South Africa Discussion Group: Patronage, power and political markets in South African municipalities

Convener: William Beinart

Speaker: Crispian Olver (Author of 'How to steal a city')

CRISPIAN OLVER’S  career as liberation activist, government bureaucrat and academic has been intimately involved in South Africa’s transition to democracy and state formation process. While practising as a medical doctor in the late 1980s he worked as an underground activist in the anti-apartheid struggle. He was closely involved in ANC policy processes leading up to 1994, including drafting the ANC blueprint for government called the Reconstruction and Development Programme. He spent a decade in Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki’s government (1994 – 2005), ending up as Director General of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. During this time he crafted most of the current local government and environmental legislation in South Africa, and was responsible for the process of setting up the post-‘94 local government system in South Africa. For the last few years he has been working on corruption and governance issues, turning around distressed municipalities in South Africa. This has taken him right up to close to the mechanics by which municipalities get governed and the way that good governance can be eroded. His last big assignment was managing the process of building institutional capacity and rooting out corruption in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, about which he has recently published book titled ‘How to Steal a City’. He is a research fellow at the Public Affairs Research Institute attached to the University of Witwatersrand.