Saturday, 26 January 2013

'The Collapse of Governance in South Africa?'

(Article from Politicsweb)

From Mangaung to Nkandla - a Journey to nowhere!

In the third week of December 2012 Jacob Zuma was re-elected as president of the ANC at the 53rd National Elective Conference at Mangaung (Bloemfontein) in the central Free State.

Nkandla is the personal country homestead of Zuma in rural Kwazulu-Natal.  It has also been called the "presidential compound" or "tribal village". It is an extensive complex housing his extended family, with state of the art electronic surveillance systems, helicopter landing pad, elaborate roads, underground bunkers and security personnel. What brought Nkandla into the limelight are widespread allegations that much of the country homestead has been funded by taxpayers' money.  

Zuma's redeployment by the ANC at Mangaung in December 2012 may guarantee his continued presence at Nkandla as president of the country which could put him in power up to 2019.

This journey from Mangaung to Nkandla explains the interaction between the ANC as liberation movement and the ANC as government in power and the current impact on the country. In particular, it provides a much needed understanding of the complex interaction between party and state in the present political dispensation and exposes the reasons why the current political dispensation has been failing for the past decade or more.

It has to be understood that the country's functional decline is not solely the result of Zuma's deployment in 2007 and neither will his recent redeployment in December 2012 fix the problem. What has gone wrong by 2013 can be traced right back to the political settlement of 1994.

It is part of a self-destructive process that had been embedded very deep in the political system by the political power brokers at the time. The mere appointment of a new president with a new (old) team will not solve the problem; what has been emerging now is broad system failure. It is something entirely different!

At the start of 2013 the country is in deep trouble, however, this concept will have to be explained. Suffice to state as introductory comment is the observation that Zuma's journey from Mangaung to Nkandla is expected to be a journey to nowhere. Over the past year or two, the possibility of a "failed state" has surreptitiously emerged in the media.

The concept of a "failed state" was mentioned, but not really discussed, as if the people involved were politically too scared - or ignorant - in dealing with the implications. The slow emergence of a failed state, and then very often unobserved under the radar scan of parliament, implies a certain fatal decline of a constitutional democracy and the role of political parties. Even mentioning the possibility of a failed state situation is not only serious, but has extremely dangerous implications for any state.

A document like this is not for broad public consumption as it may endanger the established and comfortable mindset of the voting public and threaten the perceived and propagated logical framework of party policy. Politicians prefer a happy voting public, not a disturbed one. This document may challenge the existing, fixed mindset - and that is politically not always welcome! It is a document for the decision maker, who does not have the luxury of deferring difficult situations. It has been written for a reader who thinks and plans for up to 2020 and beyond, for the current political dispensation is unlikely to continue past Zuma's second term in office.

The critical question by 2013 is therefore: if there are convincing facts and arguments that the current political dispensation may decay to the point of systemic collapse - a failed state - in the next five to seven years, what has to be done? This is a question that can be posed to every business executive, every activist group in civil society, and each parent with kids in school or on their way to school. It is also true for expats with family in South Africa and families with children abroad. Will there ever be an opportunity for them to return?

The unthinkable of 1994 will have to be contemplated by 2013. The country may slide into a process of governing collapse. This does not necessarily imply a civil war, but an inevitable decay of governing functions to the point of spontaneous implosion - the key functions of state just cease to exist!  Society just becomes governmentally empty - a stateless society. This was never considered in 1994; however, by 2013 it has to be argued as an alarming reality.

If spontaneous implosion of governing capabilities materialises, what becomes of government? Equally important, what happens to society and population? When society arrives at this point, is there still any meaning in a free and fair election?  If the past has not been a success, what about the future?

Dr Jan du Plessis is editor and publisher of Intersearch. 

This is an edited extract from the Intersearch Management Briefing for January 2013. Dr Du Plessis can be contacted at 

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