We cannot say we were not warned. Way back in May 2009 a panel convened by Mamphela Ramphele and Vincent Maphai released the Dinokeng Scenarios, a document which charted three routes our country could take in the period up to 2020.
The first scenario, Walk Apart, foresaw that we would continue on the same path that we were on in 2009.
“Our pressing problems of unemployment, poverty, safety and security, and poor public health and education delivery worsen,” it said.
“Our social fabric unravels as civil society disengages and public trust in public institutions diminishes. Forces outside the state, some of them criminal, fill the gap created by the failure of the state to deliver. Protests and unrest escalate and provoke an authoritarian response from the state.”
Now think of our unemployment numbers. They were at 21% when the panel of eminent persons did their work. They now stand at 27%. Public institutions? Think about the National Prosecuting Authority, which sits on 783 charges against President Jacob Zuma and does nothing about them, or the Hawks and their nonsense case against Pravin Gordhan. Tell me if you trust them.
Finally, ask yourself if the actions against the Marikana mineworkers were the actions you expected from a people-centred, democratic state. You might want me to remind you what Marikana was: it was the slaughter, repeat slaughter, of 34 of our fellow human beings by our police service.
This is the scenario that we were warned about. Eight years later, those of us who read and listened to this scenario can see it becoming reality. It is only three years to 2020. Worse could happen.
Then there was the panel’s second scenario, Walk Behind, in which the state both manages and leads the process of addressing our challenges. Here the state does everything for us, brooks no opposition and, “if citizens are not acquiescent, the state may become authoritarian”.
“The risk in this scenario is that the state over-reaches itself by intervening too strongly in the economy. It is eventually forced to borrow from multilateral financial institutions. This undermines the country’s autonomy and its ability to decide its own spending priorities. Citizens are disgruntled, the state cracks down, and thus our democracy is compromised,” it said.
Well, listen to our president’s State of the Nation speech in February and tell me what he wants. He wants the state to be the main player in virtually every walk of life. The state’s advertising spend goes to his cronies’ publications and television stations. The state wants to create black billionaires, not just ensure that the environment encourages and grows thousands of black billionaires. It is the state as people’s parent. It is everywhere – and if you don’t play ball you are punished.
These two scenarios are competing for dominance in South Africa today. We are exactly where they foresaw we would be – thanks in large part to Zuma and his train of corruption and incompetence.
Yet, with three years to 2020, something beautiful is happening. Hold on to it, because it could mean that we may find our way again and become the South Africa that Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo spoke about when they imagined a united, non-sexist, nonracial, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
The third Dinokeng Scenario, Walk Together, spoke about a South Africa in which our “challenges are addressed through active citizen engagement, a catalytic state and strong leadership across all sectors”.
When I look at South Africa over the past year I am amazed by how many ordinary people have organised themselves to challenge the assault on our country and our very being. Civil society groups are marching. Trade unions are finding their backbones. Business leaders have spoken out, uncharacteristically, against the rot. Non-governmental organisations have defied intimidation and spy tactics against them. The political opposition has spoken out. The judiciary has been sterling.
In so many parts of this country, people can see that we are in a crisis. They are standing up, they are booing, they are marching, they are talking and they are resisting. If Zuma and his cronies don’t listen, they will continue to be booed out of Mangaung, Vuwani and other places. We still lack a lot of the ingredients to Walk Together, but the future is not too bleak. Hope springs.