The velocity of arbitrary change taking place within South African society has made chaos the defining feature that places the country in a constant state of flux. Farm murders, corruption, riots, strikes, crime, violence and electricity blackouts are steadily diminishing the country’s political and economic structures.
The political settlement South Africa reached in 1994 was clearly only partially successful. Today most citizens across the board accept racial prejudice, poor infrastructure, and unruly student activism as normal, albeit with underlying resentment and frustration. Xenophobia against foreigners inhabiting South Africa to compete with local informal merchants or refugees fleeing other African countries to escape conflict, poverty and food scarcity has until recently been overlooked.
In contrast, there is an ominous mood among South Africans of impending Civil Conflict and heightened chaos; in other words, confirmation of a failed state. These crises persist today allegedly because remnants of the Apartheid regime are being kept artificially alive through unresolved anger, fear, retribution and rebellion, thus delaying the birth of a new cohesive South Africa. Clashes between the old and the new will continue to manifest distrust, ruthless retaliation, and corruption, driven by an autocratic political system. Not only will the seeds of permanent inequality and fault-finding flourish under these fertile conditions, the apocalyptic vision shared by many South Africans will eventually become a reality. Among those anticipating violent conflict are nearly 20 million South Africans with no experience of living under apartheid.
No country or nation can be built on segregation, self-doubt or harping on past failures. The time to find rational solutions to complex problems is long gone; there simply are no ready-made recipes to rid South Africa of the tragic epidemic plaguing its chronically racially-divided nation. If anything, South Africa needs ruthless criticism and a powerful wake-up call to put the country’s affairs in order.
It is vital that leaders and the general public concede that meaningful contribution does not end with fault-finding or dredging up past atrocities from the apartheid era. It requires every citizen to roll up their sleeves and tackle nation building for themselves. Nation building requires the creation of an integrated ideology and a credible Government road map to integrate South Africa’s diverse population on an equal footing. Building a unified set of guidelines that supports a nationwide self-interpretation of South Africa as a developed country is the first step. The challenge to bring this about requires establishing a common identity and joint values, given that South Africa’s diverse population is made up of African, White, Colored, Indian/Asian and other races. Successful nation building depends on several preconditions, including the integration of society on a practical level, intensification of developing and executing new ideas, and dynamic economic exchange. Black South Africans have achieved significant upliftment over the past 21 years, yet the pace of transformation is bemoaned by many through angry expectation of jobs, education, houses, land, services, access to water and electricity, and wealth distribution.
A peripheral remedy, because many South Africans are still poor today, is to provide access to information, training and opportunities to grow their civic identity, citizenship and constitutional values, as well as develop a new society that is self-reliant and less entitled. The country’s long-term objective should be to become a high-growth, high-performance economy that meets the expectations of its entire population. However, for many survival depends on government support in the form of entitlement, which enslaves the majority of black people to feel powerless in changing their lot. The victim mentality has crept in and the element of self-reliance has largely disappeared.
Self-motivation is the catalyst for brilliant accomplishments, but it is also the greatest obstacle. What many people fail to recognize is that in order to achieve total freedom one must accept total responsibility to remain steadfast midst everyday chaos. The answer lies in capitalizing the power of community to push forward; this approach yields invaluable feedback, builds beneficial relationships, and establishes a valuable connectivity that provides support, resources and inspiration. Memorable history is made by passionate people with the rare ability to lead others and themselves.
South Africa’s strength lies in its cultural diversity. Like the caterpillar, the country’s nation can be self-sufficient in its metamorphosis. South Africans have the capability to counter their history of multi-level diversity and operate successfully in an often hostile environment that weighed so heavily on earlier generations. For South Africa to triumph over its past its nation must learn to act and think in a different way. However, correcting perceptions is a hard task and central to instilling new kinds of behavior.
South Africans – specifically the poor – have adopted the belief of the impossibility of improving their position significantly or dramatically, and typically reject the suggestion that the strategy was defective to begin with since it masked turmoil and complex political and economic change. Today it is more evident than ever that choosing the right strategy so that a cohesive nation can control its own destiny, is vital. The prospect of having to relearn collaborative integration can be a powerful obstacle to changing entrenched perceptions. It is often difficult to persuade people that a deep-seated belief has become obsolete, even damaging.
The positive outcome of nation building must be demonstrated before a long-term horizon is recognized and embraced by society. This means conveying social and economic stratification so that people may understand the reasons for and how ‘social inequality’ affects their day to day lives. Since social inequality and poverty are conscious and intentional creations of human actions these trends can be changed. Impoverished communities tend to stagnate because they hold on to habitual attitudes and beliefs, and remain reliant on minimal government compensation instead of seeking ways of becoming self-reliant. In contrast, in order for South Africa’s nation building endeavors to succeed it is vital that the country’s citizens adopt modern attitudes, gain expertise in modern technologies and partner with modern institutions to help the country establish a higher standard of living. Given enough time, South Africa will embrace modern ideas, technical innovations, and efficient institutions. Modernists believe large economic growth is the key to reducing poverty in South Africa and grow the national economy.