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Politics For Sale

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on April 29, 2022 12:35

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The link between money and political power is probably not a new thing. But we need to re-think how financial interests cloud political decisions and political structures. Political corporations deny democracy to non-members and risk pulling down the very system that enabled it to succeed.

We love dreaming how everyone in a democracy has a voice, and how free market economics guarantee the biggest freedom of choice to the consumer. But is this true? The US State Department warns of 'creeping authoritarianism" in its latest Human Rights report, and environmental experts point to the link with fossil fuels. While oil companies and industry seem to have a strong influence in US politics, African examples show a close parallel. 

Coal has been king in South African electricity generation for the last seven decades. Municipal power stations were swallowed up by the state-owned ESKOM, which now has a monopoly. Apart from one French-built nuclear station and a few pumped-storage hydro power units, the abundant, cheap coal reserves fuelled some of the cheapest electricity in the world. Until politicians were bought...

At the moment half the installed power generation capacity in South Africa is unavailable due to lack of maintenance, power stations being run beyond their expected life, and massive corruption and theft. Yet Government remains locked into coal for energy production, despite the national science body having detailed the world-class potential for a combined wind- and solar generation structure dispersed over the country. 

And the problem is probably in the word 'dispersed' because it means that any such structure will be uncontrollable by centralized political interests. South African political structures are closely tied to certain financial interests, and coal mining, power generation and its ancillaries were among the first to be 'captured' by cronies of the previous President. The results are spelled out in the latest report by the Zondo Judicial Commission, now tabled for public scrutiny. 

And what does this say for the political rights of the small person? About the same as the effect for the small person in the USA of the economic influence of major donors. No wonder many, especially the youth, do not bother to vote. 

South Africa still has a healthy economy. Despite efforts to harness it into an ideology-driven patronage structure it provides opportunities to small enterprises and attracts many foreigners despite efforts by anti-immigrant lobbies. An economy built on relative freedom of choice. History has shown that where the state controls the economy and determines the choice available to the consumer the economy stagnates and crumbles. 

Imagine a situation where every homeowner can generate his or her own solar electricity, buy and sell the excess, where a communal distribution network will distribute what is needed, where it is needed. Would that not be energy democracy? But it will be against the interests of those who want to control political structures by donations and jobs. 

Our political structures have become corporations where careers are built on sycophancy, on loyalty to the party and not the electorate. Where policies are dictated by the interests of fossil fuel companies and not the interests of the electorate. 

 Democracy has been sold. 

 

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on April 29, 2022 12:35

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Source: HuffPost

The fee could give the fossil fuel industry a new tool to slow the energy transition.

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