What's Gone Wrong? South Africa on the Brink of Failed Statehood

What's Gone Wrong? South Africa on the Brink of Failed Statehood

What's Gone Wrong? South Africa on the Brink of Failed Statehood

What's Gone Wrong? South Africa on the Brink of Failed Statehood


This is the book that Alex Boraine never wanted to write. As a native South African and a witness to the worst years of apartheid, he has known many of the leaders of the African National Congress in exile. He shared the jubilation of millions of South Africans when the ANC won the first democratic elections in 1994 and took up the reins of government under the presidency of Nelson Mandela.

Now, two decades later, he is forced to wonder what exactly has gone wrong in South Africa. Intolerance and corruption are the hallmarks of the governing party, while the worsening state of education, health, safety and security and employment strengthen the claim that South Africa is a failing state. Boraine explores this urgent and critical issue from the vantage point of wide experience as a minister, parliamentarian, co-founder of the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) and Vice Chairperson of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Committee. He digs deep into the history of the ANC and concludes that both in exile and today, the ANC is slavishly committed to one party as the dominant ruling factor. All else - the Executive, Parliament, the Judiciary, civil society and the media - take second and third place. The ANC, Boraine claims, seeks to control every institution.

What's Gone Wrong? pulls no punches, but it also goes beyond strong criticism and offers a number of constructive proposals, including the re-alignment of politics as a way of preventing South Africa becoming a failed state. As South Africa mourns the loss of Mandela and embarks on another national election, with the ANC likely to begin a third decade of rule, this incisive, detailed critique is required reading for all who are interested in the fate of this young nation.


Chatting recently with someone very close to a top ANC leader, I remarked: ‘We are where we were with the apartheid nationalists. They didn’t ask what qualifications you had for a particular job. No, they asked, “What is your political affiliation?’”

I was startled at first when she exclaimed: ‘No!’ But then she went on to say, ‘It is worse: they ask which faction of the ruling party you support.’

We are in dire straits in our beloved country. In this hard-hitting volume, Alex Boraine incisively and with great perspicacity answers the question so many are asking: ‘What’s gone wrong?’ Why, instead of working to eradicate poverty, do we have the widest gap between rich and poor globally; why do the nouveaux riches flaunt their often ill-gotten wealth so much, existing cheek by jowl with demeaning squalor? Much of our public service is in a dismal state. Our public hospitals and schools in the ‘black’ townships leave a great deal to be desired. We have high levels of unemployment and violent crime. Corruption, frequently brazen, seems to be the order of the day. Effective law enforcement agencies are disbanded. A competent and principled national director of prosecutions was shown the door because he wanted to charge the then commissioner of police and Jacob Zuma, then deputy president. The government has treated with utter disdain a High Court order to produce the secret tapes whose contents were the grounds for dropping charges against Mr Zuma before he became president. It is odd that they should be so bashful about revealing evidence that those charges against him were contaminated by a political conspiracy.

We applaud the government for providing free education for many children. But it is an awful indictment that there are children learning under trees in this day and age. Recently, learners in one province were seriously . . .

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