Friday, 19 October 2012

SA: Collapsing into a Failed State

(excerpts from an Intersearch article)

South Africa: Collapsing into a failed State

Contributing factors:

  • The number of people who are poor, is just too high (25.7 million people from a population of 49.3 million);
  • The number of people who depend on a state grant for their daily survival is not sustainable (13 million with the possibility of an additional 7 million);·
  • The number of people who are illiterate has become unmanageable (24% of adults over 15 years);
  • There is no solution for the number of jobless people. The most recent statistics indicate an official jobless rate of 25,3%. The real rate, according to the Bureau for Market Research at Unisa, has reached 41%. The figure used in the advertising industry for marketing stands on 63%.
  • The number of people with HIV/AIDS is terrifying, as it sucks the human capital from the middle sector of society (5.7 million people);
  • The large number of people who are going to die from HIV/AIDS may destabilize society eventually as it impacts on the productive middle sector of society (estimated deaths: 1 000 per day is the most recent figure available);
  • The number of Aids orphans is beyond the reach of Government and society (by 2015 some 5.7 million or 32% of all children will have lost one or both parents) and this fact in itself has the potential to disrupt the educational process;
  • The terrifying reality is that the number of people with the necessary human capital – the expertise and skills to support society and capability to pay taxes – is too few to carry the burden of the numbers in need. 5.3 million tax payers, with 1.2 million of them paying 75% of all personal and company tax.
  • In January 2010 the  disclosed in a statement that only 32 of the 970 sewage plants in the country are still functioning properly.
  • In a report to Parliament in February 2010 it was revealed that “when it comes to fresh water”, only 30 municipalities out of 283 have the capability to supply clean water to the inhabitants.
  • Parliament’s water affairs portfolio committee was told in July 2010 that “millions of litres of highly acidic mine water is rising up under Johannesburg and, if left unchecked, could spill out into its streets some 18 months from now. The acid water is currently about 600m below the city’s surface, but is rising at a rate of between 0.6 and 0,9m a day.”
The reality that 5 million taxpayers are already supporting a nation of close to 50 million, plus an additional 9 million from neighbouring countries, does not go down well. is clear that the ANC government has landed itself in a severe crisis. 
However, as a statement it is not enough to carry any weight. Some very important contextual information is necessary.
How has this come about?
 Dysfunctional trends can be identified in society at large on three various levels with:
Over the past decade, the essence of good governance – the relationship between Government and the governed – has been eroded. 
Four election victories have provided the ANC government with a solid majority in parliament.
ANC cadres were widely introduced into the public service and serving whites were scattered abroad, to retirement villages and into silence. 

The whites who left the public service took expertise and skills with them, which was never replaced. 

With cadre deployment came a new governing culture where stealing from the state (the taxpayer) has become an accepted way of conducting government business. Relocating tax money for the personal enrichment of government officials by tampering with contracts, tenders and pay-offs have become an all pervasive source of additional income.
The ANC won political control of the country, but it lost out on the governing capability. By 2010 the ANC just does not have the governing capital to attend to all the needs of society. 
As a result, large areas of society have become void of any governing capabilities – in technical terms society has become governmentally empty. T
he ANC commands a sound political majority, but signifies no governing presence within the key functions of Government.
With this, the broad outlines of the failed state have also come to South Africa as the structures for good governance have become destabilised. When Government is in crisis, the whole of society will reflect the nature of the crisis.
Context of the crisis
South Africa has a problem with a variety of issues such as law and order, potholes, sewage, bad education – the list is almost endless. 
The real problem is not the pothole or the burglar, but the internal functional collapse of Government and society.
What kind of Future?
In terms of planning and decision making it is easy to fill a pothole, but how do deal with functional decay is a completely different challenge. 
The reader has to accept that there is no proven remedy or fixed solutions – the way ahead will be one of trial and error. Existing political perceptions and beliefs will have to be shattered and altered and mindsets will have to change. There is, indeed, not a very easy road ahead.
The ANC’s political victory in 1994 enabled it to introduce a new democracy in South Africa, as embedded in the constitution of 1996. That provided the ideological and political base for the introduction of the process of transformation.
What emerged was a numbers driven society where race percentages became the norm for appointment and position.
The immediate result was the corruption of society, as the whites with expertise moved out and “cadre deployment” took over. 
Political control became the dominating factor in society and capabilities were very often excluded.
What followed was a swift and dramatic decline of governing capabilities. 
Service delivery as envisaged in the constitution deteriorated rapidly, but it happened out of sight and was not immediately recognised. There was a sewage problem, but it was not linked to a decline of governing capabilities. For the sake of democracy, people looked the other way.
By 2010 the key functions of Government are all under severe pressure.
Then the electricity crisis of 2008 triggered a reaction. Every household was affected and the mismanagement and cover up of dwindling coal stock piles became common knowledge. 

This was followed by a flood of information about the status of dams and rivers that impacted on the supply of fresh water. 

