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A culture of political capitalism: the unbearableness of ANC corruption

Ours is the age of rule of self-destruction through politics defined by the capitalist spirit and greed as greatest motivator.
Image: Shutterstock

Ours is the age of rule of self-destruction through politics defined by the capitalist spirit and greed as greatest motivator: a culture founded on the precept that the wealth accumulation of corporate executives and profit making practices of capitalist business is good for political leaders.

Ours, the democratic South Africa is the age of rule by men and women who boldly and famously declared they did not get in the struggle to be poor, yet chant ‘batho pele’ – the people first slogan. Leaders who believe they are only answerable to party members and not the nation. Leaders who believe they will rule until Jesus comes, until then, they will give in to the spirit of rule-breaking that has morphed into a willingness to abuse power and plunder public resources.

In the midst of pandemic that has devastated lives, brought the economy to its knees and forever altered society, political leaders have embodied the capitalist spirit that suggests each follow or pursue their own interests – an acquisitive success made possible by greed.

The corruption allegations in personal protective equipment procurement tenders in the fight against Covid-19 and the incestuous link between senior ANC/government officials and their relative’s business interest embodies the kind of individualism and self-interest Adam Smith would be proud of. Sadly, the marriage between the ANC-led government and corruption has long been apparent to observers and the people they claim to serve.

I believe the R500 billion economic support package and the ensuing goods and services procurement process has undoubtedly showed South Africans the unbearableness of ANC corruption. So deep-rooted are corrupt practices that in the midst of increasing poverty, joblessness and death caused by the pandemic that political leaders couldn’t help sticking their hands in the cookie jar.

We are witnessing political entrepreneurs who think if corporate actors can do it – that is, the egregious rent-seeking, deceitful use of political power for economic benefit and oligopolistic practices where a few connected companies benefit from the state tendering system – why can’t they.

Ironic isn’t it? For all its rhetoric anti-capitalism stance, most of the ANC leaders and their alliance partners personify the very concept they claim (at least on podiums) to abhor in their fight to make South Africa an egalitarian society.

Ours is an era where political office has made some individuals fabulously rich and woe betide anyone who stands in the way of these politicians and their ‘entrepreneurial activities’ and accumulation of wealth.

This reality is in no doubt concerning, however the frightening  part is the disassociation from reality President Cyril Ramaphosa seems to have, especially when it comes to tackling corruption. Moreover, his lack of action reveals to many what some of us have known for a while: he is powerless to act against corruption in the ANC and in government.

It is hard to be convinced that the ministerial committee set up to investigate Covid-19 tender corruption will produce evidence that will incriminate fellow ANC members. After all, was it not just last week that Ace Magashule the party’s secretary general said, “Tell me of one leader of the ANC, who has not done business with government”?*. He seems to imply that the practice by political leaders of engaging in what young people call a ‘side hustle’– albeit on multi-million rand scale – is well and truly entrenched in the ANC.

The statement can also be deciphered as warning shot to the president, one that says ‘probing Covid-19 tender processes is opening a new can of worms, are you sure you want to that?’ It seems to be a let-sleeping-dragons-be kind of warning, possibly because of the allegations made against his and other ANC leaders’ family members in procurement contracts relating to the pandemic.

It should be evident by now and especially since the pandemic outbreak, that it is not rising unemployment or poverty that currently threatens South Africa, nor is it white monopoly capital (WMC). It is a culture of political capitalism steeped in corrupt practices and the impunity with which the ANC has made it fashionable.

All of this, then, makes you wonder what can be done to halt this abuse, appropriation and outright stealing of public resources? And what can be done to halt the declining process currently underway, as it undermines democracy and economic development?

South Africans must attend to this threat; first we must shake off the powerlessness many are currently feeling in the face of corruption that cripples society. Then we can empower institutions that prevent and even offset the abuse of power by leaders who believe the office they occupy gives them mandate for self-enrichment.

We must support institutions such as courts and the judiciary that safeguard our democracy and hold leaders accountable. At a time when such institutions are being attacked, we must stand for them and never accept the false claims that they are enemies of the people.

In part 2 I will expand on this possible solution and others, including rejecting the regressive lure of nationalism. We must challenge the notion of an omnipotent party that has ambitions of ruling forever – Zimbabwe offers valuable insights to this danger.

*See this News24 article.

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Very well said Mamokgethi!

This despicable corrupt capitalist culture has instilled the pigs at the vast trough of the rainbow nation’s trust and tolerance. An entire nation stands compromised with a lack of access to basic goods and services despite the very high costs.

Education, training, security, electricity, water are examples of essentials that face the peril of these narcissistic incompetents.

The regressive lure of nationalism you allude to represents an unlikely collaboration of evil that has been flowing beneath the surface for quite some decades.

