In the post-Zuma political era, is it safe to talk about policy again? We stopped two years ago. One of the tragedies of the Zuma era is that policy was demoted to an irrelevancy, with the contest focused entirely on who had access to power by controlling key institutions from the National Prosecuting Authority to the Reserve Bank. Replacing policy debate with institutional defence was logical — once captured, institutions stopped being instruments of policy anyway. Normally opposed policy blocs, from big business to the SA Communist Party, found themselves united in the defence effort. We have not completely escaped this era. One of the most headline-grabbing features of the ANC’s election manifesto is a sentence on amending the mandate of the Reserve Bank. This is classic institutional contestation, with a fig leaf of policy intention over it. The Bank was targeted by the Zuma faction because it was a key threat to the state capture machine. From the shutting of Gupta bank account...

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