By Tony Stone
Climate change wreaked havoc around the world in 2021. Besides natural catastrophes of magnitude, war, pestilence, famine, population decline and mass migration are the main causes of a society collapsing and reverting to a more primitive state, leaving it open to being taken over by a stronger society or completely disappearing. Rather interesting is that scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology predicted, back in the 1970s, the fall of society around 2040.
However, there is one more cause of societal collapse. An analysis of history shows that societies collapse when leaders undermine social contracts – as Jacob Zuma and the ANC have done in South Africa. Cronyism, nepotism, incompetence, state capture and endemic corruption have robbed South Africa of trillions of rands over the 28 years the ANC has been in power. Hailed as the liberators of Black people from apartheid, the ANC, since 2010, has effectively betrayed the people of South Africa.
Whether societies are ruled by greedy criminals, ruthless dictators or more well-meaning representatives, they all fall apart in time, with different degrees of severity. All good and apparently good things must come to an end. Leaders who undermine, break and don’t uphold core societal principles, morals and ideals are the of cause societal collapse. While South Africa has one of the best constitutions in the world, the ANC and its leadership have literally destroyed the country. This is becoming quite apparent when we consider the five stages of societal collapse.
Stage 1: Financial collapse
As of December 2021, South Africa’s sovereign, gross debt amounted to 4.2 trillion rands ($261 billion). National Treasury revised its debt projection for the current fiscal year to 4.31 trillion rands or 69.9% of gross domestic product. Central bank data shows gross debt increased by 12% year-on-year to 4.16 trillion rands, or 68.6% of GDP, as at 30 September 2021. The surge reflected a significant increase in the outstanding balance of domestic debt, which accounted for more than 90% of total loans. Surging debt and debt-service costs, the fastest-growing expenditure line item in the budget since 2011, are key risks to South Africa’s fiscal sustainability as ongoing damage to the economy wrought by the coronavirus pandemic compounds a deterioration in public finances caused by 28 years of overspending, mismanagement and graft. And, by the end of 2021, private debt, according to the DebtBusters debt index, shows that South African consumers are falling further into financial trouble as people turn to unsecured credit to supplement their paycheques due to Covid lockdown job losses or overspending. The group’s third-quarter enquiries show that debt counselling increased by 17% compared to a year ago.
Stage 2: Commercial collapse
As award-winning investment strategist Magnus Heystek says, there is no other investment area in South Africa that is more exposed to the brutal, wealth-destroying policies of the ANC and its policy of cadre-deployment than the local property market, whether listed or residential. Perhaps only the lower-priced residential areas with prices around the R1m-mark show some kind of resilience – not growth. In virtually all other categories, in all parts of the country, property owners have suffered massive destruction of wealth which, in Heystek’s estimation, looks permanent. Property values in most small and medium-sized towns in eight of the country’s provinces have – due to a variety of reasons – evaporated. The ANC’s pursuit of expropriation without compensation, and their efforts to change the constitution to affect this, has no doubt played a huge role in the collapse of the property market.
The near-collapse of Eskom, South Africa’s primary supplier of electricity, as a result of long-term mismanagement that has resulted in a constant decline in generating capacity, is due to operational failures, maintenance issues and breakdowns at ageing and poorly-maintained power stations. The constant load shedding is hugely problematic for South African mining, commerce and industry, and the wider public at large.
South Africa’s mining industry has also been negatively affected through ANC interference and threats of nationalisation. Research conducted as part of Business for South Africa’s Economic Recovery Strategy (ERS) shows that between 2010 and 2018, employment in South African’s mining industry shrunk by 50,000, annual mining CAPEX shrunk by 45%, and real output value in dollar terms is down by 10%.
Other examples of commercial collapse are dairy farming, which contributes around R14. 5 billion annually to the country’s GDP. At one stage, there were 12 000 dairy farmers in South Africa. Today there are only about 1 600.
But one of the greatest impacts has been the rapid growth in cheap imports from China, which is seen as a key factor contributing to the relatively slow growth in output and the decline in employment in South African manufacturing.
Stage 3: Political collapse
Stephen Rakowski, a commentator for Abu Dhabi’s The National, says, “After years of ANC corruption and mismanagement, the fruits of the once-promising country have turned rancid. The ANC’s leaders now grapple with the impending disaster on their hands, with tensions boiling over.”
In the 2021 local elections, the ANC lost significant ground, receiving less than 50% of the vote – after receiving 80,9% of the vote in the 1996 local elections. Factional battles raged in ANC structures ahead of their 110th-anniversary rally in the Limpopo Province on 8 January 2021. Suspended ANC secretary-general, Ace Magashule, along with axed Carl Niehaus, and other RET (Rapid Economic Transformation (Jacob Zuma supporters)) the cause of all the trouble. The “Out of Order” index suggests that the crisis in the frontline of service delivery is likely to deepen as it suggests 130 (of 267) municipalities are red-flagged to be in the danger zone of collapse. Quite clearly, South Africa is witnessing the political collapse of the ruling ANC party.
Stage 4: Social collapse
Joshua Kendall, a commentator for Global Risk Insights, wrote, “In July of 2021 political unrest peaked in several South African provinces in response to prolonged economic instability and the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma.” He further went on to say that the goal of the rioters was more complex than the release of President Zuma from prison.” It was an “insurrection targeting the country’s economy and infrastructure”.
The protests were amongst the worst political violence South Africa has witnessed since the end of the Apartheid. The city of Durban suffered an estimated $1 billion in damages and lost goods, which, along with 129,000 jobs at risk, amounted to a $1.4 billion hit to the port city’s gross domestic product.
South Africa’s unemployment rate is the highest in the world. Including so-called “disgruntled” workers, unemployment rose to 46.6% in the third quarter of 2021. And, of these unemployed, the majority are youth. And, of these youth, the majority are school drop-outs. With South Africa’s struggling economy and a world that’s moved into the 4th Industrial Revolution, these people will not find jobs. It’s a ticking timebomb.
Crime has escalated quite dramatically. The latest crime statistics published by the South African Police Service show that South Africa remains the murder and rape capital of the world with 2,4 murders every hour and someone raped or sexually abused every 25 seconds. Then there is the wholesale stripping of municipal, PRASA and Transnet infrastructure assets – anything metal, especially copper cables and railway lines are stolen, and nothing is done about it. Stolen municipal street lighting cables are used for illegal electricity connections and despite being aware of this, ANC municipal authorities do nothing about it – ANC leaders undermining their social contracts.
Stage 5: Cultural collapse
The single most vivid indicator of cultural collapse is demonstrated by the pro-Jacob Zuma (RET) forces. They actively and often effectively inflame racial and anti-establishment hatred at every opportunity. To this end, there has been a constant circulation of fake news and inflammatory statements on social media, often carefully calculated to incite as much fear and anger as possible. This was translated into action in the July 2021 riots and their campaign of sabotage, which was accompanied with more than 330 people being senselessly killed. Violence by Zulus against Zulus and people of other ethnic groups demonstrate the collapse of South African culture. Nelson Mandela’s “Rainbow Nation” is no more. An utter failure of leadership.
In a nutshell
Every society has periods of prosperity and hardship, but when there is a decline from the height of civilization, as dramatic as we see here, we can safely say that South Africa is on the precipice of collapse. Our society needs to transform to save itself from total collapse and once again embrace core societal principles, morals and ideals that will make it great again.