FIKILE-NTSIKELELO MOYA: Eskom's fiasco is one more step towards a failed state


South Africans across the various classes are taking matters into their own hands. It is not just the middle classes who are using their medical aid, private security companies and schools and even universities to circumvent what they see as an inefficient and a laggard state.

Those who can are going - or at least considering going - off the grid and getting their energy needs from anyone other than Eskom.

The poor and the working class who, contrary to popular belief, have always found ways to live in hostile conditions under various indifferent governments since the Union of South Africa days, continue as though there is no government to speak of.

They have all but given up on reporting criminals to the police. They take matters into their own hands, executing those accused of excesses against their own communities. They erect shacks wherever they find space and dare the state to do its worst.

As the PIC and other development finance agencies dither and need to extricate themselves from political machinations, the high net-worth individuals are happy and able to go to the Emirates and China to get funding for the business ideas.

A few months ago, taxi owners and drivers in Pretoria decided that they would take on the drug dealers in the city because they came to the conclusion that the SAPS was indifferent to a scourge that was ravishing the city youth.

Add energy solutions to the equation, and you start to realise that the state’s relevance to its own people is fast diminishing. One can start to see why social grants become such strong political leverage.

It, along with bureaucratic processes such as the issuing of birth and death certificates, seem to be the only thing that the state has no potential rivals for.

It is an extraordinarily worrying situation we have in South Africa, where all classes grudgingly accept the authority of the state. It is a threat not only to a sitting government, but to the democratic project itself.

A question that will sooner or later arise would be: what good is the best constitution in the world and regular elections if citizens must on their own see to finish how their children are educated, homes are secured, and a living is eked out while sorting out their own health issues?

To put it simply, we have all the conditions necessary to successfully become a failed state. By definition, a failed state is one that has so disintegrated that basic conditions and responsibilities of a sovereign government have stopped functioning properly.

It would be a gross exaggeration to say that the South African state has lost its legitimacy – another criterion for a failed state – because it has not. But the trajectory is such that things are going south very quickly and it will not be too far in the future when the state is deemed illegitimate.

It is for this reason that we need an activist society more than ever before. It would help nobody to know that the ANC is weak and inefficient when we have a warlord and his military junta as a self-appointed government, which believed it was best equipped to restore the authority of the state.

To ensure that South Africa does not end up as it appears to be headed, those active within the governing party should stop playing factionalist games with the future of our country, and those of us who are citizens need to start showing how serious we are about own future and those of our children by holding politicians accountable always and everywhere.

Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is an independent journalist and former editor of The Mercury and The Witness.