Cape Town -
South Africa had experienced a short golden period under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, but today so many of the country’s cornerstones of democracy were under attack that the country was in danger of becoming a failed state.
This was the message from veteran politican and former vice-chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Alex Boraine at the Cape Town Press Club on Tuesday about what had led him to write the book he hoped he would never have to write What’s Gone Wrong? On the Brink of a Failed State.
The man who helped organise landmark meetings with the then exiled ANC in Dakar and who co-founded the Institute for Democracy in Africa (Idasa), said he had been delighted when the apartheid government had ended and the ANC had come into power.
He had met “very fine” ANC members when the party was still banned - but today many had been sidelined.
Things began to change under Thabo Mbeki, a fine economist but detached from reality. During the last five years under President Jacob Zuma South Africa had become “a mess”.
Factors which could lead to South Africa becoming a failed state included:
- The constitution was the supreme law in the country, yet the Constitutional Court was under constant threat by the ANC government, including by Zuma, who said recently “the powers conferred on the courts cannot be superior to the powers… resulting from popular democratic elections”. This was highly dangerous.
- The standards of judges in all our courts cried out for reform. There was a danger of “yes men” being appointed to the Constitutional Court, while excellent candidates like Geoff Budlender were overlooked three times.
- The public protector was constantly threatened by some members of government who wanted to silence her.
- The auditor-general, a “very good institution”, had repeatedly faulted the books of every province bar the Western Cape, yet the financial problems went on.
- Corruption was widespread in every province, in big business, and even “at the very top” with Zuma.
- The police today were like a mirror of the apartheid police and were “brutal” to anyone who opposed them. The police force was becoming dysfunctional.
- We did not have a free media: the SABC pumped out government propaganda, while the new owner of Independent Newspapers, Dr Iqbal Survé, had “declared openly he is a supporter of the ANC”.
“The print media should be pressing hard as it can to confront and make government accountable for as long as it can without being suspended or thrown out.”
What was needed was a “change of the power equation”, not a uniting of opposition parties, but a “grand coalition of forces, including a big ANC slice”.