Africa: Be­yond the cap­tive state

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

THE PHRASE “state cap­ture” comes very eas­ily into our for­mal and in­for­mal com­mu­ni­ca­tion these days.

What is not easy, how­ever, is true un­der­stand­ing of what the phrase fun­da­men­tally means. In South Africa, white monopoly cap­i­tal­ists that cap­tured the state and took monopoly of land and other re­sources long ago of­ten cry “state cap­ture” when blacks and In­di­ans try to take con­trol of or ma­nip­u­late the state in their own cor­rupt ways.

The big fish among state cap­tur­ers al­most al­ways blame the small fish for the crime; hence the need to nu­ance what ex­actly state cap­ture is in the Global South.

From its ori­gins in the wild and an­cient West to the present the pow­er­ful and gov­ern­ing in­sti­tu­tion of the State has had a trou­bling and also a trou­bled his­tory.

In the 4th Century Be­fore Christ, Aris­to­tle clas­si­cally wrote of pol­i­tics and de­scribed the “State” as “the high­est form of com­mu­nity and aims at the high­est good” for all hu­man­ity. In the same page Aris­to­tle gave a de­fence of the en­slave­ment of some peo­ple by oth­ers un­der the might of the State, and in his ren­di­tion of pol­i­tics he ex­cluded women and chil­dren as cit­i­zens with rights.

Once cap­tured by pow­er­ful men and rul­ing aris­to­crats the State be­came vi­o­lent to those that were marginalised and ex­cluded. The western model of the State that was forced upon us by colo­nial­ism and im­pe­ri­al­ism has never been in­clu­sive of free but has al­ways been a cap­tive of some pow­er­ful peo­ple and hege­monic forces, I ar­gue.

Later, in 1932, the Ger­man philoso­pher of pol­i­tics, a sym­pa­thiser with the Nazi regime, Carl Sch­mitt, de­fined the State as an in­sti­tu­tion that is the site of all pol­i­tics and that is the source of friend­ship and en­mity, a plat­form and also a rea­son for power strug­gles.

Clearly, in­side the West where the State was born as a col­lec­tive of gov­ern­ing in­sti­tu­tions of the leg­is­la­ture, the ju­di­ciary, the ex­ec­u­tive and other gov­ern­ing en­ti­ties, it dis­pensed power and good to some classes and marginalised if not pun­ished other classes of peo­ple.

The State de­ployed power and friend­ship to the rich and mil­i­tar­ily pow­er­ful on the right hand while on the left hand it dis­pensed slav­ery, pun­ish­ment and en­mity to the poor and pow­er­less. From its very birth, the State has car­ried a birth mark of en­mity and vi­o­lence.

In the con­quest of the Amer­i­cas in 1492 and the so claimed dis­cov­ery of the New World, the State levied im­mense vi­o­lence to the na­tive Amer­i­cans, it ex­pelled the Mus­lims of South­ern Spain and forcibly con­verted some to Chris­tian­ity, and it burnt Is­lamic li­braries to erase the mem­ory and his­tory of the Mo­hammedans.

Thus, the State that colo­nial­ism, slav­ery and im­pe­ri­al­ism of the 16th Century spread to Latin Amer­ica and to Africa was a cap­i­tal­ist and ex­tremely vi­o­lent gov­ern­ing in­sti­tu­tion.

The State was cap­tive to cap­i­tal­ism and its sys­temic and struc­tural vi­o­lence. It car­ried re­li­gious in­tol­er­ance and cul­tural im­pe­ri­al­ism as its po­lit­i­cal lug­gage.

The colo­nial State and the en­slav­ing State that was forcibly im­posed on the Global South was a mon­strous ma­chin­ery of power and dom­i­na­tion whose tech­nolo­gies of dom­i­na­tion through the mil­i­tary, the econ­omy and the law re­mains in­tact to this day in Africa and the en­tire Global South.

De­coloni­sa­tion cham­pi­oned by African lib­er­a­tion move­ments did not de­colonise the State, it tried to adapt and to re­form it, but it only man­aged to re­tain it and man­age it on be­half of the mod­ern and still colo­nial world sys­tem. As lately as in 2008, James Gal­braith de­scribed the State in the USA and the en­tire Western world as preda­tory and puni­tive to the masses of the poor who do not en­joy the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic priv­i­leges that are dis­pensed by State power.

