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Effects of Money in Southern African Politics

Essay by   •  May 29, 2011  •  Essay  •  3,118 Words (13 Pages)  •  1,359 Views

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It is undeniable that money has become essential in the running and maintain of a political democratic life. Ever since the political transition in Southern Africa to a multiparty electoral democracy after the end of colonialism, money has become even more important. With it candidates are able to fund for their election campaigns as well as fund for other projects and the formulation of effective policies. It is thus obvious that money is involved in the politics of the region but given the certain particular element exclusive to the region, money in politics hasn't always been a good thing. Money tends to have a corrupting influence as this money is not always funded in legal or democratic means or even for democratic purposes. This paper will attempt to highlight the impact of money in politics as well as defining the term 'money politics'. It is thus also important to examine the impact of and role played by money politics in the concept of democracy in Southern Africa, a region dominated by one party predominance. To understand this fully, it is also important to examine party funding and financing with respect to specific examples in the region and what these countries have done to counter the effect of money politics.

Money politics has no clear cut definition but it is generally associated with the receiving of illicit funds by parties for political campaigns and broadly for all kinds of practices and behaviour ranging from political corruption, clientalism also known as vote buying and racketeering. There are said to be three dimensions to money politics. Vote buying, vote brokers and political corruption. Vote buying describes the process when a party exchanges services, jobs or even cash to the people for the promise of votes in an election (Singer, 2009:2). In Southern Africa and many other places in the world, voters are provided with party t-shirts and other goods during a campaign and as much as this may sound harmless, but this is a type of vote buying. Certain strategies are used by the party to compel the people to vote their way such as individual or collective election surveillance by the party so as to make sure that the people are in compliance with their promises. Singer argues that vote buying is a form of corruption as promising people jobs and certain services in return for votes can often lead to a mismanagement and misuse of state funds for the purpose of creating power or control relationships (Singer, 2009:3). At times People are threatened of job losses or are promised payments contingent on the particular outcome the party wants.

There are however a number of political thinkers that argue that in modern democratic states, the impact of vote buying on election choice is very minimal or even absent. Inman and Andrews disagree with the modernisation theory which states that the uneducated citizens of developing countries lack the information and resources to assess their electoral candidates and parties and are thus prone to clientalism (Andrews and Inman, 2009:5). From research conducted by Afrobarometer in Zambia and Kenya, it has been shown that voters are more interested in voting for a party or Member of Parliament that can guarantee public goods and service rather than private goods such as food or personal loans (Young, 2009:2-3).

The second dimension of money politics is vote broking. Vote buying does not always operate in a direct manner as at times the process of vote buying is not even conducted by the party themselves per se but through other people and business entities. This is the process referred to as vote broking. During election time the party will often approach a local broker with money and other materials so as to make sure that the votes are delivered to the party. This broker may be given money to provide basic welfare, meals or entertainment for the people while making sure that people vote for that party. These brokers at times become sponsors for the party and will often provide financial backing to political candidates and parties as vote buying and broking does require huge sums of money to be effective and this is referred to as political corruption.

Receiving funds from external sources is not anything new or something we have not seen. Running the campaign and political wheel is not without its cost. At times these financial burdens are lifted by funds received from business people and other sources. However, like most things in this world, these so called donations come with a price. Often this support comes with certain promises such as tenders of construction and other public construction as well as assistance for licensing and registering. In South Africa there have been a number of reported but unconfirmed reports on tenders going to political party supporters. An example is of when the BAE Systems won the contract for jet trainers over their competition who was supplying a cheaper and a preferred version by the South African air force which raised a number of questions tender process. There have been rumours that such deals are common as tenders often go to friends of senior politicians. Thabo Mbeki's brother is also seen to have benefitted under the black empowerment (Joe Roeber, 2004: 59-62).

The resultant effect of external donation is the increased vulnerability of government officials to influence peddling. Money politics is said to be based on a patron-client relation. That is, a donor is wiling to fund a party just to push their own interests. If the party wins, they are in debt to donor and thus obliged to fulfil the interests the donor is pushing. Thus businessman and or rich individuals with their vested interests are not hesitant to give politicians money in return for favours (Young, 2009:1). In 1999 a scandal rocked Botswana which involved an issue of money politics. The ruling party BDP received a P2.4 million donation from a foreign source which was later disclosed to be DE Beers the diamond mining giant. Dada, the party treasurer then personally assured his donors that their support would not be wasted (Good, 2010: 90).

The clear danger in such a situation is that the political parties expose themselves to influence peddling and scandals that are associated favours for money. This type of scandal is very common in the ANC party of South Africa. After the end of apartheid ANC emerged as the ruling party but it also became clear that the party was broke and in serious need for money. Nelson Mandela later admitted that during this time he received a R 2million donation from the hotel magnate Kerzner. In 1997 Kerzner, after publicly admitting that he had illegally payed the Manzina government R2million for casino right monopoly got off scot fee for all charges that had been laid in him. Just days after that, he was seen having lunch and discussing maters with President Nelson Mandela (Good, 1997,

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