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Rita T.M. Kufandarerwa
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South Africa: from republic to oligarchy?

06 September 2017, 14:45

Alarmist analysts remain unrepentant on their dictum that South Africa is slowly becoming a failed state. There are many factors that need to be considered before arriving at that defining conclusion.

The fresh happenings in the world of the ANC chiefly the acquisition of the ANN7 and New Age media companies by Mzwanele Manyi tempts an alarmist analyst to say that South Africa is becoming an oligarchy. Financial power in the republic is slowly trickling into political power, making the conditions ripe for an oligarchical dispensation. It does not make the republic better off because the oligarchical system relative to the failed state is buttressing within the republic. An oligarchy is a dictatorship in practice, making the tragedy twofold.

An oligarchy Aristotle uses oligarchy as "the rule of the few," to refer to a government controlled by a minority consisting of the wealthy. Aristotle believes oligarchy is a bad form of government, as the ruling faction governs solely in its own interests, disregarding those of the poor.

In 2014, a report called Testing Theories of American politics: Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens used extensive policy data collected between 1981 and 2002 to empirically determine the state of the U.S. political system. Researchers concluded that the U.S. is dominated by its economic elite.

Activist groups like Occupy Wall Street drove attention to the dealings of the ruling elite as they expressed their dissatisfaction in the inimical oligarchy. The Koch brothers and Harold Hamm ring a bell in the American oligarchical circles. Russia points to an undeniable oligarchy as wealthy businessmen of the former Soviet State accumulated wealth in the era of Russian privatization. In the current Putin Era, oligarchs like Roman Abramovich, Pyotr Aven, Leonid Mikhelson and Yuri Milner feature dominantly on numerous Forbes Magazine lists. The list of oligarchs aforementioned is not exhaustive; it serves the purpose of an illustrative parallel of the system that is hemorrhaging South Africa.   

The emerging oligarchy in South Africa is synonymous with the Gupta family. The dealings of the Guptas need no introduction as they have dominated every headline. Notorious of their meddling in government affairs, the Gupta family evidenced the zenith of their influence when they offered the former deputy Finance Finister Mcebisi Jonas a huge sum of money for him to take a job as the Finance Minister- an appointment which is the prerogative of the president. Duduzane Zuma, an unapologetic ally and business partner of the Guptas showed how influential he is when he escaped a penitentiary stay after he killed a taxi passenger on Grayston Drive in Johannesburg. Recently, the Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe arrogantly left South Africa after she dangerously assaulted a young model who was in the company of her scoundrel sons. A symptom of the times, the belligerent First Lady was retrospectively granted diplomatic immunity and the assaulted girl was left nursing her wounds while wallowing in trauma. As we commemorated the Marikana massacre, we were reminded of how no one was ever convicted of the massacres. Fingers were pointed at the former Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, a futile commission of inquiry was established and no one was brought to book. Billionaire families like the Oppenheimers also exert their influential muscle in the private sector. Monetary power in South Africa has transmogrified into a political red button as the subtle line between financial muscle and political ideology is fading.

The rationale behind an oligarchic system is that the government provides services inefficiently while the private sector is efficient and diligent in its operations. Many government contracts are thus given to private companies. In the wave of privatization like in Russia, a few politically exposed persons are handed government contracts and make a killing in fortunes. Billions of dollars are accumulated by few individuals who insidiously control politicians in their campaigns.

The South African Border Management Agency (B.M.A) bill was controversially approved in July. This bill amongst many things will see the South African borders being run by a private company. South African ports of entry bring in billions in revenue, so who in the political circles saw the opportunity to make a fortune from the borders and manipulated the legislation of the B.M.A?

In an oligarchic system, certain services are available to the elite. Jail terms and justice is selective when it is being applied to the elite. It is undeniable that the incumbent cabinet in South Africa has been co-opted by the powerful business players and the policies implemented are in the tune of what corporates prefer to dance to. In that system, the ordinary civilian is tapped through high taxes, higher costs of living, and high charges for debatable services like banking.

It is with great theatrics that we assume that South Africa will become another failed African state. On the contrary, events unfolding and the concentration of power, it is evident that South Africa is losing its democratic lustre as it is roiled by the rise of the top echelons. The Mandelas, The Zumas, The Oppenheimers, The Motsepes, The Ramaphosas, The Sisulus, The Ruperts and The insufferable Guptas all have a political and economic bearing that will see them making a mark on the national political fate.

The poor person, the middle class citizen, the unemployed graduate, the homeless man, the indebted worker and the underpaid domestic worker cease to have humanitarian importance in an emerging oligarchic system like South Africa. The elitist politicians are throwing terms like “White Monopoly Capital” and “Radical Economic Transformation” to instigate a war between the civilians who are being cheated by the system. The problem is not the outward expression of colour of the person in power; it is the manipulative elitists who have special interests. What South Africa must see is the oligarchy being undone.

So it goes.

Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.


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