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What's Gone Wrong?

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

Alex Boraine
Foreword by Desmond M Tutu
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 174
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  • Book Info
    What's Gone Wrong?
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-9368-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acronyms and Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Foreword by Desmond M Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    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?’...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    On 24 April 1994, I was approached by a delegation from my neighbours. I was stunned by their request. They asked if they could stay in our home on Election Day. They expressed their fear and concern that the election was going to be very violent. But more to the point, they were afraid that black voters would attack white homes: ‘They will do to us what we have been doing to them for years.’ They told me that they had stored canned goods and water on the slopes of Table Mountain in case shops were burned down. These were...

  6. Chapter One The ANC in Exile: Early Years
    (pp. 9-22)

    Forty-eight years after its founding, the African National Congress was banned in terms of the Unlawful Organisations Act of 1960. Its voice was effectively silenced but its determination to resist the harsh and all-pervading racial policies of the state hardened.

    Since its inception in 1912 the ANC had campaigned for participation in the political system in South Africa, from which blacks had been excluded by a deal struck between the Boers and the British after the Anglo-Boer War.

    For decades the ANC opposition to successive white governments was hardly revolutionary. Letters were written, delegations sought audiences here and in the...

  7. Chapter Two A Government in Waiting: Exile in the 1980s
    (pp. 23-42)

    From survival mode in the 1960s, through the turbulent 1970s, the third decade in exile saw a more structured, more confident ANC in exile. The movement began to emerge as a ‘government in waiting’. This is not to suggest that it was all plain sailing. The tensions and divisions remained. The South African security forces were better armed, better trained and ruthless, but within the ANC there was a greater cohesion and a greater confidence.

    From very small beginnings, the exiled movement had grown into an organisation to be reckoned with; the international community was beginning to recognise the ANC...

  8. Chapter Three Parliament: Legislator or Lame Duck?
    (pp. 43-58)

    I served as the member of parliament for Pinelands for 12 years, from 1974 to 1986, when I decided to leave parliament in a somewhat abrupt way. My resignation was preceded by a growing sense of futility at the overwhelming majority enjoyed and exploited by the National Party. As an opposition, we won the debates but this counted for nothing when the voting took place. However, the main reason for walking out of parliament was the amendment to the Constitution and the introduction of the tricameral parliament, which had two major flaws. There was a built-in white majority which meant...

  9. Chapter Four People’s Parliament
    (pp. 59-76)

    The above quotation focusing on the vision and mission for parliament is taken from a parliamentary report on oversight and accountability written in 2009. It is a powerful statement and if it were to be realised and put into practice, it would transform the current parliament. Regrettably, in 2014 this dream of a people’s parliament has yet to come into effect.

    It will be instructive to consider this report in some detail. It was written 15 years after the new parliament came into being, by the task team made up of representatives from all the parties in parliament. These are...

  10. Chapter Five The Role of the Judiciary in a Failing State
    (pp. 77-90)

    In the preamble, the objectives of the Constitution are clearly spelled out –

    Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;

    Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law;

    Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and

    Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.


  11. Chapter Six Corruption in a Failing State
    (pp. 91-107)

    If corruption were an event in the Olympic Games, the ANC government would be festooned with silver and bronze – and perhaps a few gold medals as well … and like the Olympics, without the close attention of the media the public would know very little of it.

    Scarcely a day goes by when there is no new discovery of fraud or theft committed by individuals, groups, or companies. Our newspapers are replete with announcements of one sordid deal after another. Often the culprits are officials in local or provincial government. But corruption is not limited to those at a...

  12. Chapter Seven The Role of Civil Society in a Failing State
    (pp. 108-126)

    Desmond Tutu has a remarkable ability to put profound thoughts into a few words, and his definition of ‘civil society’ is no exception. A more formal definition is found in the Policy Framework on Nonprofit Organisations Law:¹

    Civil society organisations is the collective term used to describe all types of nonprofit organisations. Civil society commonly embraces a diversity of spaces, actors and institutional forms, varying in their degree of formality, autonomy and power. Civil societies are often populated by organisations such as registered charities, developmental non-governmental organisations, community groups, women’s organisations, faith-based organisations, professional associations, trade unions, self-help groups, social...

  13. Chapter Eight Realignment and the Failing State
    (pp. 127-138)

    In the preceding chapters we have seen how the ANC, with its lust for power, has sought to exert its control over parliament; it has threatened the Constitutional Court and tried to blunt the impact of a free press by the introduction of a Secrecy Bill. Its declared and passionate objective while in exile was the seizure of power and this remains its ultimate goal. With its focus on holding on to power and extending its grip on power, the ANC has failed to provide a vision for a just, peaceful and economically secure South Africa. Instead we have a...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 139-146)

    This is a book I wish that I didn’t have to write. But write it I must. It has to do with initial admiration, shared by many, of the ANC and then watching in dismay as the party started slipping towards a failing state.

    Several years before the significant and far-reaching changes took place in 1990 I had met with a number of leading members of the ANC inside and outside South Africa. I was deeply impressed by the commitment and leadership of the United Democratic Front. They could not declare their support for the ANC openly for fear of...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 147-152)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 153-158)
  17. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 159-160)
  18. Index
    (pp. 161-166)