In July, South Africa suffered worst violence since the 1990s. Roads were blocked and businesses, warehouses and other property looted and burned. More than 300 people died.
In mid-October, people were again shocked when a group of men, said to be Somali nationals, openly brandished high-caliber weapons during a fight between Somali shop owners and local taxi drivers in public view in Gqeberha, Eastern Cape.
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Not long after 56 people, said to be disgruntled military veterans, they were arrested after allegedly taking two government ministers and a deputy minister hostage in Pretoria. Supposedly demanded compensation for his role in the liberation struggle against the white minority government.
I teach political risk analysis, in essence, the study of potential damage to the stability and future of a country. The work involves providing new and comprehensive analyzes of current South African political risk each year. This has to be based on a variety of variables, ranging from ‘government legitimacy’ to ‘safety and security’ to ‘socio-economic conditions’ and many more.
The concept of failed state is contested. But generally, it applies to states where administrative, political, and economic systems have become so weak that key government functions become inoperative or even disintegrate.
This, in turn, affects a government’s ability to support or improve the living conditions of the majority of its citizens.
Looking at South Africa, it can be argued that some things in the country remain the same since 1994 in terms of broad macropolitical country risk profile. However, serious political risks, such as war, revolution, a coup, hostile neighbors, military involvement in politics, remain relatively low.
Even violent racial or ethnic conflicts do not appear to be of great concern, as they have never substantially threatened the post-1994 democratic project.
Political risks related to various socio-economic variables are a growing concern. For example, the government’s failure to provide or facilitate sufficient housing, water, electricity Y works for millions of people it is a huge source of frustration.
As much as South Africa has changed for the better in certain areas in the sense that, for example, it has become a a more racially just society Several new red flags have started to appear in the last two decades.
The country witnessed increasing levels of violence and / or dissatisfaction associated with labor unrest. Violent protests they have become a common phenomenon. In fact, the risk in the form of violent protests for the provision of services and other the discomfort has increased markedly.
Other forms of socio-economic frustrations also increased, as well as xenophobia.
It is important to note that the cost of violence the economy is among the highest in the world. 2021 Global Peace Index Recently, the national cost of violence in South Africa is a staggering 19% of the country’s GDP. This is the sixteenth highest rate in the world.
In general, the country classified 128th out of 161 countries in the most recent Global Peace Index, which is an index that measures the peace of countries based on 23 quantitative and qualitative indicators.
Several other factors also pose a high degree of political risk. These pertain to the need for strong and visionary political leadership at all levels of government to address a host of governance issues, high levels of corruption, inefficient government administration, specially in municipal level. Added to this is the need to address the never-ending institutional challenges facing Eskom, the electric power company, resulting in erratic power supply to the detriment of the economy.
Another problem area is incapacitated police institutions. Recently, MPs expressed concern that the country’s law enforcement authorities did not have the capacity to handle situations such as civil unrest, if it was more widespread than the recent unrest in July 2021. In fact, the Human Rights Commission recently heard that the South African Police Service was not “equal to homework“When riots and looting broke out in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in July.
For the Police Commissioner to admit to an investigative commission that the police force of a country outgunned, outgunned and outgunned when asked to protect citizens, their property and public property against looters, it is very concerning.
In light of the above, the country’s broad macropolitical risk profile has fundamentally changed and substantially worsened. from 2006 to 2021. In this context, the country’s political risk profile should be considered a matter of great concern.
So is the country now a failed state or is it about to become one?
Where is South Africa located
the annual Fund for Peace Fragile Status Index it can be taken as an authoritative indicator of the fragility of the international state and political risk. The index maps states around the world and ranks them in terms of 12 categories, from sustainable (shades of blue) to stable (shades of green) to warning (shades of yellow) to alerts (shades of red).
South Africa’s position in the index is cause for concern. Has moved from stable in 2006 to warning in 2021. This clearly indicates a much higher level of political risk in the country. Interestingly, the opposite was true for Botswana, which went from warning to stable category.
In my opinion, South Africa is probably still in the medium risk political risk category.
Countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Chad, Sudan and South Sudan, which are in a state of armed conflict or are recovering from armed conflict, are indicated as many more ‘fragile’ in the fragile state index and are in the alert category. All these countries are showing high levels of institutionality and fragility, based on publicly available indicators that measure the quality of policies and institutions and manifestations of fragility. South Africa, on the other hand, is also very far from the experiences in these countries.
This implies that state failure is much more relevant to these countries than South Africa.
Still, the evidence shows that political risk in the country has increased markedly in certain areas over the past two decades. It is clear that South Africa has gone from ‘medium risk’ to ‘medium high risk’ or even ‘high risk’ in recent years.
However, calling South Africa a failed state would be an overstatement.