If the State in the so called free and demo­cratic world re­mains so mon­strous and puni­tive to the masses, what about in the Global South where the State was im­posed as a colo­nial tech­nol­ogy of op­pres­sive and ex­ploita­tive rule. The State re­mains a trou­bled and trou­ble­some in­sti­tu­tion in the Global South. To de­colonise the State would be to free it from its cap­tiv­ity to Em­pire and re­store it to ser­vice to the mul­ti­tudes of the Global South.

The colo­nial state of the State in Africa

In some jus­ti­fi­able ways and some sad­den­ingly un­crit­i­cal man­ners African schol­ars and jour­nal­ists, and the usual Western crit­ics have de­scribed and con­demned the State in Africa. It was with for­mi­da­ble and even an­gry force that Jonathan Frim­pong-An­sah de­scribed the vam­pire State in Africa whose po­lit­i­cal de­cline led to eco­nomic and so­cial de­gen­er­a­tion that pun­ished cit­i­zens.

Some schol­ars and jour­nal­ists wrote of the frag­ile African State that had low in­come, en­joyed no po­lit­i­cal le­git­i­macy and ren­dered its cit­i­zens vul­ner­a­ble to po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic shocks and dis­as­ters.

Ali Mazrui delved into the “failed State” in Africa whose mark­ers were fail­ure to main­tain law and or­der, in­abil­ity to con­trol eq­ui­table dis­tri­bu­tion of re­sources, lack of po­lit­i­cal le­git­i­macy, fail­ure to de­liver ba­sic goods and ser­vices, propen­sity to vi­o­lence and co­er­cion, and gen­eral lack of or ex­cess of gov­er­nance.

In the Mazruiana an­a­lytic, that State in Africa that did not gov­ern firmly failed be­cause of weak­ness and that which gov­erned too firmly failed be­cause of ex­ces­sive gov­er­nance, tyranny. In that logic, the State in Africa suf­fers the po­lit­i­cal dilemma of the need for crit­i­cal bal­ance.

Lloyd Sachikonye graph­i­cally ex­posed, in 2011, how African states can take a vi­o­lent turn against their peo­ple and turn coun­tries into open pris­ons where fes­ti­vals of cru­elty and suf­fer­ing be­come the rule rather than the ex­cep­tion. Heads of States and their gov­ern­ments are the convenient tar­gets of blame and con­dem­na­tion for vam­pire, preda­tory, failed and frag­ile states in Africa.

There is no deny­ing that African lead­ers and their gov­ern­ments as han­dlers and man­agers of states have some agency to de­liver pos­i­tive change in the economies and poli­ties of their coun­tries. Equally, there should be crit­i­cal recog­ni­tion that these lead­ers and gov­ern­ments in their full blame­wor­thi­ness in­her­ited a State that was al­ready anti-peo­ple, colo­nial and vi­o­lent at a world sys­temic level.

In­stead of African gov­ern­ments gov­ern­ing in Africa we in­creas­ingly wit­ness neo-colo­nial man­age­ri­al­ism where an elite of black Africans are sim­ply man­ag­ing a colo­nial in­sti­tu­tion on be­half of the mod­ern world sys­tem that is eco­nom­i­cally, mil­i­tar­ily and po­lit­i­cally owned by out­siders.

The State that African lib­er­a­tion move­ments in­her­ited upon de­coloni­sa­tion in Africa is an an­gry and dan­ger­ous mon­ster that did not lose but cos­met­i­cally mod­i­fied its mon­stros­ity to give a sem­blance of lib­er­a­tion when in ac­tu­al­ity it had be­come even more vam­piric and harm­ful.

Of the cap­tured State

The South African po­lit­i­cal de­bate has re­cently en­riched the vo­cab­u­lary of African pol­i­tics with the con­cept of State Cap­ture. In the South African case, State cap­ture refers to how cer­tain pri­vate in­ter­ests can hold hostage heads of State and some govern­ment func­tionar­ies, through bribes and black­mails, and thereby cor­ruptly com­pro­mis­ing na­tional and public in­ter­ests.

