• Ivor Chipkin

Elite Competition

Updated: Aug 27, 2019

Here is the Business day article on the provincialisation of South African politics. The original contains some graphs that I developed, which capture this transfer of power to local and regional elites. I will make them available shortly. In summary, though, I argue that South Africa is witnessing intense elite competition driven mainly by local and regional politicians and civil servants.


I am finding it useful to understand these developments comparatively. Daniel Branch and Nic Cheeseman provide a useful framework. They apply a concept developed in relation to Latin America - the 'Bureaucratic-Executive State' - to the study of Kenya to argue that there were profound continuities between the form of the colonial state and the postcolonial state there. The Republic that was declared in 1964 created the post of President. It also placed provincial administrations under the direct control of the executive. It was possible, moreover, for the executive to bypass both the legislature and political parties in the pursuit of its goals. "By the middle of 1968", they quote Gertzel approvingly, "the executive in independent Kenya enjoyed the position very similar to that of the executive during the days of colonial rule". The difference lay, of course, in the fact that the Moi government could lay claim to the memory of Mau Mau and the struggle against colonialism to secure its prestige and its authority.


The South African case is very different. South Africa is a democracy. The power of the executive is constrained by the fact that Provinces and municipalities have autonomy granted to them by the Constitution. There can be no executive appointment of provincial and local officials. Unlike in Kenya, however, the ANC functions as a back-door to the Constitution. The selection of Mayors, Premieres and senior provincial officials is administrations areIn South Africa, the constitutional arrangement gives free range to elite competition at local and regional level.



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