[LETTER] Believing the incentives that led to state capture won’t be abused again is naïve

During his recent appearance before parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa), public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan said: “Certainly there needs to be separation between the state and the party, and hopefully we will move more in that direction.” (“Gordhan refuses to name names and blasts De Ruyter at Scopa,” May 17).

At this point in the proceedings the minister had acknowledged links between the ANC’s investment firm, Chancellor House, and projects involving Eskom. The more involved the state becomes with economic activity and business, the greater the incentives become for corruption and agreements that benefit those with the necessary political connections. While encouraging to hear the minister’s comments regarding the importance of separating state from party — and by implication, the state from business — it is difficult to believe that meaningful action will follow.

The Employment Equity Act increases the powers of the minister of labour, and therefore exponentially increases the mixing of state with economy. Regarding practical results, employment equity legislation has largely failed to benefit the majority of South Africans affected by apartheid, accruing benefits and control to those able to move in higher political and state circles. In the sphere of healthcare, the proposed National Health Insurance will serve to centralise the management of all healthcare services in the hands of the state. To imagine that the systems and incentives that gave rise to state capture have somehow disappeared and will not be abused once more is naïve at best.

In deed, then, the state, and the current governing party remain committed to ideas and policies that will further extend the mixing of state with party, and so too the increase of state power over virtually all aspects of economy and society. Because this will not deliver improved services, the result over time will be the whittling away of respect for, and acceptance of, state proposals and demands.

Letter originally appeared here.

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