The long-run firm level effects of apartheid cronyism in South Africa

The FT has this fascinating piece on the troubles facing South African mining giant Anglo-American:

Anglo was not apartheid’s victim but its beneficiary, not only allowed to exploit black workers but shielded from competition. That encouraged it to behave like the old nickname for the Oppenheimer family empire, “the octopus”. It spread tentacles throughout the South African economy, extending into Botswana through De Beers, the Oppenheimer diamond group.

Anglo was not a state-owned enterprise but an enterprise that became a state — a skilled bureaucracy expert at controlling resources and wielding hegemony. Its elite cadre of Anglophile managers were not as astute as they thought they were, or were clever in a way that lost relevance. Some expected, as one former rival executive puts it, “to be rewarded for showing up”.

…. A structure and culture that was highly experienced at navigating the closed, politicised world of apartheid South Africa was outmatched by global capital markets. “It felt like we were being compelled to do things it was not in our nature to do,” says one Anglo executive.

On a related note, read this on corruption in apartheid South Africa.

All things for older people to remember before reminiscing over the good old days under apartheid as South Africa continues to struggle under the singularly inept leadership of Jacob Zuma.

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Mbembe on the State of South African Politics

Rainbowism and its most important articles of faith – truth, reconciliation and forgiveness – is fading. Reduced to a totemic commodity figure mostly destined to assuage whites’ fears, Nelson Mandela himself is on trial. Some of the key pillars of the 1994 dispensation  – a constitutional democracy, a market society, non-racialism – are also under scrutiny. They are now perceived as disabling devices with no animating potency, at least in the eyes of those who are determined to no longer wait. We are past the time of promises. Now is the time to settle accounts.

But how do we make sure that one noise machine is not simply replacing another?

That is Wits professor Achille Mbembe writing on the state of politics in South Africa. The whole piece is definitely worth reading (also liked this response from T. O. Molefe).

Economic elites in South Africa (both black and white) are playing with fire. The lessons of Zimbabwe were not learned. The implementation of Mugabe’s land reform project was a disaster, but there is no question that the levels of land inequality in Zimbabwe were simply politically untenable. Something had to give.

One need not be against everything neoliberal (whatever that means) to acknowledge that the same situation holds in South Africa, and that something will have to give. Consider Bernadette Atuahene’s observations on the land situation in South Africa:

When Nelson Mandela took power in South Africa in 1994, 87 percent of the country’s land was owned by whites, even though they represented less than ten percent of the population. Advised by the World Bank, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) aimed to redistribute 30 percent of the land from whites to blacks in the first five years of the new democracy. By 2010 — 16 years later — only eight percent had been reallocated.

In failing to redistribute this land, the ANC has undermined a crucial aspect of the negotiated settlement to end apartheid, otherwise known as the liberation bargain. According to Section 25 of the new South African constitution, promulgated in 1994, existing property owners (who were primarily white) would receive valid legal title to property acquired under prior regimes, despite the potentially dubious circumstances of its acquisition. In exchange, blacks (in South Africa, considered to include people of mixed racial descent and Indians) were promised land reform.

Rapid economic growth and mass job creation could have masked the structural inequalities that exist in South Africa. Instead the country got Jacob Zuma and a super wealthy deputy president (and BEE beneficiary), both of whom are singularly out of touch with the vast majority of South Africans.

There is no doubt that South Africa needs a complete reorganization of its political economy. The question is whether the process will be managed by a “moderate” outfit like the ANC; or whether leaders will continue to sit on their hands and allow voices of less moderate groups like the Economic Freedom Fighters to gain traction.

ps: Just in case it is not obvious, South Africans are unambiguously better off now — as a people — than they were under apartheid rule.

Remembering Nelson Mandela and his legacy

Charles Kenny over at BloombergBusinessweek writes about Mandela’s often forgotten economic legacy (Perhaps because of the continued entrenchment of economic inequality and injustice in South Africa):

South Africa’s GDP growth rate, meanwhile, picked up considerably under Mandela. Economic growth rose from less than 1.5% between 1980 to 1994 to slightly under 3% between 1995 and 2003. Despite the sudden influx of internal migrants with the legal right to compete equally for jobs, average personal incomes for white South Africans increased by 62% between 1993 and 2008, according to University of Cape Town economist Murray Leibbrandt. Average incomes for Africans themselves increased even faster—by 93% over that same period.

The huffingtonpost has a collection of speeches to remember Mandela in his own words.

[youtube.com/watch?v=-Qj4e_q7_z4]

 

Richard Stengel over at Time explores the idea of Mandela the freedom fighter and leader who possessed almost mythical qualities in the eyes of many:

In many ways, the image of Nelson Mandela has become a kind of fairy tale: he is the last noble man, a figure of heroic achievement. Indeed, his life has -followed the narrative of the archetypal hero, of great suffering followed by redemption. But as he said to me and to many others over the years, “I am not a saint.” And he wasn’t. As a young revolutionary, he was fiery and rowdy. He originally wanted to exclude Indians and communists from the freedom struggle. He was the founder of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), the military wing of the African National Congress, and was considered South Africa’s No 1. terrorist in the 1950s. He admired Gandhi, who started his own freedom struggle in South Africa in the 1890s, but as he explained to me, he regarded nonviolence as a tactic, not a principle. If it was the most successful means to the freedom of his people, he would embrace it. If it was not, he would abandon it. And he did. But like Gandhi, like Lincoln, like Churchill, he was doggedly, obstinately right about one -overarching thing, and he never lost sight of that.

