Is The Economist right?

2012-10-20 20:08

This week’s lead article in The Economist, calling South Africa “sad”, has infuriated some government officials, but civil society leaders and diplomats say it’s not far off the mark.

The latest issue includes an ­editorial on South Africa titled “Cry, the beloved country”.

It details South Africa’s decline from an undisputed continental hegemony to being “doomed to go down as the rest of Africa goes up”.

On South Africa’s education ­system, the article notes: “According to the World Economic Forum, South Africa ranks 132nd out of 144 countries for its primary ­education, and 143rd in science and maths.” Then it asks: “What went wrong with South Africa, and how can it be fixed?”

A senior government official who deals with South Africa’s ­international reputation said: “What is new? They are not saying anything we don’t know and it feeds into the current narrative that says there is no leadership ­under (President Jacob Zuma).

“The economic crisis is not our fault, and we’ve weathered the storm much better than Europe. But that is not mentioned.”

According to former World Bank managing director and civic activist Mamphela Ramphele, the weekly publication is “sadly right about our situation” in saying South Africa is seen to be in the grip of “self-sabotage”.

Ramphele said: “Their identification of the fatal flaw in our electoral system is also right.

There is no accountability system between leaders and the people they represent under the closed party list ­system with no direct constituency representative.”

Political commentator Sipho Seepe said there was a “failure to address the structural flaws that were spawned by apartheid”.

He added that government’s ­efforts to stem the tide of corruption have also not borne fruit.

DA leader Helen Zille said the publication “got most of it right and it got a few crucial parts dead wrong”. She objected to the article’s assertion that the DA will not win national power in the foreseeable future. “It remains entirely possible that change for the better can be achieved in South Africa.”

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