Intergrity Corner

Using an imaginary state that he calls Gcwihaba that has been reduced to a seemingly irredeemable dystopia in which even oversight institutions have been rendered ineffective and problematic because of corruption and political patronage as a parallel, the Executive Director of the Botswana Centre for Public Integrity, PUSETSO MORAPEDI, asks: Where are as the Republic of Botswana?

Political Patronage: Buying the Honour of Thieves in the Republic of Gcwihaba
Political Patronage is typically conceived of as a form of exchange relation between patrons and clients, and it has existed in both traditional and modern societies, in both democratic and non-democratic regimes. The patrons, who are the parties or politicians, have clients, who are voters or potential supporters. Access to patronage resources helps to provide party leaders with the means to build, and later maintain, party organisations by means of distributing ‘selective incentives’ (Conway and Fiegert 1968; Panebianco 1988; Müller 1989) to party activists and party elites in exchange for structural loyalty or other benefits. As modern parties become more intertwined within state institutions and as they lose their traditional foundation within the society, patronage can become a significant resource in securing the party presence within the political system and in controlling flows of communication (Kopecký, P., & Mair P, 2006).

The Republic of Gcwihaba (GW) is a newly democratising polity (55 years of independence) where there is an emergence of weakly-structured parties and continued favouring of personalistic ties in political parties. In Gcwihaba, voters are expected to choose between competing candidates within competing parties, and clientelism has taken on a fresh impetus. Clientelism looks into how “political party leaders seek to turn public institutions and public resources to their own ends and how favours of various kinds are exchanged for votes” (Weingrod,1968: 379-80). More on the situation in GW:

  •  In GW the ruling party uses patronage in order to bolster political support within communities. It uses its own resources (apparently) or resources to which it gained privileged access in public institutions to compensate and reward individuals or groups who have played an important role in party life and party strategy.
    And we all know that most of those people are seldom competent. What do you think they are going to do with/to developed democratic institutions?
  • Patronage at times takes the form of a material reward. Granting a favoured backer a position on a company board or state owned enterprises (SoEs) which enjoys particular benefits or salary.
    Do you think they would push for a culture of excellence and meritocracy and actually play an oversight role?
  • In some cases, the reward is based on status and title when key supporters or party fundraisers are rewarded with ambassadorships, titles or judicial appointments.
    Do you know that these people at times have to make decisions on trade policy and trade agreements on behalf of citizens?
  • In other cases, selective incentives are offered on a wider scale to help tie new supporters to the party. For example, when a particular public industry is placed in a particular district, taxi drivers or other groups of voters are offered particular benefits in exchange for political support or endorsement at a coming election;

Basically, loyal party members gain preference when it comes to filling positions in the public sector. Is this a way to build institutions and their systems for future generations? Is this a way to fight corruption, without competent guardians in place? In other words, patronage in GW forms part of a spoils system, the use of which is often seen as having a “dubious political legitimacy” (Kopecký, P., & Mair P, 2006:3).
Why talk about patronage as a problem in a democracy? Democracy is founded on a few selected tenets. According to political scientist Larry Diamond, democracy consists of four key elements: a political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections; the active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life; protection of the human rights of all citizens; and a rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.
Looking at the patronage situation in GW, do you see development of institutions and processes for participation of citizens in politics and civic life and strengthening of civil society? Do you see patronage-filled BW as a republic in which laws and procedures will apply equally to all citizens? Do we see patronage helping society transcend money and greed to build institutions that benefit all?
Patronage births ‘political brokerage’ where the political broker does not directly own or control his own resources but acts as an intermediary between those who do own or control the resources, principally the state and the bureaucracy and a group in a state (Kopecký, P., & Mair P, 2006). Those who require those resources are usually found amongst the urban or rural poor. The politician gains benefit by being a reputable negotiator of benefits for those who would otherwise be denied them. Politicians as brokers are valued for their expertise and knowhow, for their “ability to monopolise and then market their specialist knowledge of state resources and their access to bureaucrats who allocated such resources”, Komito Lee (1984: 174) noted. (See also Boissevain 1969; Blok 1969; Abercrombie and Hill 1976; Bax 1970; Clapham 1982).
In the hope of getting something, the urban and rural poor vote accordingly during elections. How we sell ourselves and our future for little?
GW is supposed to be a modernising and professionalising polity where meritocratic systems of advancement are more acceptable and widespread. It is supposed to be a state where objective rules, exams and qualifications replace favours, friendships and networks in the process of career building.The scope for patronage is supposed to become limited in demand and supply. This is poarticularly because the democratic institutions ought to work efficiently and effectively and citizens should be capable of handling their own affairs more effectively, and in less need of a patron or a broker to work on their behalf. But this is not the case 55 years after independence. Where are we as the Republic of Botswana?