the extent to which the Guptas had effectively “captured” the South African state, funnelling public funds into their own companies through a process of corruption.

Working with another outlet, Daily Maverick also created a six-part investigative series, “the McKinsey dossier”. Spanning a period of several years, the investigation exposed how a respected management consultancy was involved in corrupt contracts with South African state-owned companies, such as Transnet and Eskom.


  • The Gupta family has been subjected to sanctions under the Magnitsky Act in the US, while two of the brothers are now the subject of an Interpol Red Notice and a number of their associates have been apprehended.
  • #GuptaLeaks played a crucial role in uncovering the depth of corruption and cronyism that had infiltrated the South African government, contributing to the downfall of Zuma’s presidency. As public outrage mounted and pressure increased, Zuma’s position became increasingly untenable, ultimately leading to his resignation in February 2018.
  • #GuptaLeaks stands as a cornerstone in the establishment of the Zondo Commission, a state-sanctioned inquiry focused on investigating corruption allegations during former president Jacob Zuma’s tenure. The Commission’s findings in 2022, based on comprehensive interviews and substantial physical evidence, including the #GuptaLeaks emails, conclusively established that state capture had indeed taken place on a significant scale in South Africa.
  • Global corporations implicated in the controversy experienced significant damage to their reputation and operational capabilities within the South African market. In 2021, McKinsey agreed to repay $63 million that it earned on the contracts tainted by state capture. In 2022, the country’s National Prosecuting Authority pressed charges against the South African branch of the global consulting firm and one of its former top consultants, along with other implicated parties, in connection with the Transnet case.
  • Daily Maverick’s investigative work garnered significant recognition, with the publication being honoured as the joint winner of the Global Shining Light Award and Taco Kuiper Award for Investigative Journalism for its impactful #GuptaLeaks investigative journalism. Furthermore, journalist Pauli van Wyk received acclaim for the McKinsey dossier series, securing the top spot in the investigative category at the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards.

In 2017, Susan Comrie and I published the 6 part McKinsey Dossier about crimes against the SA people perpetrated at Transnet and Eskom. 4 years later: McKinsey will pay back R870m to Transnet. Extraordinary return on investment to our investigative journalism donors … To our Daily Maverick Maverick Insiders – this win is for you. Thank you for supporting investigative journalism. We will continue to Defend Truth.

Pauli Van Wyk, journalist with Daily Maverick ‘s investigative team, Scorpio