A Boston Consulting Firm Became a Power Broker, and Then a Pariah, in South Africa

A Boston Consulting Firm Became a Power Broker, and Then a Pariah, in South Africa

“I am concerned that we are trading off short term access for long term issues,” Ms. Miller wrote in an internal email in 2014.

She wrote that Bain was trying to recover its reputation after the presidential election in 2012, when the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, was criticized for his work at the consulting firm. Ms. Miller, who has since left Bain, did not respond to a request for comment.

Internal presentations by Bain, handed over to the commission as evidence, show that the company pitched proposals to Mr. Zuma to restructure other state-owned agencies, like the ones that oversee communications and energy, so that Mr. Zuma would have direct oversight of them. This, the judicial commission said, could break South African laws that forbid the head of state from directly controlling state enterprises.

Mr. Massone and Mr. Zuma met 17 times from 2012 to 2014. The commission’s report suggested that those meetings, and the fact that Bain knew who would become the new head of the tax agency — Tom Moyane — before it was made public, were evidence of a plan between the consulting firm and the presidency to infiltrate the revenue service “and cause damage to the institution.”

Bain helped to prepare Mr. Moyane, a Zuma loyalist, to take over the tax agency as its new commissioner. Mr. Moyane is blamed for destabilizing the agency and losing millions of dollars in tax revenue.

At the time, Mr. Zuma was facing accusations of tax evasion, and the first order of business was to “neutralize” revenue service employees seen as obstacles, according to evidence presented during the inquiry. The inquiry report described Bain’s work with Mr. Moyane as “one of the clearest demonstrations of state capture,” a term used to describe politically connected individuals and businesses getting rich off state agencies.

Mr. Zuma was forced to step down in 2018, after Cyril Ramaphosa became head of the governing African National Congress. Promising to root out graft, Mr. Ramaphosa soon fired Mr. Moyane. Mr. Moyane did not respond to a request for comment.

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