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South Africa saw its most destructive riots in years this past July, ostensibly in response to former President Jacob Zuma's imprisonment and due to socio-economic factors. The Constitutional Court's sentencing of Zuma was widely hailed as a victory for the Rule of Law, but the commentariat in many cases remains blissfully unaware of its diagnostic blindspots.
There are two customary rules in South African law-making that are adhered to almost to a T: The law must make matters worse, or the law must miss the point. Rarely, if ever, does legislation that comes out of the South African Parliament or the provincial legislatures make things better for citizens and consumers. The new National Small Enterprise Amendment Bill, 2020, is no exception.
Both private and public sector corruption, whether moral or criminal, is a result of perverted incentives. These incentives are in turn a result of a political philosophy that regards it as at best appropriate, and at worst imperative, that policy (and political) considerations play a central role in commercial and economic decision-making. South Africa would do better to shift its focus to enterprise and away from politics.
Over the past few weeks, the world stood witness to the spectacle of American politics in the twilight of Donald Trump’s presidency. Many in South Africa joined as keen observers. This episode, like many before it, again highlighted the importance of institutions and the ideas that underlie them – a reality often neglected in the realm of the politics of personality.