South Africa is “not a failed state yet and we will not get there” because the government is taking steps every day to rebuild its capacity and fight corruption.
This was President Cyril Ramaphosa’s response on Friday to a question posed by Philile Ntuli, of the South African Human Rights Commission, during the authority’s hearing into the July 2021 unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
Ntuli asked Ramaphosa, while he was giving evidence before the commission, to respond to treasury director general Dondo Mogajane’s comment in March that if the country continued on its current trajectory it would be on a trajectory to becoming a “failed state” with “no confidence in the government, anarchy and absolutely no control in society”.
Speaking during a national budget dialogue, Mogajane said that leaders needed to get off their “high horse and do what we have to do to ensure we create access and a conducive environment for people’s lives to change”.
“If that’s not going to be a motivating factor, we can start calling South Africa a failing state because the things that define a failing state are beginning to show,” Mogajane said.
Ramaphosa said Mogajane had made the remarks in the context of his analysis of the status of the country’s finances from the treasury’s point of view.
“He is one of those officials who looks at the balance sheet very closely – there is no one else who looks at this balance sheet on a daily basis, our revenue, assets and liabilities – and when he looks at all of that he sees some red flags and it raises concern. What he was seeing is that today we face enormous challenges and the challenges go beyond just the finances. We are looking at levels where there is incapacity in the state and when it comes to looking at our finances it looks at how we are spending money, misspending money and there is corruption,” Ramaphosa said.
“We are not a failed state yet and we will not get there. We are not a failing state because we are rebuilding the capacity of the state and we are taking steps every day to rebuild that capacity. We admit we lost state capacity and it is like turning the titanic around – it does not happen in one day.”
He said the National Prosecuting Authority was being “capacitated” and “emboldened” to fight corruption. “The resolve is there to fight corruption and to turn the state around.”
Ramaphosa said the state needed to recruit more young university graduates, “the brightest minds”, to help the government recalibrate its functions.
“We are moving forward rather than standing in one place or moving backwards,” Ramaphosa said.
Mogajane’s comments followed the release of an Institute of Risk Management South Africa (IRMSA) report that raised the question of whether the country was already or would become a failed state if its lack of ethical, courageous and decisive leadership continued.
According to the IRMSA report: “In the South African context, the top risks remain similar to those of the past, albeit at an increased level, mainly due to our failure to decisively respond to them. The culmination of those risks continuing and worsening leads to the greater debate: will SA become a failed state – or is it already a failed state?”