Things are the way they are - News24, 27 July 2017

The immense power of party headquarters means that the South African political system has become “Sovietised”, in that Parliament and the Cabinet are both accountable to party headquarters in Luthuli House rather than to the electorate


By Sara Gon 

Jacob Zuma should renounce any claim to the presidency of the country until he has been acquitted of all charges against him. The reasons given by the National Prosecuting Authority for withdrawing the charges were flimsy and made it look “both cowardly and ridiculous”.

Corruption under the ANC has become pervasive. One way of countering corruption in the ANC is for public figures and business to withdraw their support from the party. But reform of the electoral system is also necessary, as this would strengthen the accountability of parliamentarians to voting constituencies rather than to corrupt party headquarters.

The immense power of party headquarters means that the South African political system has become “Sovietised”, in that Parliament and the Cabinet are both accountable to party headquarters in Luthuli House rather than to the electorate.

Some people pooh-pooh the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) on the grounds that revolutionaries cannot stage revolutions against themselves, but the NDR nevertheless represents three risks: The first is the further widening of party power over the state. The second is the extension of the ANC’s racial agenda. The third is more and more interference with private enterprise; that this will be incremental rather than of a big-bang variety does not make it any less dangerous, only more insidious.

Zuma’s cabinet is poorly structured and conceived. There are too many portfolios tasked with economic policy.

Any change in direction in areas where the country is failing will require Zuma to challenge the ANC, focused as it is now on patronage, party control, and self-enrichment. While suggested infrastructure spending may stave off recession, the next three to five years are likely to be retrogressive from a political point of view.

A Zuma presidency “will see a strengthening of the influence of the party vis-a-vis the state in accordance with standard Marxist-Leninist principles. This will not necessarily lead to a shift to the Left in fiscal and monetary policy, but the steady shift to a more interventionist state”.

Zuma’s government will continue with harmful interventionist policies. The private sector is likely to be subject to more regulation and bureaucracy with its attendant arbitrariness, corruption and delay.

The very notions of central planning, a developmental state, and industrial policy, so favoured by the ANC and government, are questionable. The role of the state should be much more limited – with an emphasis on providing essential public infrastructure, promoting decent public education and health care, and creating a policy environment that fosters risk-taking and investment by the private sector. There will be unintended consequences of poor legislation and policy choices.

Extensive corruption and incompetence have become the defining characteristics of the ANC at all three levels of government.

South Africa’s fate is bound up with those of others – China, America, Europe, the world. Our ability to influence decisions and events is limited. But there is much we can do to fix our own environment to stimulate private investment.

Such a package should include low taxes, protection of property rights, effective government, decent physical infrastructure, good public education and health care, liberal immigration laws, the rule of law, low crime, policy predictability, and regulation only where absolutely necessary.

The above paragraphs précis some of the contents of the South African Institute of Race Relations’ Annual Report for the period 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2008, written by then CEO John Kane-Berman. The report was referring to research, opinions and publications it had produced in 2008.

If it was dated 31 June 2017 it would be the same, just more so.

Things are the way they are because they were the way they were – Fred Hoyle, English scientist

*Sara Gon is a Policy Fellow at the IRR, a think tank that promotes economic and political liberty. Follow the IRR on Twitter @IRR_SouthAfrica. 

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