scenarios summary and conclusion

We have come a long way as a country, despite our legacy and the daunting challenges weinherited. Our peaceful transition to democracy, in the aftermath of the brutal repression andeconomic deprivation of apartheid, was remarkable. In 1994, we had high hopes for the future and rejoiced in the “miracle of South Africa”.

How have we done since 1994? We have achieved a great deal, but we have also made some serious mistakes that threaten our future. We face critical economic and social challenges – particularly in relation to unemployment and poverty, safety and security, education and health – that are now exacerbated by a global economic crisis. All of us, not just government, have contributed to our problems and must contribute to the solutions.

Where do we go from here? Which path will we choose?

The Dinokeng Scenario Team came together to take stock of where we are and to consider possible futures for South Africa. The Team’s diagnosis of the present is that the South African honeymoon is over. The “Mandela and liberation dividend” has been fully settled. The heart of our challenges is that we have failed to appreciate or understand the imperatives of running a modern democratic state. Leadership across all sectors lacks clarity of purpose and is increasingly self-interested, unethical and unaccountable. We have a weak state with declining capacity to address our critical challenges. In addition, our citizenry has been largely disengaged or co-opted into government or party structures since 1994, and has demonstrated a growing dependence on the state to provide everything.

The Scenario Team poses the following critical questions about the future of our country:

How can we as South Africans address our critical challenges before they become time bombs that destroy our accomplishments?

and

What can each one of us do – in our homes, communities and workplaces – to help build a future that lives up to the promise of 1994?

The Team’s scenarios offer three possible ways we might answer this question; three ways we might walk into and so create our future.

In the first scenario, we Walk Apart. In this scenario, the state becomes increasingly weak and ineffective. A disengaged and self-protective citizenry eventually loses patience and erupts into protest and unrest. The state, driven by its inability to meet citizens’ demands and expectations, responds brutally and a spiral of resistance and repression is unleashed.

The message of Walk Apart is that if we fail to address our critical challenges, if we fail to build state capacity, and if citizens do not organise to engage government constructively, we will experience rapid disintegration and decline.

In the second scenario, we Walk Behind. In this scenario the state becomes increasingly strong and directive, both enabled by and enabling a civil society that is increasingly dependent and compliant. The state grows in its confidence to lead and direct development. However, it does not by itself have the capacity to address our critical challenges effectively. The demands of socio-economic development and redistributive justice amid a global and domestic economic crisis place strain on the state’s capacity to deliver to all and to be all. These strains are most evident in the declining ratio between revenue and expenditure. In the worst case, the state over-reaches and is forced to borrow from multi-lateral financial institutions. As a result, South Africa loses the ability to determine its own social spending agenda.

The message of Walk Behind is that state-led development cannot succeed if state capacity is seriously lacking. In addition, a state that intervenes pervasively and that dominates all other sectors will crowd out private initiative by business and civil society and create a complacent and dependent citizenry.

In the third scenario, we Walk Together. This scenario tells the story of a state that becomes increasinglycatalytic and collaborative; of an enabling state that listens to its citizens and leaders from different sectors; a state that engages with critical voices, that consults and shares authority in the interest of long term sustainability. This is also a story of an engaged citizenry that takes leadership and holds government accountable, a citizenry that shares responsibility for policy outcomes and development. This is not an easy path: the outcomes are open and are vulnerable to manipulation by stronger actors, and the alliances, pacts and partnerships required to address our challenges could be too slow and weak to be effective.

The message of Walk Together is that we can address our critical challenges only if citizens’ groups, business, labour and broader civil society actively and effectively engage with the state to improve delivery and enforce an accountable government. This scenario can only be successful if all three of the present trends identified in our diagnosis can be reversed: if citizens re-engage; if the capacity of the state is strengthened; and if leaders from all sectors rise above their narrow self-interests and contribute purposefully to building our nation.

Scenario summary

Our present already contains the seeds of all three futures and our future will not look like purely one or the other, but we have drawn the three apart to see the opportunities and risks that each path poses for the country’s future.

A healthy democracy and strong socio-economic development require a healthy interface between an effective state and an alert and active citizenry. It is our contention that the nature of this interface will determine the future of our country.

South Africans are standing at a crossroads. Each one of us, citizens and leaders, must choose how we walk forward. Through the steps we take, we will create our future.

“What are the choices we have to make, and what are the consequences of these? What should we do now?”

“A good scenario must not slip away from us. I have four young sons and I want to be assured that my grandchildren will live in a country where they can live and be safe in a secure house, attend a good school and get by in life. Maybe they won’t have a 4X4 or play golf, but they will be safe and secure. They will be social citizens. The nation, including the state, has to play a huge role in getting that right. I don’t want a South Africa where people, black and white, fall through the social net. I don’t want an enclave society.”

 

 

Click here to view the Dinokeng Scenario Team