How to explain the decision to start a review of the parastatals by a presidential committee just as Public Enterprises minister Barbara Hogan was busy with that job?
When anything in our country seems confusing it is always useful to abide by the famous injunction from Watergate’s ‘Deep Throat‘: follow the money.
The raison d’être of the new political/economic elite – the thing that brought it into being and the thing that sustains and grows it – is the opportunity to take rents out of the economy. The overwhelming bulk of the low-hanging fruit in this endeavour is in the public sector – specifically in senior management positions and the multi billion dollar expenditure of the Parastatals.
Now if what you are/what you do is sheep stealing you don’t want an independent and famously incorruptible shepherd tending the flock. Far easier to give the job to a few of your wolf mates.
There are times and places when history feels like it is just meandering along minding its own business.
South Africa today is not one of those places or times. Here history is being driven and whipped along by an evil monkey on its back.
This particular evil monkey is none other than the squabble to harness the state to the task of personal accumulation.
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, writing in The Communist Manifesto in 1848 said:
The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle.
The “class struggle” shaping our course would have seemed a little eccentric to Karl Marx. There is no simple division into proletariat, bourgeoisie, petit-bourgeoisie – with the aristocracy fading into oblivion and the lumpen-proletariat skulking along the edges.
Here you have an elite that has emerged through leveraging political power – in exactly the same way as the local representatives of the previous political oppressors (the Afrikaner Nationalists) did from 1948.
The Afrikaner nationalists began to lose young Afrikaners (at a greater rate than before) from the early 80’s. The reasons are complex but using the state to advance the economic interests of a political/ethnic group deadens creativity, grows authoritarianism and the stultifying effects of patronage drowns cultural growth.
I suspect exactly the same thing is happening in the ruling party.
For an excellent review of the shenanigans in Public Enterprises read Christelle Terreblanche’s article from the Sunday Independent here. For a brilliant – and quite moving – overview of the growth of what I elsewhere call Vampire Capitalism, read Moeletsi Mbeki’s Architects of Poverty – which I review here.