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Assessing and promoting civil and minority rights in South Africa.

SAM Adam Habib[Source: by Khulekani Magubane.]

SOUTH Africa needs a social compact across all sectors and societies in the country to avert a decline in progress made during the past 20 years of democracy, two prominent academics have said.  University of the Witwatersrand vice-chancellor Adam Habib and Paulus Zulu, director of the Maurice Webb Race Relations Unit at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, last week debated state policy during the latter university’s Time of the Writer Festival in Durban.

Prof Habib and Prof Zulu both released books late last year — titled South Africa’s Suspended Revolution: Hopes and Prospects, and A Nation in Crisis: An Appeal for Morality, respectively — on the state of play in South Africa ahead of the May 7 national elections.

The debate in Durban followed the release of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report into state spending at the private home of President Jacob Zuma in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.

The academics discussed the report’s implications for the elections, which Mr Zuma’s African National Congress (ANC) is widely expected to win despite the Nkandla controversy and the widespread outcry it has prompted.

Prof Habib said while the ANC-led government of the past two decades did make progress in making South Africa socially and politically inclusive, inequality remained the “Achilles heel” of the dispensation.

“We are in a place where South Africa has two options,” he said. “The one option, of revolution, is not on the cards right now as the left is complacent about the possibility of a revolution. The second option is for the elite to continue the way they have been going and we as a nation lose everything.”

Social scientist Prof Zulu said the advent of democracy 20 years ago brought with it high hopes for social justice, but inequality and poverty remained. He said South Africa needed to regain its moral direction to renew the hope ignited in 1994.

“Morality is an important part of this,” he said. “Morality defines the boundaries of what we apportion ourselves and what we do when we are in power. We need to ask ourselves, are we a nation of aspirant go-getters or are we merely a nation of people who are sympathetic to a king?”

Prof Habib said the soundest way of creating accountable governance was to punish guilty officials and hold political power to account.

“I find many people are asking why the ANC does not take action against its leader,” he said. “This is because the ANC believes there are no consequences for what has happened. However, if they believe that there were consequences for their actions, such as a significant decrease in support at the elections, then you are likely to see change.”

The professors also discussed the Marikana shooting of August 2012, when police shot dead 34 mineworkers who embarked on a wildcat strike at a Lonmin mine in Rustenburg in the North West platinum belt.

Prof Habib said Marikana was an example of the “politics of amassment overriding social justice”, while Prof Zulu said Marikana was another example of how South Africa had become “a nation of entitlement”.

• Magubane attended the Time of the Writer Festival as a participant.2.

South Africa at a Glance
57 700 000 (mid 2018 estimate)
5.2% y/y in November 2018 (CPI) & +6.8 y/y in November 2018 (PPI)
2.2% q/q (3rd quarter of 2018)
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