That Faint Whiff of Failing Statism

4 minute read

Bushpig poo. Oooh, the stench! That’s what Keira the Mighty Hunting Dog has rolled in. Oh, the joys of washing Bushpig poo off a dog of great fur. The smell can haunt the place for days.

So, too, the stink of kleptocracy and state capture.

Occasionally I get the urge to analyse politics and make predictions, despite considering myself to be crap at politics and having a dim view of politicians. I define them as The Lowest Form of Life On The Planet, having crawled out from under a rock when they saw the rest of us departing the trees. But one think I ought to write down “for the record” is this:

Of course I am as crap at predicting timelines as anybody else – you really can’t time the market – so my choice of timing is pretty certain to be a bit off. Also worth noting that I don’t think SA will be alone in this, though it might be among the “early adopters”. I think that we will see a significant weakening of the grip of nation-states as the primary repositories of sovereignty over the course of the next hundred years or so.

The thing that prompted this was Patricia de Lille’s resignation asleader of the DA in WC so that she can concentrate her energies on strengthening city governance in CT. I don’t read anything sinister or bullshitty in the news. Indeed, it makes perfect sense if you remember that the DA has always had a federalist agenda. And perhaps there are people within the DA’s strategic planning (Hello, James!) who likewise foresee a weakening of the centralist nation-state and a concomitant resurgence in the city-state as our go-to source of governance.

If we look back a little, the DA has had enough time running the City of Cape Town (and the Western Cape Province, though I consider that to be of much lesser significance) to get this working the way the want (more or less – nothing’s perfect in this world). In other words, they’ve probably managed to fire the truly rotten apples within their bureaucracy – or at least strongly encouraged some early resignations – and have had the time for the remaining functionaries to absorb deeply the fundamental principles of how the DA wants things done within their administration. Now it is time for them to take things to the next level. And isn’t that pretty much what Peppermint Patty said…? It is far too early for this stuff in Tshwane or Jo’burg. Getting the fundamentals in place in those cities is going to take until at least the next municipal election.

Not only does the DA want and need to show people what sort of government they aim to deliver, they also need to explore for themselves how to do that, and CT is the best available and meaningful platform for doing that. It is also a way to strengthen city government as a means to actively weaken state (central) government. Thus they act not only as a necessary and imho highly-desirable preparation for a substantially non-functional nation-state entity, but as active change agents in bringing that about.

The recent visits to foreign countries by various DA officials – much decried by the ANC – is entirely in line with this. If you no longer trust the nation-state to work at developing trade ties with foreign entities, then it is certainly wise to begin to do so yourself, and all-the-more so if those relationships can be forged at a city-to-city level. Incidentally, it also sends that message that the (DA-run) cities would seem to consider that the nation-state is failing to do an adequate job of foreign trade relations. No wonder the ANC is upset at them for this. The ANC is being shown up as crap – or, at least highly partisan – at a key job they ought to be performing.

It also serves as an early indicator of precisely what I predicted above: the imminent (though gradual!) collapse of the central nation-state as dominant repository of sovereignty.

It looks a lot like forces in the USA are aligning in ways that will push that nation in a similar – federalist, devolutionary – direction. A key difference for them is that, unlike so much European and Asian history, they have never had strong city-states as sovereign entities.

But who am I, a South African, to criticise the USA’s choice in misogynist, despotic, kleptocratic Putinesca for president when we’re still stuck with Jake and can’t seem to get rid of him and his state-capture cronies…

At least I could wash the Bushpig shit off my dog, and the smell will soon dissipate.