Why patronage and state capture spell trouble for South Africa

If patronage politicians win the battle within the ruling ANC and complete the capture of the state, SA will slip from stagnation into the abyss, writes Co-Pierre Georg, senior lecturer at UCT’s African Institute for Financial Markets and Risk Management.

South Africa has caught the world’s attention with an epic battle between two powerful factions within the governing African National Congress (ANC) which has spilt into government. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has aptly described this as a government that wages “war with itself”.

On the one side there is the largely rural based faction of patronage politicians around President Jacob Zuma. The other side is less well defined, but it can be safely assumed that the beleaguered finance minister Pravin Gordhan is among them. What makes this battle different from the usual political quarrels is the viciousness with which the patronage politicians are fighting to get the upper hand.