Skip to Main Content
CrossRef citations to date

Patronage and politics in a South African city: a case study of Nelson Mandela Bay

Pages 275-292 | Received 19 Jun 2017, Accepted 13 Feb 2018, Published online: 12 Apr 2018


A case study of a South African metropolitan municipality, Nelson Mandela Bay (NMBM), explores the dynamics between a political party in power and control over rents from public-allocation processes. The case study documents the weakening of the local state and political control of its allocation processes, linked to the parallel rise of a patronage-based business model within the African National Congress (ANC) as the local ruling party. Particular allocation processes that prove to be vulnerable are newly established programmes with as yet underdeveloped controls and institutional mechanisms. The paper reflects on experiences elsewhere in Africa and alternative analytical models to understand the interplay between rents, patronage and political power. The central features of the NMBM example are described in terms of the market forces unlocked by the South African transition to democracy. The paper concludes by looking at the importance of public institutions in circumscribing and directing markets.


南非城市中的资助与政治:对纳尔逊·曼德拉湾的案例研究. Area Development and Policy. 本文对南非大都市纳尔逊·曼德拉湾(NMBM)进行案例研究,探讨了一个执政党与控制来自于公共分配过程的租金之间的动力机制。本案例研究阐释了地方政权及其对分配过程政治控制能力的削弱,并说明这与当地执政党南非非洲人国民大会(ANC)内部以赞助为基础的商业模式的同时兴起有关。已被证明非常脆弱的分配过程是新近设立的计划,目前的控制力和制度机制都仍不完善。本文考虑了非洲其他地区的经验以及可用以理解租金、赞助和政治权力之间相互作用的其他分析模型,从被南非民主转型所释放的市场力量方面阐述了NMBM案例的主要特征,最后得出公共机构在约束和管理市场方面具有很大重要性的结论。]


Patrocinio y política en una ciudad de Sudáfrica: el ejemplo de la Bahía de Nelson Mandela. Area Development and Policy. A través del ejemplo de un municipio metropolitano de Sudáfrica, la Bahía de Nelson Mandela, se analizan las dinámicas entre un partido político en el poder y el control sobre las rentas de los procesos de adjudicación pública. En el ejemplo se documenta la creciente debilidad del Estado y de la política en el ámbito local en cuanto a sus procesos de adjudicación, vinculada al aumento paralelo de un modelo comercial basado en el patrocinio dentro del Congreso Nacional Africano (CNA) como el partido gobernante local. Los procesos de adjudicación particulares que resultan vulnerables son programas recién creados con controles y mecanismos institucionales todavía por desarrollar. En este artículo se examinan las experiencias de otros lugares de África y modelos analíticos alternativos para entender la interacción entre las rentas, el patrocinio y el poder político. Se describen las características centrales del ejemplo de la Bahía de Nelson Mandela desde la perspectiva de las fuerzas del mercado desbloqueadas por la transición a la democracia en Sudáfrica. Se concluye el artículo analizando la importancia de las instituciones públicas a la hora de circunscribir y dirigir los mercados.


Патронаж и политика в южноафриканском городе.Исследование кейса Нельсон Мандела Бей. Area Development and Policy.

Исследование южноафриканского муниципалитета Нельсон Мандела Бэй (МНМБ) посвящено связи между политической партией, находящейся у власти, и контролем над рентой от распределения общественных ресурсов. В статье документируется ослабление местного государственного и политического контроля за процессами распределения, связанное с параллельным подъемом патронажной бизнес-модели внутри Африканского национального конгресса (АНК) как местной правящей партии. Особенно уязвимыми процессами распределения оказываются недавно разработанные программы с пока еще недостаточно развитыми механизмами контроля и институциональными механизмами. В статье рассматривается опыт других стран Африки и альтернативные аналитические модели, позволяющие понять взаимосвязь между рентой, патронажем и политической властью. Центральные особенности кейса МНМБ описаны с точки зрения рыночных сил, разблокированных переходом Южной Африки к демократии. В заключительной части статьи рассматривается значение государственных институтов в определении роли и границ рынка.


The author would like to acknowledge the Department of Cooperative Governance, South Africa and the NMBM who make this case study possible, as well as the many whistleblowers, activists and interviewees who contributed their time and took not inconsiderable risks in providing the author with information.


During the course of the investigation described in this paper the author was employed by the Department of Cooperative Governance, South Africa, and was charged with orchestrating the cleanup of the NMBM administration.


1. See Netshitenzhe (Citation2012) for a fuller exposition on the subject of the sins of incumbency besetting the ANC.

2. Referred to as a ‘distinct and interdependent’ sphere of government alongside provincial and national government (Republic of South Africa, Citation1996).

3. Approximately US$375 million at October 2017 exchange rates.

4. Approximately US$3 billion at October 2017 exchange rates.

5. Approximately US$600 million at October 2017 exchange rates.

6. The MEC in the province, and the politician in charge of local government affairs.

7. Personal communication, based on a statement made at the extended Eastern Cape ANC Provincial Executive Committee workshop, August 8, 2016.

8. Approximately US$165 million at October 2017 exchange rates.

9. A deferential term derived from the Afrikaans word for uncle and used to describe some party elders.

10. Personal reflections and calculations based on existing ANC and associated structures. There is a high degree of overlap of leadership representation between the structures.

11. This has been extensively covered in various articles and letters published in The Herald (Makunga, De Kock, & Ndamase, Citation2015; Mbambela, Citation2012; Mkentane, Citation2011; Ndamase, Citation2015b, Citation2016a; NMBM Councillor, Citation2015). See also Mukwedeya (Citation2015) for a detailed description of similar factional domination in the nearby Buffalo City.

12. At which the current president of the ANC and of the country was elected into power, at which Thabo Mbeki’s attempt to gain a third term as ANC president was roundly defeated.

13. The Stalini group was a broad alliance, which included the younger left personified by Zanuxolo Wayile, a future mayor who was subsequently purged, and Nceba Faku, who had a long history of moderate Africanism. Faku has railed against the ultra-left of which he considers Wayile a member.

14. See McCarthy (Citation2016) for a description of the progress achieved across a number of indicators.

15. This process was well documented in Foresight Advisory Services (Citation2015).

16. In 2014, the National Treasury noted that the fiscal position of the NMBM had steadily weakened over the last eight years, and that the finances told the story of political interference and mismanagement. (National Treasury, 2014, p. 9).

17. This drop was partly driven by the formation of Congress of the People (COPE), which had pushed the ANC down to 50% in Nelson Mandela Bay in the 2009 national elections. However, as the COPE subsequently imploded through internal battles, the ANC was unable to lure COPE voters back to its fold.

18. The sequence of events below is well documented in a series of official reports and articles by The Herald reporters, covering the period 2013–15 (De Kock, Citation2015; Mbambela, Citation2012; Mettler, Citation2011; Ndamase, Citation2015b).

19. The national democratic revolution is the prevailing ideology of the ANC which informs its strategy and tactics policy documents.

20. Huntington (Citation1976, p. 12) describes institutions as ‘stable, valued, recurring patterns of behaviour’.

Reprints and Corporate Permissions

Please note: Selecting permissions does not provide access to the full text of the article, please see our help page How do I view content?

To request a reprint or corporate permissions for this article, please click on the relevant link below:

Academic Permissions

Please note: Selecting permissions does not provide access to the full text of the article, please see our help page How do I view content?

Obtain permissions instantly via Rightslink by clicking on the button below:

If you are unable to obtain permissions via Rightslink, please complete and submit this Permissions form. For more information, please visit our Permissions help page.