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The politics – and economics – of patronage

Author: John Kane-Berman

Amazing what the African National Congress (ANC) gets away with, and how brazenly too. On Thursday last week the National Treasury published a “people’s guide” to the 2016 budget proclaiming that faster economic growth depended on “higher levels of confidence and investment within the private sector”. On Tuesday last week the National Assembly passed an expropriation bill that will undermine both confidence and investment. The minister of public works, Thulas Nxesi, says the bill is needed to speed up land reform and acquire land for the state.


Yet although the bill provides for expropriation without compensation in certain circumstances, business has been largely silent about it – no doubt for fear of upsetting the new-found toenadering between itself and the government. But perhaps business has not woken up to the fact that the bill threatens all forms of property rights, not just those of white farmers.

Apart from giving the government the power to speed up land reform, the bill will extend the ANC’s powers of patronage. The construction of a patronage machine with a long list of clients has been one of the organisation’s key achievements since it came to power 22 years ago.


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