Christo says: South Africa faces serious threats
From leadership to an electricity crisis and a weak rand, South Africa faces grave threats. Yet, this decay should never be accepted as the “new normal”. Let’s be clear and upfront; we are going downhill as a country. The rot is visible everywhere because the state is failing us!
However, crime, grime and decline can never be accepted as the new normal. As a citizenry, we should neither fall silent nor close our ears and eyes to the failings of those in charge of the state. Suppose their actions, utterances, and policies undermine and destroy our human dignity, freedom, quality of life and future. In that case, we must question the constitutionality of it and oppose it because it is the state’s job to honour, uphold and guarantee the values and ideals defined in our National Constitution.
It all starts with state leadership
The “new normal” of indecisive leadership speaks volumes of state leadership whose left-hand does not know what the right hand is doing and vice versa.
Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa briefed members of parliament during the State of the Nation on 10 February 2023. A national state of disaster was also declared, and a minister of electricity was appointed to the presidency. On 5 April 2023, the government announced that it immediately withdrew the National State of Disaster declared by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs on 9 February 2023. A turf war was sparked between the ministers of energy and electricity because there was no clarity on what the latter had to do.
On 26 May 2023, the president signed a proclamation transferring certain powers and functions to the electricity minister. However, the question remains whether the minister of electricity is in a position to implement any decisions regarding these powers and functions. According to experts, it remains the responsibility of the minister of energy to enter into agreements, facilitate tender processes, issue guarantees and commit the state to future electricity purchases. Meanwhile, loadshedding is weakening our economy.
State ideology weakens the economy
This indecision is also rooted in state ideology. So much so that the Reserve Bank warns that South Africa’s political neutrality in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia is increasingly being questioned. The Reserve Bank points to the possibility of sanctions and other risks. Add to that the Lady R saga, and we have a moral and economic crisis imminent if it is true that South Africa supplied weapons and ammunition to Russia.
These risks are reflected in the deteriorating value of the rand. From an international perspective, a stronger US dollar and South Africa’s economic problems, including loadshedding, inadequate infrastructure and policy uncertainty, are some of the reasons for the weakened currency. Not only is it one of the worst-performing currencies in emerging markets this year, but over the past 18 months, the repo rate has increased by a cumulative 425 basis points. This has a significant impact on the purchasing power and standard of living of everyone.
All of us are getting poorer and even more disillusioned day after day.
Stage budget restricting economic growth
Ideology also impacts the state budget. While the 2023 National Budget provides for economic, fiscal and social development, the latter gets the lion’s share of the budget, R1,35 trillion. In contrast, the amount budgeted for economic development amounts to R237,6 billion. It is way too little to grow the economy. A growing economy lessens people’s dependence on the state.
The elephant in the room remains government spending. R701,2 billion for salaries of public servants. Goods and services amount to R305,2 billion. Capital expenditure amounts to R192,8 billion. Transfer payments, including welfare, financial aid, social security and government subsidies for its state-owned enterprises, amount to R685 billion. Debt servicing cost amounts to R349 billion. However, do we as a country get value for all the state spending invested in salaries, goods and services, capital expenditure, transfer payments and subsidies?
Failed state-owned enterprises and state institutions
State-owned enterprises are failing us regardless of all the government bailouts. Service delivery by government departments and municipalities is at an absolute low. Our state hospitals are poorly managed. The latest International Reading Literacy Study findings found that 81% of Grade 4 pupils cannot read with meaning.
Instead of addressing these crises, state populism is gaining increasing momentum. Race-based draft laws and regulations are now being announced left and right instead of focusing on expertise to address the country’s many challenges.
Lack of expertise in many state entities will remain our country’s Achilles heel forever if we continue to base state appointments on skin colour instead of taking merit into account. The deterioration of our road networks, the decay of our towns and cities, and municipal wastewater treatment systems are a telling result of incompetence. The recent cholera outbreak in parts of the country testifies to poor governance and management levels.
Bheki Cele, Minister of Police, also recently released the statistics for crimes recorded between January and March 2023. About 70 people were killed every day in the first three months of the year. More than 10,500 rape cases were opened during this time. The most brutal farm murders have occurred in recent times and are a severe indictment of the government’s ability to fulfil its constitutional mandate, namely to protect and secure the inhabitants of the Republic and their property; and uphold and enforce the law.
Of state accountability, unfortunately, there is no sign. The country remains mired in economic stagnation as the state fails to act decisively to address the many problems facing SA. Given South Africa’s shortage of domestic capital, stimulating economic growth requires foreign investment. This will only succeed if policies are formulated rationally so that investors are confident in the long-term sustainability of South Africa as an investment destination.
The most severe threat to the South African economy is increasing lawlessness. Social disorder places an unbearable additional burden on businesses.
For the poorest and most vulnerable, the impact that incompetent management in state entities has on their lives is far-reaching. The inability of state institutions to uphold and protect the rights of every citizen as enshrined in the Bill of Rights, to unlock the potential of every human being and to provide essential services and basic security poses a severe risk to South Africa’s future as a free and democratic state where all citizens should enjoy equal rights and where their dignity is sacred.
The wealthier, more entrepreneurial inclined and highly skilled section of society is subjected to a range of inhibitory policy measures, such as employment equity targets, bureaucratic red tape, complex financial support measures, and collapsing economic and infrastructure-related challenges. Who wants to establish a business venture in such circumstances?
However, the continued disintegration of public services should never be accepted as the new normal. So, holding the state accountable weighs heavily on every citizen’s shoulders. By giving effect to this responsibility, we can stop the rot and save our country.