Commentator and analyst Moeletsi Mbeki contends that South Africa’s fundamental problem is a crisis of governance which undergirds every other crisis afflicting the country.

This sentiment is echoed by University of the Witwatersrand professor William Gumede in an article titled ‘SA’s entire infrastructure is on the verge of total collapse’.

Gumede writes:

National Treasury investigation in 2020 found that between 2012 and 2015 only 13 out of 216 contracts awarded that exceeded R10m were above-board at the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA).
South Africa’s water system across the country is also on the verge of full collapse because of a lack of infrastructure maintenance, corruption in which dodgy black economic empowerment companies have been gifted tenders and build flimsy infrastructure, and cadre deployees without the necessary technical skills who have poorly looked after the public water assets. South Africa is likely to soon experience water outages across the country because of system collapse. Water delivery infrastructure at municipal level has collapsed across the country.
South Africa’s municipal sewage infrastructure system has now almost collapsed also. Out of the 824 water treatment plans across the country, only 60 release clean water. More than 60% of the country’s sewage and wastewater treatment works have been classified as in a poor or critical state. There must be urgent intervention by the ANC government to stop the system failure of the country’s public infrastructure system.

It is not an overstatement to say that definitively voting the ANC out of power (where they cannot have a winning coalition with the EFF and PA etc), however improbable it may be, is the first domino that must fall to stop the bleeding in this country and set the Republic on a different trajectory marked by pro-investment policies, functional governance and municipalities that actually do their jobs.

Racial nationalism does not work

It seems an incredibly obvious point to make, but racial nationalism does not deliver widespread and inclusive wealth creation and prosperity. Neither the National Party nor the ANC’s racial nationalism has delivered any kind of widespread prosperity in this country. The Afrikaner nationalists hobbled the growth of this country by constraining the growth of human capital of people of colour through terrible education and employment policies, while the ANC has used its power to tax the rest of the economy in order to promote a consumption-driven economy for the benefit of the black middle class. That is why the black majority are still living in poverty. The ANC is, at the fundamental level, using the State to create a small racialised elite and middle class, while a vast swathe of South Africans remain poor, uneducated and shut out from proper educational opportunities and social mobility.

Until we admit that South Africa has never truly tried freedom or a non-racial, largely meritocratic dispensation, we will be stuck in a racial nationalist reality that prioritises a minority’s consumption over the investment and growth that benefit an ever-larger proportion of South Africans.

As Moeletsi Mbeki puts it:

The ANC was a party of the black middle class which was benefiting from the economy in its current form. The black middle class knows that everybody has to make sacrifices to change this economy and it is not prepared to do that because it is benefiting from it. The black middle class feels that its interests are best served by retaining the British colonial-created economy that thrives on mining and cheap black labour, and they want to keep it that way.
So it doesn’t matter whether Cyril Ramaphosa is the president, Thabo Mbeki is the president or Jacob Zuma, it is still the same. The ANC is an institution that serves the interests of the black middle class [at the expense of a majority of South Africans].

So what then?

If any ‘moonshot’ pact and coalition government will set South Africa on a course of prosperity similar to nations like Poland and Chile, that pact must include commitment to a vision of a non-racial South Africa that prioritises policy and governance leading to social mobility and growth, and where a ‘rising tide lifts all boats’. This is important because the prevailing consensus in this country is one of nationalism built on grievance politics. Both Afrikaner and African nationalism are driven by grievances over being excluded by the British from the benefits of British colonialism. While there are noteworthy differences between the two, what is salient is a commitment to a system that prioritises immutable characteristics being the defining factor in progress and success as opposed to talent, hard work and a society that prioritises opportunity   regardless of immutable characteristics. 

To quote Moeletsi Mbeki again:

An important difference between Afrikaner nationalists and African nationalists was that Afrikaner nationalists had a vested interest in a growing economy because that made their private property grow and be profitable. It did not apply in the case of African nationalists as they did not own private property. African nationalists were therefore more incentivised to import cheap consumption goods than to produce domestically.
This explains the deindustrialisation of SA since 1994. It also explains why African nationalism met the same fate as Afrikaner nationalism. Afrikaner nationalism could not sustain repression; African nationalism cannot sustain consumption without investment in production.

Simply put, investment, sound policy and good governance matter far more to our shared future than any racially driven commitment to largesse and ideology.

[Image: Zdeněk Tobiáš from Pixabay]

The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR

If you like what you have just read, support the Daily Friend


Sindile Vabaza is an avid writer and an aspiring economist.