Next to this, the sewage problem that had been building up for years suddenly showed its ugly head.
What paralysed the government of President Jacob Zuma was that it all happened at the same time.
What made this different? People were compelled to live with the situation. 
Being without electricity, using contaminated drinking water and physically living with sewage changed minds and attitudes.
As problems increased, government officials and services became more absent. The constitution promised a better quality of life, but Government left the people out in the sewage. A contradiction emerged in the political profile of Government: a clash between the political capital and the governing capital – a process of internal erosion. 

For decades people have been told that apartheid was to blame for everything and suddenly they discover the real culprit behind the council building – Government.
The country was still a major democracy, but Government’s inability to deliver was slowly penetrating society. A very large section of the population came to exist outside the confines and guarantees of the constitution. 
A small town where the sewage flows down Main Street is basically beyond or outside the protection of the constitution.

Similarly, the urban community that provides its own security and pays for it, is also beyond the protection of the constitution.

The result was the creation of alternative functioning structures. 

This was not motivated by a resistance against Parliament or an effort to push Government aside. The real reason was that a very specific need had to be addressed; otherwise a specific section of society could not survive.
As strange as it may seem, people started moving beyond the constitution for self-protection.
Farmers started repairing the national roads in their vicinity; otherwise goods to the market could not be transported. 
Parents invested in additional teachers in order to secure a future for their kids. 
In this process, a whole range of new functional structures in society have been created – with or without the consent or cooperation of Government. 

The eventual effect is that a large section of society is in the process of breaking away from government structures – and eventually from Government control. 

This is perhaps not so much anti-democratic as a-democratic, i.e. outside the democratic process, as it bypasses the formal structures and creates new ones when the need arises. 

The driving force at this stage is not the will of the people, but the need of the specific sector of society. In this process, the nature of democracy will eventually change.
Bypassing formal government will not occur if some disillusionment has not emerged in society. 
It is basically twenty years since formal discussions began to dismantle apartheid. 
Some form of resistance against the functional decay is inevitable. However, it is not expected in the form of a rebel movement or attempt to unseat Government by force.

Within the black community the present demonstrations and burning of council buildings may continue. Within the white community, resistance may take another form.
Amongst whites there is a complaint that they pay twice for everything. They pay tax for “security of person” (chapter 2 constitution), but they also pay for their own security. They pay for education and then directly pay for additional teachers; they pay for road maintenance and do the work themselves.

The bottom line is that this government is very expensive to keep around, with no benefits coming from it.
In reaction the next step may be a formal note to the minister of Finance and the Receiver of Revenue, demanding a tax discount for services promised but not delivered – and then delivered and paid for by the taxpayer himself. What could emanate from this is ground level emotion and indignation. 
The figures do not add up. 
This is one direction Government does not want to go. By 2010 the population has ended up in a total imbalance which the next election will not be able to rectify.
It is in the nature of governments, when things go badly for them, to start withholding information from the public.
The country must speak with “one voice”, with one government spokesperson and one official broadcaster. All this is supposedly, “good for nation building”. 

Any information that may threaten the position of Government may be questioned as “anti-democratic”. 
Very often, this is all lumped together under the nice, formal concept of “national security”. To the common citizen this may sound extremely dangerous and therefore needs his support.
Then the question emerges: what is secret and what not? 
There is much information that is freely available, not secret at all, that can directly threaten the position of Government, officials and ministers. 

Government is known to be sensitive to any photos of farm murders, statistics about crime and web pages that explain too much of what happens in the country.
Can Government prevent this flow of “dangerous” information, as the latest proposals of legislation from parliament attempted to do? The answer is short: No! It was possible during the Cold War. The Russians built a wall across central Europe to keep people and a free flow of information out.
In a technologically driven world every person with a cell phone (and camera), and computer on the desk has the immediate capability to send information all over the world. Every person with a cell phone has the capability to photograph potholes, schools without toilets, policemen asleep on the job and text messages about politicians who buy luxury cars and officials who are corrupt.
This implies that every citizen has the potential to send information, “dangerous” to the Government, abroad.
In this process, if this legislation is pushed for reasons that existed in the previous century, every citizen has the potential to become the enemy of Government. 
An effective withholding of information can only be done when all cell phones are confiscated and all computers smashed.
With its enormous political capital behind it, the ANC commands the voting power in parliament, but it does not have the doing power. 
The lack of governing capabilities may eventually result in the domino effect. 

Individual “problems” like sewage, clean water and education start interacting. The one affects the other and begin a self-driven process that leads to accelerated collapse. 

The most unthinkable result of the domino effect will appear when local government becomes so dysfunctional that citizens are compelled to take over services on a large scale and in this process government authority is pushed back to a few urban areas. This will signal the start of a new political system.
How will the decision maker finds his way through this complicated situation?
From 2010 and beyond the quality of expertise and skills of any company or organisation will determine its economic and social survival. 
What should be assessed here is the level of human capital.
Human capital in combination with other assets such as infrastructure provides the all important intellectual capital – the competitive advantage. Without intellectual capital very little value can be added to any business or society. A clear definition of intellectual capital is also imperative.
Without a clear assessment of human and intellectual capital, society will be unable to regenerate itself.
Dr. J.A. Du Plessis at Intersearch

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