Media release: “Amandla! Awethu!” means power to the people, not government – it’s time to decentralise!

Media release

31 May 2017

Release immediate

“Amandla! Awethu!” means power to the people, not government – it’s time to decentralise!

“Amandla! Awethu!” means power to the people – not government. Government may be calling for radical economic transformation (RET), yet its actions and policies perpetuate apartheid era thinking. Under apartheid, government not only controlled every consequential detail of South Africans’ lives, it also ensured that bureaucracies, rather than elected representatives, made the decisions that governed those lives. The Free Market Foundation (FMF) promotes real radical economic transformation – not more of what we already have disguised by spin. Decentralisation of government controlled activities and services would be a good way to start the ball rolling.

The notion of policy uniformity throughout the country is a tragic legacy of apartheid. Bantustans were established on the pretext that there would be a sovereign country for each ethnic tribe, but then government immediately created costly “multilateral secretariats” with the principal purpose of enforcing uniformity, especially through centralised fiscal and monetary control.

Post-apartheid South Africa is technically a “federation”. It has exclusive and concurrent powers constitutionally devolved to provinces and municipalities. Yet, the Apartheid mind-set that multiple systems cannot exist within one country dominates, despite our much-vaunted Constitution which provides to the contrary. Not only does government allow scarcely any diversity of substance regarding constitutionally exclusive powers and functions, but it also presumes that concurrent functions should fall under national government rather than within the domain of provincial and local government.

Elsewhere in the world, the concept of federalism and to have multiple systems within a single country are not only acceptable but also considered a competitive advantage and strength. Some second and third tier structures are essentially special economic zones (SEZs), such as Swiss Zug and the entire Chinese province of Hainan and various major cities such as Rotterdam and Singapore.

To establish real special economic zones (SEZs) in South Africa would effectively decentralise and bring power closer to the people – but this cannot be done in name only as would be the case under South Africa’s existing Special Economic Zones Act. The current SEZ regime is superficial at best and does not allow designated areas to be exempted from South Africa’s restrictive labour and economic policies, which is the true purpose of an SEZ.

A significant step towards decentralising power would be for government to disengage from providing certain services and for municipalities to fully or in part privatise service delivery. Most services could be more efficiently and cheaply provided by private firms. Service contracts would regulate standards while municipalities remained responsible and accountable to their constituents for the service being provided. Most services could be successfully contracted to the private sector, even the collection of rates and taxes.

In an accountable democracy, it is essential to stop the increasing centralisation of power that is occurring. It is also essential that we prevent the unlawful activity of the Competition Commission and financial services regulators, two bodies which, according to Professor Robert Vivian of the University of the Witwatersrand, promote a “state within the state” since they are able to enact their own laws. Parliament alone, as the people’s representative, must formulate laws with clear criteria on how the regulators should operate. Another essential requirement is that only the judiciary, with qualified and experienced judges who operate according to rules of evidentiary, civil and criminal procedure that are fundamental to the administration of justice, must be empowered to adjudicate disputes about the law.


Note to the Editor

This media release is 5 in a series of 10 in which the Free Market Foundation (FMF) will provide alternatives to the various policy discussion planks of the African National Congress’ 2017 National Policy Conference.

Previous media releases in this series:

  1. ANC Conference must adopt real radical economic transformation – not more of the same paternal statism
  2. ANC Conference must reject ICT White Paper and Hate Speech Bill for South Africa to drop Apartheidesque communications policy
  3. Radical economic transformation means South Africans keep and control their own money

4a. For radical economic transformation in energy, adopt the 1998 White Paper

4b. Yes – introduce radical economic transformation in labour policy and help 9 million unemployed


You can access more in-depth documentation regarding the above on the FMF’s website:

Submission on National Development Plan: Local government privatisation

Submission to the Department of Trade & Industry on the Economic Zones Policy and Bill

Constitutionality of South Africa’s competition policy

The FMF will be hosting a media briefing on 21 June 2017, which will provide an overview of the FMF’s alternatives as well as our vision for Radical Economic Transformation.

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