South Africa: Is it a Failing State?

South Africa is in a mess. It is getting messier by the day.

The trend-line is clear – in the fullness of time it will be getting worse if there is no fundamental change to almost every facet of how we do things.

An article published on 17 September 2020 on www.mybroadband.co.za (South Africa’s downward spiral since 1990 ) sets out the downward trend-line for South Africa’s death spiral over a twenty-nine-year period. The data excludes the COVID-19 induced plummet, which would make the trend-line considerably steeper. It is going to take a mighty effort to set things on a better path.

It is up to each citizen to do the right and proper things, to be an influential Leadership Activist.
We have been accomplices with our indifference, if not the actual perpetrators.

To those who cannot see or deny our condition, I say to you, if the mind is blind, the eyes are useless.

To help appreciate what is at play, I offer you a general check-list of what a failed state looks like, as defined by Encyclopaedia Britannica.* 
I have highlighted the areas where South Africa is culpable.

You be the judge…

Failed state, a state that is unable to perform the two fundamental functions of the sovereign nation-state in the modern world system: it cannot project authority over its territory and peoples, and it cannot protect its national boundaries. The governing capacity of a failed state is attenuated such that it is unable to fulfill the administrative and organizational tasks required to control people and resources and can provide only minimal public services. Its citizens no longer believe that their government is legitimate, and the state becomes illegitimate in the eyes of the international community.

“A failed state is composed of feeble and flawed institutions. Often, the executive barely functions, while the legislature, judiciary, bureaucracy, and armed forces have lost their capacity and professional independence. A failed state suffers from crumbling infrastructuresfaltering utility supplies and educational and health facilities, and deteriorating basic human-development indicators, such as infant mortality and literacy rates. Failed states create an environment of flourishing corruption and negative growth rates, where honest economic activity cannot flourish.

“The dynamics leading to and compounding state failure are many and varied, including civil war, ethnic violence or genocide, and predatory government and bureaucratic behaviour. State failure comes in degrees and is often a function of both the collapse of state institutions and societal collapse. A strong state provides core guarantees to its citizens and others under its jurisdiction in the three interrelated realms of security, economics, and politics. A failed state cannot maintain a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence and minimize internal conflict. It cannot formulate or implement public policies to effectively build infrastructure and deliver services or effective and equitable economic policies. In addition, it cannot provide for the representation and political empowerment of its citizens or protect civil liberties and fundamental human rights. Thus, state failure manifests itself when a state can no longer deliver physical security, a productive economic environment, and a stable political system for its people.”

* https://www.britannica.com/topic/failed-state. Access Date: 22 September 2020.

A Snap-shot of our Reality… 2020

Crime is rampant in our homes, streets and work place
  • SA ranks third highest for murders – 21,022 murders in 2019
  • hijackings, home invasions, assaults, rape, theft…
  • industrial-level destruction of infrastructure
  • so-called white collar crimes – fraud, scams, corporate fiefdoms
  • a criminal justice system that has imploded
  • the poorest communities suffer most
  • citizens spend more than the police budget on private security
  • insurance premiums are high due to crime rates and fraud
  • severe impacts on lifestyle, emigration, cost of living, local and foreign investment, social cohesion and economic development
Corruption is endemic –
  • in government and the private sector
  • this is an additional tax on each of us
  • the poor suffer most
  • impacts investment conditions, and employment
Economic policies and practices have failed –
  • since the RDP in 1994 there have been multiple policies, plans, programs, committees, advisory boards and a few million pages of promises, but nothing to show except a stagnant economy, and that was before COVID-19 took it to its knees
  • the economy is in a mess and will not see a turn-around under the current system…
Government incompetence – at every level, in each sector –
  • government has failed to deliver services of any kind at a reasonable standard, and mostly at a a very subordinate level
  • billions of rands have been wasted, misspent or corrupted
  • tens of thousands of civil servants have been employed who are incompetent
  • the government wage level is unsustainable
  • trade unions in key sectors (education, health) have the government hostage
  • government debt is our debt that will need to be paid by many generations to come
  • economic and business policies have been discriminatory, and unhelpful to stimulate investment, innovation and employment
A private sector that has been in bed with government –
  • big business has been more interested in big government deals than standing up for South Africa and principles – mostly, their silence has been deafening
  • the private sector has been complicit in corruption too
Poor education system –
  • the failed education system churns out people who are not competent to do Twenty First Century work…
  • private education has replaced the public system – which is another tax, and also failed those who need it the most – the poor
The failure of state-owned ‘enterprises’ (neo-socialism) –
  • there are a myriad – 131 in total – of so-called state-owned enterprises, ranging from ESKOM, to the SABC, SAA and Denel – that suck the life out of South Africa. It is a system that absorbed billions funds for almost no benefit, except to the cadre deployees and corruptioners
Extreme unemployment levels –
  • the best way to describe the situation is to warn that a street-revolution is not far off when 35% to 60% of citizens are unemployed and forever unemployable
Power supply deficiencies –
  • too little, too uncertain
  • huge new-build cost overruns and time overruns
  • corruption at ESKOM and the building programs
  • lack of private sector involvement
  • no accountability for serious offences
Water supply inadequacies and pollution –
  • inadequate development of new reservoirs, poor maintenance of existing reservoirs, poor maintenance of existing reticulation systems, poor planning and servicing of communities in droughts
  • highly polluted waterways with chemical spills and untreated sewage
Ineffective political system –
  • unaccountable to the citizens (the current in-power party is in-bred, serving its own interests only)
  • cadre deployment is placed above competence
  • no real community representation by those elected to represent citizens and communities
  • the party-based system allows for a single party to dominate all state matters
  • great difficulty to remove a party of a person who is undemocratic and ineffectual
Infrastructure disintegration –
  • through lack of investment and maintenance all infrastructure is rotting, crumbling or being stolen –
  • power plants and distribution networks
  • roads, water reservoirs, water reticulation, water treatment, rail lines, fuel pipelines, harbors, buildings, military and police equipment
No HOPE and a sense of powerlessness –
  • maybe the most troublesome and debilitating problem is that most citizens feel there is no hope for change and that they are powerless to do anything to change matters for the better
  • this is a highly undemocratic situation that citizens feel alienated from the political process
Unleadership / misleadership – the greatest failure –
  • at every level of South African society there has been a leadership vacuum
  • in our personal lives, homes, communities, schools, teams, departments, work-places, businesses, government entities, and country we have confused titles and positions with leadership – the things that proper leaders do

If South Africa is not yet a ‘failed state’, then it is close…
It cannot be business as usual if we are to arrest the trend!

Proper leadership, influential Leadership by enough Citizens, in every walk of life,
in every social domain, is what can turn a failing country into a success story.

The hopeSA Fund has been established by Karoo to crowd fund the development of the
Teens-focused influential Leadership Activation Program, called the Alpha Program.
By contributing to the Fund you are helping to create a BETTER South Africa.

– the crowd-funding process –
step 1

Click the hopeSA Fund button below to
view the contribution options, and next steps.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

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