This faceless monster might yet deliver a neo-fascist nightmare to our doorstep if we fail to call it by the name it deserves.

We shall cooperate in abundance and clear the way to activate available technology and resources and disrupt this socio-political nepotism.

I look forward to following your further insights and developments going forward to part 2 and beyond.

Neither you nor the author of the article have any idea what you are talking about, you just use words like “Capitalism” as slogans.

As expected moneyweb deleted my original comment.
However I saved it and will mull about posting it elsewhere.

In the meantime then surely my endorsement of Nick’s comment can get approval from Stasi central?

I do not think the author has it against a free market capitalist economy, but rather the way these people abuse capitalist systems, like tenders, to enrich themselves.
But maybe I don’t understand him myself.
Fortunately, there will be a follow up article. I am certain the author reads this comments, maybe he can use that opportunity to clear up this misunderstanding.
Help us out of our misery please, Mamokgethi.

Sorry Mamokgethi, I see you are a lady, not a “he”. My sincere apologies.

History shows us that capitalism works. The Chinese communist dictatorship has successfully harnessed the power of capitalism which has pulled the entire and massive nation out of poverty. But freedom of the people and human rights, as in a true and functional democracy, still suffers. History shows us that capitalism is like a hungry beast and needs to be controlled. The fences must be strong and tall, but if it is prevented from eating then just like every living thing it will die of starvation. Without capitalism it is like the drought that will not end. All is well until the water runs out. First all the cattle die and then it is the turn of the people. Sort of like Zimbabwe.

You both display quite a shallow understanding of economic systems when you describe capitalists as greedy and socialist as moral, benevolent and ethical. Human nature, in other words, how humans react and adapt their actions to incentives and penalties, proves that capitalists can’t exploit consumers and citizens and that it is impossible for socialists not to exploit consumers and citizens.

The political elite, who abuse their positions of power to plunder the common resources to the detriment of the citizens, are enabled, incentivised and rewarded by those very citizens, through the process of socialism. Any system of shared resources incentivises the most unscrupulous individuals in the group to exploit the rest at a maximal rate. When accountability is shared by the collective, it implies that nobody is accountable. Socialism, per definition, excludes law and order. The system is based in plunder and incentives and rewards plunder. In this system, one can only accrue wealth by stealing from others. This system does not incentivise entrepreneurs to serve the consumer, to the contrary, the system punishes entrepreneurs through various taxes, state monopolies, labour laws, preferential treatments for some, and barriers-to-entry into some opportunities. Socialism incentives people to gain positions of power that they can monetise by plundering the shared resources. There is nothing capitalist about this. This is pure, unadulterated socialism.

On the other hand, nobody can become wealthy in a free-market society without serving the consumer. Law and order, property rights, individualism and accountability are the traits of a market society. Nobody can exploit anybody else in this system because the law enforces property rights and holds people to account. In this system, the consumer uses the profit objective to incentivise and reward the entrepreneurs to serve them. The consumer directs economic activity and decides who becomes wealthy and who goes bankrupt. In the capitalist system, anybody who owns property must employ it to the benefit of society as a whole. If the capitalist does not employ his property for the benefit of the group, he will lose that property very fast. If someone is wealthy, it implies that they served the consumer well. This is capitalism, and there is nothing exploitative about it.

South Africa is not a capitalist society. We are a socialist society. That is why politicians act as they do. The system rewards them for exploiting the population. People who share the beliefs of Ellison Blaze incentivise and reward the looting of the common resource.

Sensei you often express an opinion on the Capitalism/Communism dipole. Do you have an opinion on the work of Nobel winner Elinor Ostrom with regards to governing a common?

Mojojojoe, thank you for opening this very interesting debate. Men of my age did “national service”. I am not making a political statement when I say that I am proud of those 2 years that I spent in the military.

The most crucial difference between political-economic systems is the incentives and penalties issue. This is mostly overlooked by academics. I will use the military as an example to illustrate this crucial issue.

The military can be compared to a commons. The military process trains people, who were conditioned to be individualists in civilian life, to become “collectivists” in the sense that you must be a team player. In true communalist fashion, the value of a member of a fighting unit is measured by what he can contribute to the group. People who were perceived as untrustworthy under enemy fire was a risk to everyone else. Individual soldiers strive to protect the group, even if it means personal sacrifice. This is where comradery originates from. Individualism is frowned upon and even punished. Any act of bravery that puts the rest of the group at risk, will not be honoured but will be punished.

