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Making a plan: SA and the Failed State

25 October 2012, 11:44

Clem Sunter, in his exceptionally well-written piece, “What does a 25% probability for a failed state really mean?” elegantly describes the implications of such a situation for South Africans. The take-home message is clear: the possibility of a Failed State is now a real possibility that demands serious thought and planning.  

Now I’ve always been impressed by the ability of South Africans to ‘make a plan’. Perhaps it’s the harshness of the continent that brings out the innovative streak, the ability to improvise, but whatever the reason, that can-do attitude and stubborn resilience is one of the more positive attributes of the citizens of the rainbow nation.

So this isn’t a piece on whether one should stay or go; it’s about how one might go about ‘making a plan’. The difficulties of the decision-making process involve so many dimensions: historical, political, socio-economic, national, international, individual, financial...and the list goes on. Predicting the future is so fraught with potential errors that few experts can say with any certainty what form a failed state might look like in South Africa. They will agree, however, that the picture looks grim and there is a strong possibility that things will get worse.

In that event, those remaining by choice have to be in the financial position of assuring their own healthcare, security, education and jobs. The state already has a minimal role in making any positive contribution to people’s lives, apart from a very efficient taxation department. Somebody has to pay for the lifestyles and ideological lunacy of the ruling elites, and the geese laying the golden eggs are represented by you, the middle classes. In effect you will be paying multiple times for things. The biggest, and probably the most painful part, is having to accept the way things will go. Clem referred to the option of people becoming ‘active citizens’. I don’t think that’s even a remote possibility.  

For those who make the big decision to move, this will be the toughest thing you will ever do. Moving is costly, time-consuming, stressful, and often heart-breaking. So those leaving by choice will have be in a financial position to apply for emigration; research accurate and up-to-date information about jobs, education, and housing; and make the huge emotional adjustment to another culture. The potential benefits of such a move are enormous, if one has the humility to successfully adapt. In this, attitude is at least half the battle.

Then there are those who would like to leave, but remain for reasons related to qualifications, age, family, and/or finances. Often they make a plan to educate their children so that they can leave. Many developed countries have provisions for people to bring their aging parents abroad. Sometimes this is not possible, and families are separated by large geographical distances.

Make a plan. Read, read, read. Know your own country, and if you are considering leaving, what’s happening in the country that you choose. Whatever your Big Decision is, I wish all South Africans the best of luck. I know that my life is richer for having lived there.

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