An inexorable march to becoming a failed state

Countries that have experienced successful economic transformation emphasised meritocratic bureaucracy and the rule of law. Pragmatism prevailed over ideology.
One possible but unlikely way forward is for political stability and economic growth to become the standard value uniting the ANC, the opposition and the population, says the author. Image: AdobeStock

Until not too long ago, there was a belief that the miracle of 1994 set South Africa on the path towards prosperity and growth. We were told the peaceful transition heralded the birth of a rainbow nation that would do great things collectively – for all to have a better economic life.

We also heard of a developmental state and the ruling party’s aspiration to become one many times. The construction of such a state was to extend beyond just the ideological, and it was to be realised through policies and implementable programmes such as rural development and infrastructure investment. Tellingly, the abovementioned has always been driven by ambitious leaders who perceive the country from a developed perspective despite the reality of it not being so.

The dominant political party seems to have, on the one hand, a few ideas about what it takes to turn the country into a model of successful development, and on the other hand, a few beliefs about economics. One of the ANC’s firm beliefs is that South Africa has economic potential and offers rewarding opportunities for domestic and international businesses that invest their resources in the local economy. In other words, business and investment can foster growth, job creation and development.

Yet we have witnessed an ANC-led government at the helm of a state that is captured by money, interest groups, and an arrogant commitment to self-enrichment instead of the people’s livelihood.

Relatedly, rather than correct the entrenched corrupt practices and punish those implicated, the ruling party has erected mechanisms and measures to delay accountability and justice as seen in the ‘step aside’ notion as a corrective for wrongdoing.

This political class group passionately believes that their role is to govern forever because they were once freedom fighters.

More troubling is the belief that their ANC is the only party capable of heralding economic empowerment to the people. Unsurprisingly, rhetoric has become the theatre of action for this elite, such as asserting to fight white monopoly capital, the ‘culprit’ responsible for poverty and inhumane economic conditions.

Worse still, there is an incompatibility between the idolised Soviet leaning ideologies that champions a socialist economy, redistribution of wealth and a government that controls the means of production and economic liberalism that promotes cooperation, integration an thriving economy with lower inequality.

Today, South Africa faces deepening inequality, poor economic performance, poverty and other innumerable crises (as illustrated by endemic youth unemployment, increased violence against women, crime, the collapse of key state entities, and frequent power outages) amplified by the pandemic.

We are now hearing less about the ideological aspirations and more about the dangers of becoming a failing state.

One of the characteristics of a failing/failed state is its inability to effectively perform functions such as meeting the needs of its citizenry through public services. The latter can lead to another characteristic: escalating conflict because of the state’s ineffectiveness. The service delivery protests, July riots and the current protest against undocumented foreign nationals are examples of contributors that could undermine state stability.

Therefore, it was refreshing to hear a senior government official speak out against the trail South Africa is on – one that will culminate in a failed state.

When Dondo Mogajane, the Director-General at National Treasury, purposefully and harshly criticised, among others, the lack of accountability, the egotism of public servants, and the inability to implement programmes successfully, his words were neither staid nor playing to the gallery. On the contrary, his reprimand should be grappled with by those (citizens like myself, business, political leaders and other influential members/organisations of society) who wish to see successful economic development in South Africa – state-led or not.

In adding to what Mogajane said, I would remind political leaders of the opposition and ruling parties, in national and local government, and in metros and small municipalities, that countries that have experienced successful economic transformation emphasised meritocratic bureaucracy and the rule of law. Furthermore, as we have seen with Japan then and China now, pragmatism prevailed over ideology.

In both cases, the government knew when to let non-state actors into the economy, reforming policies to adapt to the changes brought on by marketisation and ensuring social stability.

Another possible way the country may evolve and avoid being a failed state is if political stability and economic growth become the standard value uniting the ANC, the opposition and the population. However, the prospect of such a common goal is minuscule, because the self-interest of the politicians will prevent them from making it a reality.

Instead, a potentially dynamic South African economy is uniformly harmed and reduced to the spectre of chaos, much to the detriment of its people.

Unfortunately, the prognosis for the future is not a happy one. How can it be when politicians insist that the inexorable march of South Africa to being/becoming a failing/failed state continues?



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The only change was for the ANC terrorists to become the countries leaders – Their destruction of the state continues to this day !!

Well written article – exactly the way I feel and I’m sure a lot of other taxpayers feel!
It really is time for either the ANC to change or others to change the ANC!
The sad thing is that there are so many more disenfranchised people than those that can see South Africa’s real opportunity, that the balance might precipitate the collapse of this beautiful country.
The sadness is, this need not have happened. The Zuma years destroyed all long term possibilities for short term personal gain and it might be too late for CR to try and stop the total collapse of SA. Time of course will tell…but how much more do we lose in the meantime.

The ANC is unable to change because kleptocracy is all they know. It’s like asking a rat to morph into an eagle.

Cognitive ability does not guarantee prosperity, but prosperity can’t exist without cognitive ability. The highly competitive market environment ensures that successful entrepreneurship results from the ability to reason, solve problems, plan ahead, think abstractly, control reactions, understand complex ideas, and learn from experience.

In a democratic dispensation, there is a strong tendency for the economy to reflect the level of cognitive ability of the average voter. Our unemployment statistics and anemic GDP growth already show this clearly. The right to vote enables citizens to use the legislature as a tool to bring equilibrium between their level of understanding and their economic reality, or physical circumstances. Given enough time, voters will create their own economic reality. This explains the difference between the economies of Israel, whose wealth is in human resources, and Zimbabwe whose wealth is in agricultural and mineral resources.

People with an IQ below 80 are not accepted for service by the US military because they are untrainable and pose a threat to the safety of their fellow soldiers. This group forms the voting majority in South Africa.

Your last statement re average IQ of the SA voter is the very reason we should be investing in Education and Birth Control ( stop rewarding indiscriminate fornication with grants and excusing it as “cultural) my opinion these should be top priority if this country has any chance of succeeding.
To clarify…this is merely my opinion and apologies if it offends sensitive readers!

Interesting psychological research has proven that a young individual’s IQ can change and improve. A healthy and sufficient diet, along with a degree of mental stimulation and nurturing, can have a significant impact on mental capacity.

There is hope and there is potential. That is why the ANC’s myopic populist policies are so deplorable. These policies cause poverty, unemployment, and malnutrition that impede the mental development of the youth. In effect, Luthuli House is stealing the youth’s IQ.

I think that yet again the header is incorrect: surely “to becoming a failed state” should be “to being a failed state”?

I think we should be told.

A well-thought article, the basics of which everyone here is familiar. Ask a construction worker/labourer to read it and comment and you will get a blank stare.

But when a sly demagogue from the ANC or EFF stands up on a box in the shack town he lives in and regales the audience with unfulfillable promises of houses, services and jobs, he is filled with hope and his vote is bought.

How do you change this in the next generation? That’s what we all want to know. Before we leave the country.

End of comments.



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