*Patronage still stifles development

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The system of patronage networks is not a new phenomenon. Designed to benefit dominant dynasties at a particular time, it takes different forms according to the context.

The system of patronage networks is not a new phenomenon. Designed to benefit dominant dynasties at a particular time, it takes different forms according to the context.

It’s parasitic in nature and sustains itself through establishing a web of networks within the state apparatus. 
Those driving it are located within political, business and royal circles. 
The latter's loyalty to the system is sustained through disbursement and the allocation of goods and resources. 

Rogue business moguls use politicians to get close to state resources. The latter are used as foot soldiers to facilitate the allocation of lucrative tenders. 

The masters of this process exert enormous pressure on bureaucrats located in different functional areas within the institution’s value chain to meet their demands. In many instances, externally imposed instructions cascaded down through political conduits lead to the circumvention of statutory processes. 

Such interventions contribute to unauthorised, wasteful and irregular expenditure. 

Resistance to unlawful instructions is discouraged through horrendous clandestine operations. Further resistance is met with concocted rebellion in the form of industrial action, expulsion and even assassination. 

Limited financial resources earmarked for community development are diverted to patronage schemes. These heinous acts have bankrupted the municipalities in particular. 

The pathetic state of affairs at this level is exacerbated by macro-economic factors, mis-governance and political micro-management spearheaded by rogue politicians. 

The provincial sphere has been subjected to patronage for a long time and how it manifests depends on which political party is running the show. 

Of late, key national departments have become soft targets.   

Apartheid was a legislated form of patronage designed to advance the interests of a specific group at the expense of the majority. 
Patronage assumed both a political and economic character.

Apartheid patronage was protected by the judiciary, national parliament, and other state apparatus. 

The army, police, intelligence and secret services were used to preserve the institutionalised, racially structured patronage system to the disadvantage of Black people in general and Africans in particular. White people largely benefited from wealth/capital accumulated through a system condemned by the UN as crime against humanity. 

Their inheritance of wealth should be understood against this backdrop. 

The need for liberation should also be understood within this context.  

Some white people joined the struggle against   apartheid patronage, while a number of Blacks collaborated with the apartheid masters in defence of a system based on criminality. 

Therefore, it was correct to define our revolution as a non-racial, non-sexist and anti-oppression and -exploitation movement. Within this context, the primary objective of the struggle was to liberate Blacks in general and Africans in particular. 

Whoever is involved in patronage networks, irrespective of colour, gender, creed, sex, and national origin shall not be defined as a friend of the people. 

Patronage contradicts the vision of the Republic of South Africa as enshrined in the Constitution. 

As a result of apartheid patronage, in 1994 the democratically elected government inherited a technically bankrupt state. 

It’s alleged that in the run-up to inclusive elections, the plundering of state resources was the order of the day, including the looting of Treasury. 

The new dispensation inherited a system which was corrupt to the core. 

The rationale behind the liberation was also to expunge all forms of misdemeanour's and build a just and caring society. 

Some thought that the dismantling of apartheid had brought to a halt all forms of patronage. Hopes and expectations were high.

The moral bar was raised beyond expectations. The first democratically elected government was led by a person with an indisputable commitment to the prosperity of SA. 

Now, it was a matter of transforming the state in order to be responsive to the new challenges, demands and needs. 

Attempts were made to increase the capacity of the state in order to be responsive to new environmental challenges. 

Good progress was made on many fronts under difficult circumstances; unfortunately this process was intercepted by extra-non-statutory political processes. 

The 2007 Polokwane conference ushered in a non-definable trajectory characterised by extreme levels of populism underpinned by glaring incompetencies. This does not mean the precursor to the present dispensation was perfect. It had its own challenges, but substantive progress was made compared to the present situation. 

Among other things, the challenge relates to the lack of transforming the apartheid and colonial institutional culture inherited from the undemocratic dispensation. 

This has a bearing on transforming society and its sub-sets. 

Another contributing factor relates to an untransformed leadership mindset still trapped in the liberation struggle culture and rhetoric. 
Embracing a constitutional and democratic ethos is of critical importance. 

Instead, leaders find themselves imbibed by an untransformed institutional culture which was used to sustain a colonial and Eurocentric value system. These values and norms are inconsistent with constitutional imperatives, and as such have impacted negatively on the notion of transforming society into an inclusive space. 

The conflict between the EFF and the ruling party in particular around the issue of parliamentary governance mechanisms should be understood within this context. 

This is not a condonation of party antics in Parliament. 

Compounding the present South African situation is the emergence of massive patronage networks pilfering the country’s resources that should be used to advance the developmental agenda. 

This also contributes to political uncertainty that may discourage potential investors.

We’ve to ask ourselves a question, is ‘radical economic transformation’ possible under these circumstances? 

Also note that any form of transformation will take place within the skewed economic power relations that may favour the black elite to the disadvantage of the majority. 

The South African problem is structural and systemic and requires a transformative path designed to rectify the slanted playing field. 

* First sentence added on 12 February at author's request.

Christian Mxoliswa Mbekela is a strategic work consultant specializing in HR, EE and risk management. Former SAYCO NEC member and he was part of the team that re-established the ANC Youth League. He is currently doing PhD in the Sociology Department at Rhodes University. www.cmmmindpower.co.za

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