Soldiers share barracks, they share food, they wear the same uniform, have the same haircut, wake up and go to sleep at the same time, use the common vehicle pool and the share the parade ground and the entire training facility. Now we get to the important point – they also earn the exact same salary for their rank. In an operational situation everyone is focussed and ready, but how do the entrepreneurial spirit play out when things are peaceful? Since the individual won’t earn a higher wage if he did more work, there is no incentive for him to excel. He becomes innovate, and he does less work than what is expected of him, to earn more per unit of work. The term “gyppo” describes this shirking of duty. The system incentivises the shirking of duty and punishes diligence. Everyone tries to do as little as possible. (See this in the context of a government employee)

This is why the military is known for the strict enforcement of discipline. For a communal system to be effective and viable, there must be very strict rules, and discipline has to be enforced ruthlessly. There is no such thing as “personal freedom”, “individual rights” and “liberty” in any military unit. Professional soldiers find it very hard to adapt to civilian life after their time in the military. They expect the “system to support them”. They struggle to find their feet when they have to adapt to a world of individualism. They cannot let go of the communalist mindset. We find the same mentality among people of East Germany, as well as all over Africa. The Berlin Wall separated families. People in East Berlin were collectivist and those in West Berlin were capitalist. They shared the same bloodline, but their mentalities were very different.

A system of shared resources penalises hard work and diligence, while it incentivises everyone to do as little as possible. The system motivates people to shirk accountability and to behave irresponsibly. Communalism enables and incentivises the most unscrupulous individuals in that community to exploit the common resource to the detriment of the rest because the cost of the exploitation is carried by the collective. This is what happens if rules and regulations are not strictly enforced. South Africa is a running experiment in this regard.

This is why democracy and communalism are mutually exclusive. A communalist system without the very strict enforcement of rules is destined to fail. How does the ruler of the commons enforce rules when they operate under a bill of rights? When individuals have rights and personal freedom, then the ruler cannot act appropriately against those who abuse the system. This why the South African experiment is destined to fail. This explains why all collectivist policies tend to become oppressive and end in fascism. The Gulag and firing-squad are used to enforce accountability. This is the inevitable destination of all collectivist systems. Democracy and individual freedom are only sustainable under capitalism. Socialism it the “Road to Serfdom” as described by Frederic Hayek.

To conclude – the findings of Elinor Ostrom basically confirm this view. Free-market policies and property rights developed to solve the incentives problem that is inherent to collectivism. The system of property rights is far superior and more effective at addressing the issues of overgrazing and degradation that is typical of all communalist systems. Property rights render Elinor Alstrom’s principles for managing a commons unnecessary. People can enjoy liberty and human rights under the capitalist system because the system incentivises accountability and diligence.

She received the Nobel Prize, maybe I will receive one “like”. ☺

True expect it works on kibbutzes and in communes socialism. It’s just that most use it to hide their true intentions I do agree in capitalism though with a social conscience.

BossRj36, the Kibbutz system is a black hole that needs constant bailouts from the taxpayers. The government sponsors these projects to alleviate social problems and to have occupants on the land. The Kibbutz is not economically viable without subsidies in the form of debt guarantees, and you have the same incentives problem.

Thanks Sensei, you sound so old, having at least matriculated before 1991 or thereabouts! My condolences for enduring the SA military.

First of all, the ideology of communism and the theory of the commons are not the same and not alike.
While a lot can and has been said about communism, perhaps it’s most damning feature is it’s centralised leadership structures which cause the emergence of totalitarianism.

I do believe Ostrom was researching ways to enhance governance of common resources and wasn’t intent on new dogma or ideology.

Other than your analogy I have no idea why you used the military as an example of a common.

My idea of a common would be: common water resources in a farming district; fish stock in the high seas; articles on the Wikipedia.

Generally, there are eight simple rules for maintaining a common:
1. Clearly defined boundaries to the common.
2. Localised rules fitting the social or ecological circumstance.
3. Participatory decision making.
4. Monitoring and observing the common.
5. Punishment for abusers should be graduated. From reputational loss, to warning, to fine etc.
6. Easy, cheap and accessible conflict resolution.
7. A common needs to be recognised by higher levels of authority.
8. A common would best work nested in a larger network.

As you can see, this is more of a framework for participatory government.

As you Sensei have tried to construct a list of recurring features that are associated with long term success of a society, that is exactly what Ostrom was busy with too.

Property is a legal institution and human invention for solving practical problems. Ostrom’s work yields insights for and draws insights form property theory. Although property is sometimes treated as all or nothing it is actually the conference of a bundle of rights: access, withdrawal,management, exclusion and alienation. Most often, the right practiced by property right holders is exclusion, and often property rights are mistaken for private property rights. See for its discussion and links.

BossRj36, Kibbutzim are great. I worked on one. It was very enjoyable. Like a big caravan park. People could even go to work. They were there so that there would be a people presence so that Israel could start asserting itself. They were very effective. Their occupants very heroic. Many of them came from the holocaust and were deeply scarred.

The word capitalism has been somewhat twisted from what it means; in essence the right to work, save, and invest savings for more income. PERIOD!

