Beyond Malema: Neoliberalism and Corruption

The ongoing saga around Julius Malema and his millions achieved through state tenders has rightfully generated public disgust. Bobby Godsell, ex-Anglo American and now Business Unity South Africa, has gone on to refer to these “tenderpreneurs” as “economic terrorists.” Zwelinzima Vavi has called for a “lifestyle audit” of public officials -- clearly a device to “name and shame” the new wabenzi and through this, embarrass them into being more public-spirited and less greedy.

But, as always, the general disgust merges very different perspectives concerning the sources of this possible corruption and can have very different implications for public policy. At the one end of the spectrum are views, which too easily embrace comparisons with failed African states. These ideas are rooted in racism. And at the other end, are views that want to withdraw from any expectations of the state, either because, “there is nothing anyone can do about it,” or because the solution lies in just getting “the right person for the job,” regardless of their politics.

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