Directed by Rehad Desai, co-directed by Mark Kaplan • Documentary • 2020 • 87 minutes
HOW TO STEAL A COUNTRY opens like a classic thriller, with investigative journalists meeting anonymous whistleblowers in a parking garage. There, they receive a hard drive filled with hundreds of thousands of explosive files and emails implicating Jacob Zuma’s South African government in a massive corruption scandal.
Director Rehad Desai (Everything Must Fall, Miners Shot Down) chronicles how the three Gupta brothers, once small-scale peddlers, cultivated relationships with Zuma and other ANC figures, and parlayed them into massive profits. The brothers were involved in everything from a US$100 billion nuclear deal with Russia, to graft at the state-owned railway and power companies. Tens of millions were stolen from money earmarked for rural development and funneled into a lavish Gupta family wedding. Journalists investigating this corruption were targets of a disinformation campaign accusing them of being neo-colonialists supporting white monopoly power.
Eventually, the journalists are vindicated, and a state inquiry is called into “state capture”—a massive corruption scheme involving the Guptas, Zuma and his government, and international finance and consulting firms.
HOW TO STEAL A COUNTRY serves as a warning on how multinational companies and ruthless entrepreneurs can co-opt democracies for their own profit.