But over the years so many thieves and abusive power mongering control freak megalomaniacs have clothed themselves in that sheep’s skin, not to mention corrupt blackmailing politicians condemning it for their own slice, that the whole concept has become synonymous with abuse and theft from the stupid and weak, in the minds of the commercially uneducated.

political capitalism is exactly the opposite of capitalism, and a lovely oxymoron, but its a fun concept to throw about by communists who like to confuse the idealistic and naive.

Maybe consider that what you are labeling as capitalism is actually a knockoff capitalism. a stolen one. I know we don’t live in a perfect world, but we don’t consider the ideal concepts like freedom and love to be tainted by the reality of human failing, so why should we do differently of something as aspirational, human and ancient as capitalism?

Ethical behaviour is the very antithesis of the ANC!

Ours is the age that Thomas Sowell describes so aptly;
“It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.”

The political and the economical collapse of Zimbabwe should be the touchstone of any nation where corruption exists at every level of government, encouraged by impunity.

Thomas Sowell so well describes?

The word ‘describe’ is a verb not a noun. If it was a noun, ‘so well’ would be an adjective (describes a noun) which is commonly placed before the noun. ‘Aptly’ is an adverb (describes a verb) which is placed after a verb. I cannot have an adjective to describe a verb. That does not exist in the english language.

Alternatively and much more simplified, i cannot have an adverb before AND after a verb in a single sentence.

“those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong” there can only be so many weatherman and weathergirls on TV so the next best option for getting it wrong and getting away with it locally is the ANC option, besides the rewards are like Swiss cheese and chalk-dust.

Only one way to get rid of this ANC pandemic.

A concerted effort is needed by all opposition parties with one goal.

Get the ANC out.

So form a coalition NOW and don’t try and beat them singlehandedly.

It can be done. Get those who have never voted to vote now.

No place for party politics. Coalition now with one goal.

Great tactic Mmmm, fully agree. Sun Tzu would be proud.

A common enemy makes us all friends. We will address our differences later. _ The Conglomeration of the Opposition*

* = fictitious

Capitalism has nothing to do with corruption. The most open free market societies in the world are also the least corrupt.

Mamokgethi. The title of your article is suspect. Capitalism little to do with tender corruption. The people being awarded the crooked tenders are hardly capitalists. These people wouldn’t stand a chance in a true (highly competitive) capitalist economy. I think a more apt name would be “socialist corruption”. Corruption is strongly associated with socialism. Put too much money and decision making power in the hands of government and the inevitable result is high levels of corruption.

the average voter in misunderstood.
The person who steals from goverment and gets away bwith it, is admired and held in awe.
There is also an element of fear becuse of the power the corrupt rich wield.
That is why the ANC will still be in power in 2030.

corruption is present in every style of government or economy, the difference is whether or not there are negative consequences for getting caught out. Corruption is in fact a criminal activity, no different from robbing a bank or hijacking a vehicle. Until the punishments fit the crime we are wasting our breathe.

What is political capitalism? If he means political greed, I would agree. If he is equating greed with capitalism, I would suggest a course in basic economics and political science to find out what the difference is.

He means crony capitalism by the politicians to the exclusion of everyone else, ie the opposite of capitalism. Its a neat word play.

Or if you would have it another way, its monopoly of access to capital by the politically connected, and since were not mincing words, also their families, friends and financiers.

Another good article by Mamokgethi Molopyane, except for the tendency to blame capitalism.

Few in this country realize that capitalism provides their savings, pension and provident fund returns.

Unfortunately the author confuses tenderpreneurs with entrepreneurs. The two are mutually exclusive.

In other news, Thug-in-a-Hat announced 300,000 arrests for breaking Crook-in-a-Doek’s lockdown rules.
Arrests for corruption are somewhat less.

Rapes have gone up as have school vandalism.

Love this guy. He always gets to the heart of the matter.
Well said.

This country is a victim of its own schizophrenia!

A democracy led by communists, would inevitably create factions and stalemates as products of such hypocrisy. It’s madness!

The fact is that Black South Africans have accepted and officialized ANC Corruption…Basically the majority of this country are absolutely okay when corruption is practiced by ANC Officials and scream through their lungs when any other does the same…sad but true. Today the nation is engulfed by convid-19 pandemic and these idiots (ANC Officials) sees this as gold mine opportunity…No worry when the election comes, Black South Africans shall give ANC another chance and another and another chance…Seriously I think Election Process ought to be part of our education curriculum just to educate people and make them understand how to enforce change in a democratic society…

Let us learn to you use our language properly before we make public comment. Corruption and theft are not “Capitalism”. Writing in this manner, a failure of not only this author but innumerable others, is simply careless at best, dishonest at worst and merely reflects an ill considered political bias, or a lack of intellectual rigour.

The ANC is so corrupt that they now need to be known as Afican Nationwide Corruptors

End of comments.



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