Johannesburg – South Africa has been on a downward spiral for quite some time. Some say it started in the last year of Thabo Mbeki’s presidency, while others blame former President Zuma. However, no matter how low the country is, it is incorrect to say it is a failed state.
Due to the subjective nature of it, there is no agreed upon definition of the term “failed state.” A state is considered “failed” when a government no longer exists, laws are not enforced, and service delivery is non-existent. According to political analyst, Professor Sipho Seepe, South Africa is not a failing state, rather an ineffective one.
“We may have a functioning state in the formal sense that you have a government, that you have a treasury, you have tax collection, you have the police, you have regular veterans, and you have a judiciary. We have all of that. They exist and function. We also know that we do not have an effective state. The state is not able to fulfil the obligation and the government is unable to fulfil the promises that it gives to the nation during elections.”
For Seepe, to suggest that the country is a failed state would be “unfair”. This is on the basis that the country is still democratically run. The citizens get to choose who they want to rule over them. One of the features of a failed state is that citizens “no longer even believe in any elections” and we have not reached that point.
South Africa still has its unions, and it allows its people to protest. While these still remain, it shows that people are not being silenced. Democracy is still alive. What we are currently seeing is people losing trust in the government, said Seepe.
Citizens contribute to failed state
The citizens have the power to elect who they want and also to remove who they want. By keeping an ineffective government in power, citizens have only themselves to blame, said Seepe.
“Our constitution allows that if you are dissatisfied to remove that political leadership. If anything, you could say the electorate are failing themselves as opposed to the state … The most important thing is that we have a choice. People need to understand that the power lies in their hands. If they choose the wrong people, then they must accept the consequences of their choices. What we now see, and it’s beginning to become almost possible, is that the ANC, if it continues on this trajectory, will be removed but we cannot assume that the future government will necessarily fail.”
What people have become conditioned to think is when parties make a promise, we believe they will fulfil it. We vote for it and then become “unhinged” when it is not delivered. Democracy requires active participation, which is something we do not see, said Seepe.
Loyalty to government
The main problem with people is their loyalty to a government with such a strong history. According to Seepe, this loyalty is the downfall of the people as they are blinded by it.
“The problem with our people is that they have been loyal to a force. They believe too much in their network and they believe too much in the people’s history of struggle. We know that the history of South Africa does not tell you anything. The issue is we must judge people on what they do. Not what they promise and not their history. History, even though it helps to understand where people come from, it cannot be a predictor of future behaviour.”
Seepe believes that democracy is still strong within the country, and it will take a lot for the ANC to try to destroy it. A power the government might no longer have. Sipho Seepe discussing the Big Picture on the Ashraf Garda Show.