ECC: The political perspective Reply

At this afternoon’s meeting of the Economists’ Coffee Club Prof Andre Duvenhage presented us with a political perspective on the State of the Nation Address 2015 (the errors and omissions in this post remain our own). He argued that it was controversial, violent and with little new content. What is interesting is what he sees as the drivers of change in South Africa.

Prof DuvenhageFrom a liberation movement point of view, South Africa is in the second phase of transformation. The first phase was the political transformation. The second phase is supposed to be social and economic transformation. From a National Democratic Revolution perspective there are those that believe that the 1996 Constitution cannot ensure socio-economic transformation (hence all the mentions of the Freedom Charter and only one mention of the NDP).

At the same time there are all the familiar and significant economic challenges. Pro-poor spending was much easier when then economy and tax take were growing. It is more difficult to transform the pie when it is not growing.

At the same time we face institutional decay and a weakening state as is evidenced at local government level and in the parastatals. It has become impossible to talk away the service delivery protests and loadshedding.

The result has been a reconfiguration of the political spectrum. The EFF and United Front are now left of center. Which explains the views on land ownership and worker protection in the SONA – the ANC needs to be seen to the left of center as well.

Social dynamics are characterised by playing race cards, by xenophobia and ethnic dynamics in the ANC (we particularly enjoyed his term the Zulu-nostra).

The response from the ruling party has been securocratisation and dirty tricks.

To deal with these challenges, we need strong political leadership and that is not currently on offer.

For an economist’s perspective on the ideas of inclusive and extractive institutions we recommend having a look at Acemoglu and Robinson’s posts on South Africa at their Why Nations Fail blog.

From our students’ side there were some good questions about the events in Parliament, the roles of the different opposition parties and a possible exit strategy for President Zuma.

If you are interested in things happening in the great wide world, come and join the discussion at the Economists’ Coffee Club, Tuesdays at 13:00 in building E3, room G14.

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