Time to stop South Africa’s descent into despotism



In recent months, Brazil and South Korea have shown how far countries can go in the fight against corruption. No one, not even the president, has been above the law. If South Africa is to ensure that “state capture” — the harnessing of public resources for private ends — does not ultimately lead to state failure, it must follow suit, and soon, notes The Financial Times:

Thanks to the courageous efforts of civil society groups such as Corruption Watch and Save South Africa, the grubby nexus between the Gupta family business empire and President Jacob Zuma’s administration has come into sharper focus. So too has the part played by international firms such as Bell Pottinger, KPMG and McKinsey. The Gupta scandal has robbed the country of its post-apartheid lustre and exposed how far the integrity of government institutions, including the national prosecutor’s office, has been undermined.

Support for authoritarianism has even increased and confidence in government institutions has decreased in South Africa, one of the key transitional democracies of the Third Wave.

“In 1994, South Africans welcomed democracy with open arms. But today this embrace doesn’t seem to be as tight as we would like it to be. It appears that we aren’t quite so sure what to make of our democracy,” said Stellenbosch University’s Dr Cindy Steenekamp:

In a recent study, Steenekamp, for the first time, mapped the characteristics of a democracy community in South Africa by looking at people’s commitment to democratic values and their support for the country’s democratic regime and political authorities. Her research question related specifically to the persistence of democracy and how this had been impacted by the political attitudes and behaviour of South Africans since 1994. …

She analysed data from the last four waves of the World Values Survey (WVS) conducted in South Africa between 1995 and 2013 ….Steenekamp said the analysis of this data revealed that while there was support for democratic rule and the current political system, support for authoritarianism had increased and confidence in government institutions had decreased.

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