Social Development in South Africa “Evolution in Revolution”


Cameron2In previous columns we have explored the ideas of government, fraud, corruption, education, unemployment and violence within South Africa without looking at society. Is South Africa a developed or a developing country and what is the social contract between citizen, community and country?

Man is concerned with earthly pursuits that revolve around security and survival, each day and everyday. Let us go way back in time to an era when philosophers pondered and explored what was the meaning of life and what the relationship was between the individual and society. We will look at Hobbes & Rousseau to try and understand better the complex nature of South African society.

Prior to the social contract where we formed ourselves into a civil society, man, according to Hobbes lived in ‘The State of Nature’.

Man lived in chaotic condition of constant fear. Life in The State of Nature was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. Man according to Hobbes is self interested. Therefore, the welfare of man is in a state of eternal conflict.

Before the Dutch landed on terra firma in what is South Africa today, there were several diverse ethnic groups and for most of the population, their history spans some one thousand seven hundred years being migrants. Then the colonization of the country occurred with The Dutch East India Company circa 1652 and later the British.

The diverse range of influences in the historical narrative that is the republic of South Africa form part of the rich tapestry of the country’s identity and direction. People in the modern world, have moved into a social contract within the state, through the centuries, to expect certain given fundamental rights such as freedom and liberty. What freedom and liberty do South African people possess? Rousseau, based his theory on this social contract on the principle of  “Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains “.

Is South Africa developing through an evolving process to become a less dysfunctional fragile state and a world leader, or will the chains of retardation remain decades on after the emancipation of the state in 1994 circa.  Marxist theory can be described as being equal status of individual citizens in relation to the state, equality before the law, regardless of religion, property, or other “private” characteristics of individual people.

White people account for approximately 8.5% of the population in South Africa and Gauteng is the highest concentration of this group of people. One of the nine provinces of South Africa, and with around 12.5 million people it also represents around 10% of the GDP for Sub Saharan Africa. Finance, banking, advertising and other private sector companies are domiciled in this province as well as public sector departments. Why then twenty years later, after 1994 is the White racial group the least effected by unemployment?

Where is the improvement within society today? The National Development Strategy III has a Mission Statement that states:

To increase access to high quality and relevant education and training and skills development opportunities, including workplace learning and experience, to enable effective participation in the economy and society by all South Africans and reduce inequalities.

Ask someone who lives in a cardboard and plastic dwelling with no electricity, sewerage or water in one of the many slums in Gauteng if their life has been changed by this NDSIII, and they have no answer.

As Seth Kaplan says in his 2014 Report “A better approach would address these challenges directly, by developing a “social covenant” that brings together various ethnic, religious, clan and ideological groups to create a more inclusive and sustainable political process and social contract.” There have been some advances in social reform in South Africa, but there seems to be complacency within government and the evolution has stagnated through a deliberate stalling by an elite few.

South African societal reform has not been effective in providing access to health, education and employment for many citizens. The current unemployment rate hovers around 25% or greater and for the second largest economy in Africa, recently surpassed by Nigeria, the country requires a government that is transparent and leads with vision and direction. During the course of 2014, I fail to see the real social development achievements of the current government and wonder if a revolution is not required to produce the necessary evolution.

The wheel of industry seems to spin 24/7 producing very little benefits for the general public, whilst protecting and maintaining the silver spoons in the mouths of a few babies from the privileged elite. Rhetoric by government and the captains of industry is cheap, hollow and merely maintains a morally bankrupt minority and if South Africa is truly to move forward and stay competitive in the 21st Century the evolution will be in a revolution of substance and meaning. The fire in the belly seems to have been softened and quelled due to time and the ANC lining their own pockets whilst providing constituents a diversionary vision of false hope.



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