South Africans urged to rise in outrage over State failure – William Gumede  

Load-shedding, crime, decaying infrastructure, corruption, and now, the concerning ties with Russia have South Africans boiling with anger. However, according to Professor William Gumede from Wits School of Government, our collective fury falls short. In a BizNews interview, Prof Gumede revealed that acceptance of state failure, weak leadership, and corruption has seeped into our national psyche. What we require is a resounding uproar. Encouragingly, at the local government level, signs of hope emerge as people harness their voting power for change, as shared by Prof Gumede in conversation with Linda van Tilburg of BizNews.


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Excerpts from the interview

Once countries accept state failure, it becomes part of the national psyche 

Many countries became independent, normally what happens with the national psyche, people in these countries became used to state failure, poor leadership, and corruption. Those are the periods that we saw the decline in many, many countries. So, once collectively societies accept state failure, lack of public services, corruption, poor leadership, it then becomes ingrained in the national psyche. And your ordinary citizen accepts and says, well, actually, you know, in our country, leaders are corrupt, governments don’t work. Trains will never be on time. That is just our country, how our country is. So, that then becomes the national psyche and it is then very difficult to reverse decline.

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People are channelling their anger in the wrong way

We are angry, but we don’t express the anger against the people responsible for all of our troubles. Communities and citizens often scapegoat others. Either there’s scapegoating, or blaming the past for current government and leadership failures, or there’s blaming other groups, foreigners, that’s where we’ve seen xenophobia. Then there’s often also blaming other communities within our society, rather than actually mobilising the anger against the government and against leaders. And secondly, a really important aspect in a democracy when people are angry, is to turn that anger into voting in one way or the other. But in the South African context, what we’ve been seeing the last couple of years; people are angry, but instead of using their vote to channel their anger, they either stay at home or they won’t vote.

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Vote for other parties, even if you don’t agree with them entirely

So far, our national psyche has become accustomed to the ANC being in power, and the ANC has been in power now for three decades. We have grown used to the ANC, following a similar pattern of failure seen in other African and developing countries. Society allows one party, even when it fails, to remain in power based on the past, ethnic solidarity, colour solidarity, or group solidarity. This becomes ingrained in our national psyche. The same party is recycled in power, and with each cycle, the collapse and infrastructure decay worsen. It is crucial for our society, as citizens, to break away from this negative failure mentality and psychology. In the upcoming national election, it is important to make a clean break by voting for other parties, even if we don’t agree with them entirely. 

We should not view political parties like a sports team or church 

From a democratic standpoint, it is essential to consolidate democracy in South Africa by having another party govern. This is vital for our national psyche and the idea of change. We must reject parties like the ANC that are ineffective, uncaring, and fail to deliver. We should not treat a political party like supporting a sports club or a lifelong commitment to a church. We need to break free from this mindset that blindly supports a party regardless of its performance. It is time to change our perspective and embrace a new way of looking at politics in our country.

Read more: WSM: Corporate sector warns of SA’s slide towards failed state status

Sparks of change to national psyche emerging on local government level

There are positive developments we have witnessed at the local government level. In the past few elections, most municipalities across the country are now governed by non-ANC parties in coalition. We even have civil society groups, non-political parties, leading ministries and shaping policies. This marks a significant shift in our national psyche, challenging the notion that one party can rule indefinitely. While this transformation is not yet evident at the national level, it is a promising development.

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