What’s Behind South Africa’s Decline?

In short, mismanagement and corruption.

Written by Jack Elbaum

What’s happening: Thirty years after the end of apartheid in South Africa, the introduction of multi-ethnic democracy, and the promise of a better future, the country is in a state of deep decline. It is the result of decades of mismanagement and corruption by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party.

  • Catch up: The ANC was a dominant force behind ending racial segregation in South Africa. But since 1994, its leadership has become increasingly corrupt and dysfunctional.

Why? With one-party rule over the past three decades, public officeholders have enriched themselves by taking advantage of state-owned companies and institutions. Politicians and companies even work together to start state-funded projects and then steal the funding. Tens of billions of public funds have also been stolen by leaders of the ANC since apartheid ended.

  • Who’s in charge? South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa, who ran on solving corruption but is also an ANC insider, won’t do anything about these rampant issues, afraid of booted out of office by those who hold power within his party.

The effects

  • Dysfunction: The government found that education, waste, health, and infrastructure systems are either “subpar or completely dysfunctional,” according to Spiegel International. Elected officials sent the government-owned airline, public broadcaster, and post office into bankruptcy.

  • Power outages: Theft in the nation’s utility company has led to constant rolling blackouts.

  • Crime: There are approximately 25,000 murders per year. Since 2012, the homicide rate has climbed every year except one. Other types of organized crime are also thriving.

  • Economy: Six of 10 young South Africans are unemployed, and over half of the country — 30 million — lives in poverty.

Why it matters: South Africa has the resources and foundations of a country with significant potential to grow and is still the most developed country of Africa. But its decline will continue until government officials get serious about rooting out corruption and making the parliament work for the people again.