MISTRA lecture advocates for the strengthening of state capacity for successful democratisation

Brazilian trade union advisor and intellectual Prof Giorgio Romano Schutte said developing strong state institutions is an important pre-condition for successful democratisation, acting both to prevent instability and conflict in transitional regimes and to enable newly democratic governments to gain legitimacy by providing public services.

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Prof Schutte was the guest speaker at the 2019 Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA) annual lecture at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), on Wednesday, 04 September 2019. Presenting his lecture address entitled, “The age of unreason and ignominy- can we judge the people’s judgement? The case of Brazil,” Prof Schutte highlighted the main events that marked Brazil’s struggle for political and economic independence.

“To fight government corruption, the state has to be diminished. Corruption and crime are real existing major problems that should never go banalised. Prof Schutte said‚ to loud applause from the crowd that had packed the auditorium.

The lecture was also attended by‚ among others‚ Mama Zanele Mbeki, the wife of Archbishop of the Anglican Church, Thabo Makgoba and Prof Njabulo Ndebele UJ’s Chancellor. The speakers included: Dr Tanya Abrahamse, programme Director; Dr Nolitha Vukuza, Senior Executive Director: Vice Chancellor’s office; Prof Fiona Treggnna,DST/NRF South African Research Chair in industrial Development, UJ and Mr Joel Netshitenzhe, Executive Director, Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA).

In the many points that Prof Schutte made, he provided a platform to identify patterns of populism and unreason in South African politics. Prof Schutte’s insights into Brazil’s 2018 electoral outcomes provided valuable lessons for South Africa to reject fascism as a “progressive” alternative, in the process peripheralising the source of the socio-economic crises the country is facing.

“There would be a gap between the propaganda and the difficult situation that millions still would face and the profound injustices of the still savage capitalist system. We hadn´t built a welfare state, notwithstanding the successful social programs.

Prof Schutte focused on the question of what happened to Brazil. Why, instead of an inspiration, the country become a motive for despair for those who had admired Lula´s trajectory from leader of the metal workers union at the end of the 1970s to become the first working class president of Brazil in 2003?

Prof Schutte then drew on five themes: revival of religion in politics; backlash against the liberal value agenda; new conservative philosophy; adrenaline of power problem and the moral issue around corruption and organised crime.

In the many points that he made in his deconstruction of colonial elements, he highlighted that in international politics, Brazil´s foreign policy became incredible active and innovative, projecting the country on the international scene with multiple initiatives, for example the IBSA coalition.

“So far so good, the US administration might not have liked Brazil’s new foreign policy approach, but Lula invested a lot in maintaining a dialogue with the US and with Bush in particular. Lula presented Brazil as a reliable interlocutor.”

Prof Schutte concluded his lecture with words of motivation by saying: “The most essential part is recognising our downfalls as a nation and not get discouraged but thrive to turn our country around. We have to understand the double process of democratisation and neoliberalism.”

prof giorgio romano schutte
Prof Giorgio Romano Schutte
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