South Africa has failed before. So it should not fail again!
In her contribution in an article on “Failed State” to SAGE Publications’ Encyclopedia of Governance (2007), Naazneen H. Barma, an assistant Professor of National Security Affairs, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, describes a “Failed state”, as a state that is unable to perform the two fundamental functions of the sovereign nation-state in the modern world system: it cannot project authority over its territory and peoples, and it cannot protect its national boundaries.”
Barma, whose research and teaching focuses on the political economy of development and natural resource governance amongst other things, had the version of her article used in the fact-checked online encyclopedia Britannica entry on this topic.
She wrote that a failed state is composed of feeble and flawed institutions. In her own words, often, the executive barely functions, while the legislature, judiciary, bureaucracy, and armed forces have lost their capacity and professional independence.
“A failed state suffers from crumbling infrastructures, faltering utility supplies and educational and health facilities, and deteriorating basic human-development indicators, such as infant mortality and literacy rates. Failed states create an environment of flourishing corruption and negative growth rates, where honest economic activity cannot flourish,” Barma wrote.
South Africa has failed before and it would be a pity if it failed again. Between 1948 and 1994, the country suffered racial segregation under the all-white government of South Africa, which dictated that non-white South Africans who were a majority of the population were forced to live in separate areas from whites and use separate public facilities.
The different racial groups were physically separated according to their location, public facilities and social life. The white minority enjoyed all social liberties while blacks were subjected to suffering.
Throughout this period, blacks were deprived what they had, what they were and all that they could ever be. The unjust apartheid project, landed a beautiful country in failure. And it has taken so much for it to regain consciousness and stabilise to be a meaningful contributor and beneficiary in the global economy.
Crumbled infrastructures, faltering utility supplies and educational and health facilities, and deteriorating basic human-development indicators contribute to greater poverty, even higher unemployment (especially amongst women and young people) as well as grave inequality. Those at the receiving end of this will tell you that the country is failing. Some will go as far as labelling it a failed state.
Just recently, university and college students from poor households and backgrounds, had to be boosted by their younger siblings, unemployed parents and pensioners through their social grants because National Student Financial Aid Scheme has failed to pay their upkeep allowances in time.
In the past months, motorists and commuters had to sink deeper in debt to be able to afford the much increasing fuel price.
Households have been forced to leave out some food stuffs as their groceries became more unaffordable with every passing month. Some household members have to go on for days or even weeks without any internet access because they do not always afford mobile data, mobile devices or the fares to town plus whatever is being paid by the hour at an internet café.
Businesses like insurance companies, medical schemes and many entertainment businesses reel from policy and product cancellations as many of their clients cut back on what they offer to survive.
Other businesses have had to retrench staff to survive another day in the economic jungle. Sadly, others have tried anything and everything but still had to fold.
Some municipalities have also failed to pay their creditors because their own residents cannot afford to pay for services rendered to them. Some opt not to pay and so some municipalities render no services. It's a stalemate that is partly responsible for the deterioration seen in many of the country’s towns and cities.
As is this was not bad enough, a World Bank study found that rampant crime in South Africa was costing the country at least 10% of its gross domestic product annually thereby exacerbating already stark income inequality. Crime also claims lives that many have invested in. Unfortunately, these lives will never be recovered.
While South Africa cannot afford to fail again, the good news is that it really does not have to. As grim and bleak the country’s economic situation may seem and sound, there are many sources of hope.
The Springboks’ triumph to be four time rugby World Cup champions few weeks ago, Mamelodi Sundowns football club Africa Football League Cup Win earlier this month and the team's ladies side, CAF Women's Champions League Cup, win a week later are proof that South Africa and its institutions do have what it takes to win.
Earlier this year, South Africans musicians Zakes Bantwini, Nomcebo Zikode, and Wouter Kellerman won a Grammy in the Best Global Music Performance category, courtesy of their song, 'Bayethe’. Last year, South African women's national squad also won the 2022 Women's Africa Cup of Nations.
This same month, the University of Pretoria's international law and Future Africa's Research Chair in Global Equity in Africa, Professor Dire Tladi, was appointed as a judge of the International Court of Justice. This as just last year, Former University of Johannesburg vice-chancellor professor Tshilidzi Marwala was appointed as rector of the United Nations University in Tokyo, Japan.
Also, international superstar Chris Brown sampled KwaZulu-Natal's 17-year old, Naledi Aphiwe, on the R&B singer's 11th studio album 11:11 on a song titled Shooter.
While South Africa is home to 62 million people, it holds a meaningful value to the world's 8 billion people. For that reason, the country, which has failed before because of apartheid, should get its house in order and continue to put its shoulder to the wheel in the development and growth of the local, regional and global economy. This country's state must continue to aptly perform its functions of a sovereign nation-state in this modern and future world system.
Given Majola is a reporter at Business Report. Majola is passionate about agriculture and socio-economic impacts in South Africa.