Friday, 26 October 2012

Institute for Security Studies: "SA in economic and political decline"

(Excerpts from Institute for Security Studies article)

                                        South Africa: 
          The economic and political decline of the country

Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis (CPRA) - Pretoria
CPRA Daily Briefings
Week   41
Thursday, 25 October 2012

On 20 October 2012 the influential international magazine The Economist led with an article titled ‘Sad South Africa: cry, the beloved country’.  In the article the author asserts that South Africa is on the decline both politically and economically and is at its worst point since the birth of democracy in 1994.

The article points out that the deterioration in the quality of education over the years has had devastating consequences. According to the World Economic Forum, South Africa ranks 132nd out of 144 countries for primary education and 143rd in science and maths. 

It is estimated that only 15% of children can read and write at the minimally prescribed levels by the age of 12. 
The South African education system is ranked as being among the worst performing in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. 
As a result, inequality and unemployment have worsened. 

The South African Gini Coefficient, which measures income inequality, was 0,59 in 1993 and increased to 0,63 in 2011. Poor education has limited the ability of the country to create jobs and the official unemployment rate has increased from 20% in 1994 to 25% in 2012. 
The real unemployment rate, which also includes those who have given up looking for work, is closer to 40%.

The consequence of this is that in the last decade the country’s economy has only been able to secure an annual GDP growth of 2%, while countries north of the Limpopo River record an annual average of 6%. 
According to current projections Nigeria should surpass South Africa as the largest economy in Africa within the next decade. The article further points out that the ‘[e]conomic malaise and the chronic failure of government services are an indictment of South Africa’s politicians. Under apartheid, a role in the ANC was about sacrifice and risk. Today it is a ticket for the gravy train. Jobs in national and local politics provide access to public funds and cash from firms eager to buy political influence.’ 

With the ANC dominating in the polls and the lack of a constituency-based parliamentary system, South Africa is de facto a one-party state. 

The primary source of accountability comes from the judiciary, the media and civil society. For example, civil society organisations acting on behalf of the poor frequently have to turn to the courts to get the government to deliver services such as the delivery of textbooks, or to prevent the government from acting illegally, for example when it evicts poor people from their homes without court orders. It is for this reason that the ruling elite is hostile to these important democratic institutions and attempts to weaken and undermine them where possible.

As with many cases of open criticism of the political leadership of South Africa, the messengers were attacked. As it is not possible to argue with the facts in the article, which are well known, President Jacob Zuma first attacked the media for negative reporting. 

Later, on 21 October, the Presidency issued a statement in which he outlined the positive achievements of the past 18 years. 

Despite these successes, the article does point out that leadership is a key factor in the performance of the country during this turbulent economic climate. 
Under the leadership of President Zuma, corruption and the subsequent looting of state resources have become more blatant. 

The projected stagnation of economic growth coupled with high levels of corruption could have a deteriorating effect on the country’s economic situation. 

Although the ANC’s national conference at Mangaung may signify hope for a change of leadership, it is still unclear who will run against President Zuma for the position of ANC president. The current political culture within the ANC does not encourage competition and as a result there is no debate on what each candidate will bring to the party in terms of leadership. 

The perception that if a person runs against the President it means he/she undermines the ANC, only encourages division within the party. Although Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe has been nominated as a presidential candidate, he has to date not accepted the nomination and no one is sure of his intentions. COSATU president Sdumo Dlamini has said that he could lose everything if he dared to run against President Zuma at the elective conference, emphasising the lack of appreciation for democratic practices among the ruling elite. Therefore, it is expected that President Zuma will be elected to another term as ANC president.

Many are hoping that President Zuma’s second term will be similar to that of former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Sliva, in which he focused on ensuring a positive legacy. In such a scenario President Zuma would be hard on corruption and crime and actively work to improve the situation in the country, rather than ensure the protection of politically connected cadres. 

However, unlike Lula, President Zuma faces pending corruption charges and his immediate family have become dramatically richer during his presidency. 
In addition, he used R238 million of taxpayers’ money to fund extravagant upgrades to his private homestead in Nkandla. 
This amount could have provided 3 600 families with low-cost housing, or paid the salaries of thousands of teachers, doctors and social workers. 

His complete lack of shame over such blatant extravagance suggests he is unlikely to act in the interest of the country any time soon.

It is undeniable that the country is currently in an economic and political decline.  

South Africans across the board are increasingly aware of this and there are moves afoot to start new political formations. Hopefully, this will lead to healthy political competition in the future when South Africans band together to hold their leaders directly accountable through the ballot box. 

The 2014 elections may present the first signs of this. It will, however, be important to carefully monitor the appointments made to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). 

There will be those in the ruling elite who will not want to risk being voted out of power and will be more than willing to rig the elections to maintain their undeserved opulent lifestyles. 

The End

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