The South African de­bate has not re­flected on how the State in the West was born cap­tive to pow­er­ful classes at the ex­pense of the poor and the pow­er­less.

That the State ar­rived in Africa al­ready cap­tive to colo­nial vi­o­lence and cor­rup­tion and hostage to cruel cap­i­tal­ist eco­nomic in­ter­ests is not re­flected on ei­ther. It is clear that, schol­arly and jour­nal­is­tic de­bates on the State in Africa suf­fer cer­tain blind­nesses and deaf­nesses of their own and are lim­ited in their view of what ex­actly is the prob­lem with the State in Africa. Some schol­ars and jour­nal­ists place the blame on im­pe­ri­al­ism and colo­nial his­tory while oth­ers on the other ex­treme di­rect their con­dem­na­tion to cor­rupt heads of state and State of­fi­cials in con­spir­acy with greedy busi­ness ty­coons.

Big for­eign pri­vate busi­nesses are known in the Global South to have lit­er­ally bought some coun­tries from po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary elites, es­pe­cially in oil and di­a­mond rich coun­tries.

Much help­fully, in 2002, San­dra Ma­clean wrote of “the po­lit­i­cal econ­omy of con­flict” in Africa where world eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal forces con­spire with some African States and their func­tionar­ies to loot African economies.

Con­flicts such as fac­tion­alisms and civil wars even, are used to cre­ate a fog that cov­ers the loot­ing that lo­cal po­lit­i­cal elites do in com­bi­na­tion with in­ter­na­tional ty­coons and some Western gov­ern­ments. This com­plic­ity and these con­spir­a­cies are parts of the chal­lenge that African rev­o­lu­tion­ary and re­formist move­ments have to deal with.

Some African States use the cover of their sovereignty and in­ter­na­tional pro­tec­tion and im­mu­nity of be­ing States to con­duct self­en­rich­ing projects for State lead­ers and their run­ners in gov­ern­ments. In re­turn, for the ac­cess that they are given to lu­cra­tive deals, Western cor­po­ra­tions and govern­ment turn a blind eye to the cor­rup­tion and au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism in com­plicit African States.

State power cor­ruptly and in­creas­ingly be­comes an op­por­tu­nity for rent seek­ing among the African elite that act as con­nec­tions and run­ners for Western forces and eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal in­ter­est in Africa.

The rea­son, San­dra Ma­clean ar­gues, why most African States do not want to de­mol­ish colo­nial bor­ders or to aban­don the West­phalian model of the State in Africa is be­cause the State is a source of mas­sive busi­ness and wealth for the lucky few. Ma­clean de­scribes what she calls the “Shadow States,” that is pow­er­ful pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als and group­ings that con­trol states and ma­nip­u­late them for big money and mas­sive wealth. The shadow States are made out of lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional ty­coons that con­trol the economies and pol­i­tics of coun­tries in pur­suit of busi­ness and po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests.

As a re­sult of this chaos and dis­or­der in the poli­ties and economies of Africa, States are found lit­er­ary sell­ing nat­u­ral re­sources to in­ter­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions for the ben­e­fit of elites in the gov­ern­ments of Africa and their con­nec­tions.

In sum­ma­tion, pre­dom­i­nantly in Africa the State is still colo­nial and cap­tive to more forces than one.

Be­cause even African pop­u­la­tions have be­come nat­u­ralised to the cor­rup­tion and cap­tiv­ity of the States and pow­er­ful in­ter­na­tional forces are in­volved, there is a need for strong benev­o­lent dic­ta­tors in Africa that can break this sys­tem and force­fully en­sure that a new type of State that is in the ser­vice of the African pop­u­lace is born.

To de­stroy a cul­ture of in­ter­na­tion­alised State vi­o­lence and cor­rup­tion in Africa needs strong per­sons and forces that will force change in the di­rec­tion of the African masses.

In the Global South states are cap­tured by lo­cal pow­er­ful elites in com­bi­na­tion with in­ter­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions and fronts of pow­er­ful western and eastern gov­ern­ments. This colo­nial­ity of the State re­quires strong lead­ers in the Global South that will ad­vance brave and rad­i­cal de­colo­nial strug­gles to lib­er­ate the states and re­store them to the peo­ple.

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