Back in 2011 writing in the Journal Peter Godwin noted that Mandela’s real legacy was his refusal to become life president, like many independence heroes before him on the Continent:

If anyone was well positioned to launch a political personality cult it was Mr. Mandela. His refusal to do so is probably his greatest legacy to his homeland. It set South Africa on a course different from most other African nations. Seventeen years into its post-apartheid incarnation, South Africa is already on its fourth president. This has radically reduced the danger of a single leader dominating the state.

As the world pays its last respects there will be nagging thoughts and questions of what next for South Africa. I am reminded of Eve Fairbanks’ piece earlier this year in which she cautioned that a lot more needs to be done to ensure that all South Africans benefit from the freedoms (political, social and economic) that Mandela fought for:

Many South Africans under 40 feel little connection to the father of their nation. Articles about Mandela’s many health scares late in life (at press time, the former president had been in a hospital on life support for more than a month, battling a lung infection) often feature laudatory quotes from two kinds of South Africans—whites and older blacks—while leaving out the voices of young blacks, who have a more ambivalent relationship with their founder-saint. Some even resent him.

The point here is that Mandela’s legacy will only be protected if the government facilitates greater economic inclusion of young South Africans. Simply replacing Smiths, Krugers and Plaatjes with with politically connected Khumalos, Gcobanis, and Phumlanis in the economic sphere as has happened under BEE will not cut it.

The statues and all sorts of honors that will undoubtedly come from around the world will not matter if the Madiba legacy does not get to live in the hearts and minds of South Africans of all generations, now and in the years to come.

The man gave up a lot for his country. Now that he is gone, it is time for South Africans (and especially the leadership) to honor him by keeping his dream of a more just South Africa alive. This is the least they could do for a man who is arguably top of the list of the greatest Africans of the 20th century.

Rest in peace Madiba. 

 

Corruption under apartheid South Africa, 1976-1994 (and its present institutional legacy)

Since the ANC took over in 1994 several top government officials in South Africa, including the current president Jacob Zuma, have been implicated in grand corruption. This has led some commentators to make the controversial claim that governance in South Africa has actually deteriorated since 1994.

apartheidLet’s just say that this is a rather odd claim to make. Of course, from a governance standpoint, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to appear uber efficient if all you have to do is milk over 90% of the population of its surplus and resources to make less than 10% happy (for more see history of South Africa).

Don’t get me wrong, South Africa under the ANC has been a massive disappointment (both for South Africans and for Africa in general). But when analyzing the ANC’s failures over the last 20 years, the comparison should never be to the “good old pre-1994 days.” Anyone who does this either has a minimal understanding of history, or is (inadvertently) letting known their stand on the morality of apartheid.

But I digress….

Like any good student of institutions will tell you, institutional habits die hard and outlive even the most sharp of discontinuities – like decolonization or the end of apartheid. And as we’d expect, many institutional habits of the apartheid era survived the 1994 transition. Indeed a 2006 report on grand corruption under apartheid appears to show that post-1994 corruption in South Africa is not a new phenomenon, and to a large extent is actually a mere continuation of the bad old habits inherited by state institutions from the apartheid era.

The report indicates that between 1976-1994, the equivalent of US $54bn (in 2005 ZAR) went through secret “government” accounts controlled by a small clique within government. It is not clear exactly what proportion of this wound up in the pockets of those with access to the lootable cash.

On the question of the quality of governance under apartheid South Africa, the report rightly notes that:

Racist nationalism is as vulnerable to corruption as most systems of authoritarian rule. In closed societies, which are highly militarised under dictatorial rule, the truth is hidden from public view by design. Access to power (and a monopoly over it) provides the elite in the public and private sectors with a unique opportunity to line their pockets. In so doing, the defenders of an illegitimate and corrupt system start to defy their own rules and laws that criminalise such behaviour. In terms of common law crime they are simply crooks dressed in the guise of patriots representing the interests of their volk, their race or their narrow class. They have effectively corrupted themselves.

Such a system can also only survive for as long as a monopoly over power is maintained. Its survival is therefore tenuous—common knowledge to all functionaries of the system, who are the first to ensure that they are taken care of should there be a break with the past. This leads to a reliance on ‘insurance’, usually in the form of cash or other easily moveable assets that can be moved abroad in the event of regime change. It is in the period before regime change that the elite, in particular, are likely to accumulate as many resources as possible for fear that they may soon be out of a job or, at worst, have to flee the country.

Adding that:

A key tenet of the apartheid state was secrecy. This manifested itself in the creation of secret organisations such as the Broederbond, a group of white male Afrikaner Nationalists that numbered 12,000 by the late 1970s (almost all loyal members of the NP), who were the invisible hand directing NP policy and who held enormous influence over government policy and its implementation

In other words, implementing the total domination of a minority or a majority population by the state necessarily requires the curtailment of everyone’s rights, EVEN the rights of those in whose name the state is supposedly carrying out the domination. Also, the authoritarian nature of such domination necessarily leads to the emergence of a select few who must be above the law in order to maintain the system. And like we’d expect, those above the law habitually abuse their power for their personal benefit. This was true in pre-1964 America (to a greater extent in the deep South than elsewhere), was true under Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa, and is true in the modern states that continue to institutionally discriminate against sections of their populations.

Check out the full report (pdf) here (H/T Kenyan Pundit).

For those into the study of the rule of law and governance check out these two new papers – Paul Gowder on the egalitarian underpinnings of the rule of law (Law and Philosophy) and Marcus Agnafors on the meaning of good governance (APSR).