Parastatals: fleshpot flashpoint

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.

Understanding history

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.

4 thoughts on “Parastatals: fleshpot flashpoint

  1. @ Nic

    “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””

    I don’t think Marx would find the situation here surprising. Read the ’18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon’: class struggle in post-revolutionary France was mediated through a complex, ever-changing process of inter-class alliances and conflicts, with each class itself split into fractions that periodically formed alliances with factions from other classes.

  2. your article reminds me of previous ruminations – who will the middle and upper class members of the population vote for when they tire of the perpetual and ever-increasing waste and pillage of public funds? And when they tire of and demand responses to the culture of corruption in all it’s disguises, of deployment of loyalists to positions of incomptence – who will get their vote?? COPE has [or is about to] fail – where will they go? Back to the ANC?

    Hope you are rested from your race around the Southern Cape coast – things are about to get interesting – all this on the [blessed] day Selebi is found guilty of corruption – Interpol miust be feeling a tad stupid and also a bit relieved to be relieved of his ‘services’ – Do we get to pursue Mbeki now or does he have immunity?
    A bientot

  3. Is the ANC not’ the custodian of Liberalism ” ? If it purports to be , there is cause for concern .

    The Tyranny of Liberalism


    by James Kalb

    CHAPTER ONE ( excerpt )
    Liberal Tyranny

    that they favor freedom, reason, and the well-being of ordinary people. Many people consider them high-minded and fair to a fault, “too broadminded to take their own side in a quarrel,” too soft to govern effectively. Even the word “liberal” suggests “liberty.” How can such an outlook and the social order it promotes be tyrannical?
    The answer is that wanting freedom is not the same as having it. Political single-mindedness leads to oppression, and a tyranny of freedom and equality is no less possible than one of virtue or religion. We can¬not be forced to be free or made equal by command, but since the French Revolution the attempt has become all too common and the results have often been tyrannical.
    Tyranny is not, of course, what liberals have intended. They wani government to be based on equal freedom, which they see as the only pos¬sible goal of a just and rational public order. But the functioning of any

    form of political society is determined more by the logic of its principles than the intentions of its supporters. Liberals view themselves as idealis¬tic and progressive, but such a self-image conceals dangers even if it is not wholly illusory. It leads liberals to ignore considerations, like human na¬ture and fundamental social and religious traditions, that have normally been treated as limits on reform. Freedom and equality are abstract, open-ended, and ever-ramifying goals that can be taken to extremes. Liberals tend to view these goals as a simple matter of justice and rationality that prudential considerations may sometimes delay but no principle can le¬gitimately override. In the absence of definite limiting principles, liberal demands become more and more far-reaching and the means used to ad¬vance them ever more comprehensive, detailed, and intrusive.
    The incremental style of liberalism obscures the radicalism of what it eventually demands and enables it always to present itself as moder¬ate. What is called progress—in effect, movement to the left—is thought normal in present-day society, so to stand in its way, let alone to try to reverse accepted changes, is thought radical and divisive. We have come to accept that what was inconceivable last week is mainstream today and altogether basic tomorrow. The result is that the past is increasingly dis¬credited, deviancy is defined up or down, and it becomes incredible that, for instance, until 1969 high school gun-club members took their guns to school on New York City subways, and that in 1944 there were only forty-four homicides by gunshot in the entire city.1

  4. Closely related to your topic is the question :

    World Cup Soccer In Africa: Who Really Wins?

    “Let’s be clear – this discussion is not about whether the World Cup should be held in South Africa – it is about the manner in which those in power have hijacked a national opportunity, in order to engage in expenditure (for the benefit of an elite minority) which was not required in order to host the tournament. Can there be any question that the new stadiums were built at the expense of South Africa’s poor, sick, homeless, hungry and uneducated?”

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