Rising levels of unhappiness among many citizens over issues ranging from poor service delivery, load shedding, and corruption have led to concerns is at risk of experiencing an Arab Spring of its own, while questions have been asked on whether or not the country has become a failed state. Speaking to The Citizen this week, water expert Professor Anthony Turton warned of a full-blown revolution due to the high levels of despondency. Turton is of the opinion that while the governing African National Congress (ANC) is in power, it is not in control of the country. Criminals running the country…
Rising levels of unhappiness among many citizens over issues ranging from poor service delivery, load shedding, and corruption have led to concerns is at risk of experiencing an Arab Spring of its own, while questions have been asked on whether or not the country has become a failed state.
Speaking to The Citizen this week, water expert Professor Anthony Turton warned of a full-blown revolution due to the high levels of despondency.
Turton is of the opinion that while the governing African National Congress (ANC) is in power, it is not in control of the country.
Criminals running the country
“What we have in the country is organised criminal syndicates who are in control of the country, and a classic example of that is the so-called construction mafia where a business owner can’t even operate his or her business.
“On the other hand, you also have situations where some workers belonging to trade unions vandalise critical infrastructure every time they embark on industrial action when their demands are not acceded to by the employer (the state),” he said.
Turton said he is skeptical about whether other political parties could take the country forward in the absence of the ANC, saying what is needed is a rejuvenated governing party to take the country out of the mess it finds itself in.
A country on the brink of failure
Turton’s skepticism comes hot on the heels of swipes taken at ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa by three former presidents last weekend.
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He said most of the opposition parties are built around personalities and not around national interest.
Turton, who worked behind the scenes towards South Africa’s CODESA (negotiations which sought to end apartheid) period in the late 1980s and early 1990s, warned of a situation worse than the 1980s, which saw the country engulfed by rolling mass action.
H warns that not even the police and the army would be able to stop this once it is in motion.
“We are on the brink of state failure. Last year’s July unrest also showed attempts of a coup,” he said.
Recipe for disaster
Mary De Haas, who is a violence monitor, says the fact that it not yet known who the main instigators of the July unrest are, 15 months later, is a recipe for disaster.
A commission was established to investigate allegations of state capture and damning evidence was brought to the fore.
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Upon the completion of its work, the commission which was headed by now Chief Justice Raymond Zondo made 350 recommendations, of which 202 were for criminal and other investigations.
Some of the ministers implicated in wrongdoing include Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe and Deputy State Security Ministe, Zizi Kodwa.
Just like others, De Haas has her doubts about whether the recommendations will be taken seriously, saying there is just no political will to solve the country’s multiple problems.
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“We have a problem of ministers running government departments, people looting departments to run the ANC, and President Cyril Ramaphosa has not shown any inclination… I mean what’s stopping him from implementing the right things?
“Political parties are all about them and not about government,” said De Haas.
ANC worried about losing power
With the 2024 general elections described by many as probably the most important since that of 1994 (the first democratic elections), and projections pointing to a likelihood of the ANC losing power, De Haas added:
“If you think about remarks attributed to Labour Minister Thula Nxesi where he proposes an extension to the terms of directors-general, it shows you the ANC is worried about losing power and such statements are worrying,” she said.
Are we a failed state or a mafia state?
A political analyst, Sanusha Naidu, cautions that people should not be too quick in labeling the country.
“One must understand that there are different drivers which for example shape what a failed state is, which is when the state is not providing anything and when there is a complete breakdown of institutions.
“On the other hand, a mafia state is where people control resources, leading to patronage, including getting rid of opponents,” she said.
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Naidu said the problem though is that South Africa seems to tick the boxes for several of the bad categories in question.
“Our challenge is that the state has indeed failed. It had been captured with institutions broken down and we have a serious governance problem but the real question though is whether it is enough to label South Africa a failed state and if so, where to from here?
“I think we all need to start having conversations where we ask what is it that needs to be recalibrated about the state, and I think maybe political parties may be our biggest obstacles and maybe the model of our state embeds crisis,” she said.
Commenting on warnings of a revolution and a South African version of the Arab Spring, Naidu said the country has for the longest time been experiencing pockets of “mini-reactions”.
“The pressure cooker lid has already blown and we are already there at the tipping point,” Naidu warned.
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