Ray Hartley Editor: BusinessLIVE
Bathabile Dlamini. Picture: THE TIMES
Bathabile Dlamini. Picture: THE TIMES

Nothing better illustrates how patronage politics messes with delivery than the social grant fiasco. And yes, it’s a fiasco. With less than a month to go before the CPS contract to disburse the grants expires, nobody knows for sure what the plan is.

By the standards of even the weakest democracy, the minister who imperiled the provision of social grants to 17 million people slap-bang in the heart of the ruling party’s constituency should have been long gone.

But Bathabile Dlamini is playing a big political card right now, one that President Jacob Zuma desperately needs on the table. She is riding point for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign to succeed Zuma as president of the ANC and the country.

She is able to do this because she wears two hats. She is welfare minister, but she is also the leader of the ANC Women’s League, which is fiercely loyal to Zuma.

She provides Dlamini-Zuma with a platform from which to campaign. Most recently, she hosted Dlamini-Zuma at a church service for the second time.

It is fair to say that without Dlamini’s support, Dlamini-Zuma would not have enjoyed nearly as much publicity and momentum as she does right now.

It is, of course, a perilous gamble. Should there be a problem with the delivery of social grants, Dlamini-Zuma will find her wagon hitched to a dead horse because the ANC will have no choice but to defend itself by removing Dlamini or severely sanctioning her.

And there is the fact that Dlamini-Zuma is not the only female candidate. Speaker Baleka Mbete and struggle blue-blood Lindiwe Sisulu have both thrown their hat in the ring.

The question this begs is: Why is the ANC Women’s League supporting a particular woman candidate and not all women who are standing? This weakens Dlamini’s hold on the organisation and narrows its base to only those in favour of Zuma’s succession plan.

For the moment, though, patronage politics is triumphing over delivery, a precarious approach for the ANC to take as it faces the monumental task of reversing its electoral fortunes ahead of the 2019 vote.

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