In recent times we have been beckoned into a genuine reflection over professional service to humanity and yet we find ourselves in a conceptual ditch wittingly created by systems that really had the interests of imperial conquer at heart.
This is my main verdict from a recent analysis of the events around state governance, the wrestling with the Covid-19 pandemic, and the feasibility of impactful public service. But the real culprits sit outside of the state and public service machinery.
Academic and research institutions have a lot to answer for, not to mention the science and innovation watchdogs such as the National Research Foundation (NRF) - the latter for their naïve rejection of knowledge production as highly politicised.
South Africa has been battling with several issues relating to its status as a "developmental state". The most prominent dilemma and one that is keenly broadcast by what I call "the capitalist diaspora" is corruption and mismanagement within state governance.
Innocence and objectivity of academic disciplines
Of course, who would not be appalled by such an indictment; turning a blind eye to the observation would mean questionable ethics. Yet there are many witting chains that hold South Africa back that are mounted on the "innocence and objectivity" of academic disciplines.
These have stifled fairness in the public governance for decades on end. They are a true gift to a self-propelling machine that imperialism has turned out to be. Three academic disciplines underpin the subtle workings of imperialist machinery and they are such an efficient tool at the disposal of the capitalist diaspora: Economics, History, and Law.
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Let me explain what I mean by "the capitalist diaspora".
Capitalist diaspora is an identity or class made up of a few who manage assets, knowledge and innovation, as well as economic processes for the benefit of themselves regardless of where they are physically in the globe.
Nationhood does not matter, but loyalty to social and economic supremacy of specific imperial identities matter. So it is conceivable that an individual or a political party can work to serve the capitalist diaspora in all its endeavours.
Of course, present-day relevance of terms such as imperialism can be debated for semantics, but the main issue is: loyalties to pioneers of economic plunder while riding on descendance or successfully mastering entry through learning the tactics of the game. The preferred language is now globalisation, investment prudence, markets mastery - with conceptual fashions evolving still.
The context is centuries of historical ideological cold war.
It is no secret that Africa has always been reliant on its colonial masters for economic identity.
Fundamental capture of Africa
This is a function of an inherited economic model that not only benefitted the "colonial motherlands", but never gave Africa an option to have an opinion on its design. Key to this is a fundamental capture of Africa in terms of knowledge production and ideology - an entire system of valuable concepts.
"Individualism", "free hold", "legitimate polity and politics", "record", "custom versus law", "land tenure", "social principles and social organisation" - all just changed in subtle and slow ways even through the shoddy empathy of Churches. It was ideological paternalism that has survived the test of time and which underpins the success of imperial ideological warfare to the current era. Academic disciplines sold out.
History handed over the legitimacy of African tenure systems to colonial disdain - these became irrelevant when ownership looked for an individual owner.
Later, conveyancing systems were not questioned because History never opened the question of obliterated social principles in the legitimacy of new "ownership systems". Thus, communal tenure is now truly a bizarre concept even to many native Africans.
As the backbone of the practice of the Law and legal principles, Constitutions generally have many unresolved presumptions and amazing trade-offs.
The South African Constitution has not quite explained its arbitrary identification of June 1913 as the chosen timeline for legitimacy of "ownership patterns", let alone, ownership social principles of that time. Instead, the rest of the machinery geared to solve land issues, takes for granted that communality of land is where "insecurity of tenure" is mostly located. There is disregard of governance hierarchies of the time and how they formed a local ideological system.
Economics on the other hand, has never found fit with social principles of ownership other than freehold tenure. Moreover, Economics, perhaps in the daily interpretation of commerce by its practitioners, finds distaste in issues of land tenure and "history of ownership" being raised. Alas, this is what creates market anxiety making the African currencies unstable!
Should anyone then be amazed at the recent use of the "Constitutionality" arguments by the capitalist diaspora to sway the South African government's aspiration from "a different kind of economic planning" that was on President Ramaphosa's tongue when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country?
Things being "unConstitutional" have seen the many business trips to courts challenging regulations related to the pandemic management.
Will anyone ever remember what the main ideals of the District Development Model (DDM) were, given the constantly resurrected furore over corruption diverting all strategising on local imperatives?
Divergence of attention
Is it a coincidence that most public institutions and arms of government are just pre-occupied with corruption and pandemic logistics and not so much the strategic issues on developmentalism?
Perhaps the DDM is not the only one suffering divergence of attention: Did anyone ever ponder what prevents the good rhetoric over local economic development from being implemented?
As for History - it has done its job, quite nicely: archives-based narration of polity formations from colonial state to independence trampling over all the social principles without questions. How "evidence-based" the archives are! Data that you can trace, without always questioning the integrity of the practitioners of the times.
The Covid-19 pandemic has asked all countries to question the basis of their means of survival. But in South Africa, there are clear signs that the fundamental deals sealed by History, Economics and the Law are no-go areas.
Let us see what the furore around the Land Expropriation Bill brings in the name of local economic development. But watch and see the wrath of the capitalist diaspora; the scapegoat of the "market anxieties over economic policy"; and the aloofness of the "evidence-based brigade" during many legal challenges over land freedom.