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Food for thought…will South African citizens accept this?

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    Nat Quinn

    Food for thought…will South African citizens accept this?

    Zimbabwe did not become a failed state overnight. The collapse of the country happened over a period of decades, starting as early as the 1980s. Scholars like Llyod Sachikonye go further to argue that the collapse began during the liberation war (the Second Chimurenga) with the institutionalisation of violence within national liberation movements. In his book, WHEN THE STATE TURNS ON ITS CITIZENS, he argues that the structural violence that characterises Zimbabwe today, and which is responsible for the catastrophic challenges that the country is confronted with, was institutionalised as far back as the 1970s. He argues that this violence, and the impunity with which it was meted out, facilitated the Zimbabwe of a ZANU PF that reigns with a margin of terror.
    One day, when the collapse of South Africa becomes absolute, and we can no longer conceal that we are in fact a sophisticated failed state, we are going to reflect, like Sachikonye did, not on where we fell but on where we stumbled. And one of the emerging themes of our collective reflection is going to be that the country began its descent when we stopped fighting for our most basic human rights when the ANC led government was trampling on them. It starts with things like actually accepting loadshedding as a fact of our lives and organising our existence around it. We have become very dangerously accepting of misgovernance in our country. We have become people who have a plan B for everything – exactly like Zimbabweans. In Zimbabwe people don’t fight anymore. Back in the early 1990s, the capital, Harare, was rendered ungovernable by the bread riots. In the face of violent retaliation by a state that enjoys a monopoly of violence, the people were protesting against the rising cost of food. Today, the same Zimbabweans won’t even protest for one of the most basic of all human rights – water. They will simply dig boreholes for themselves. They experience crippling olling blackouts and they will simply install solar panels in their homes. The poor will simply use firewood. They have no hospital equipment, they will simply buy drips at a pharmacy and take them to hospital with them. Zimbabweans are serial plan B people.

    It’s easy to look at Zimbabweans and think they were always this idle, this accepting of the failures of their government. They were not. But at some point they stopped fighting and started accepting state failure as their portion. They also started voting with their feet, as Sachikonye puts it. And everyday, we South Africans are also accepting state failure. We accept that we can go for 8 hours with no electricity. We accept that we can go to a hospital and there will be no medication, so we buy our own. We accept that our roads can be in the perilous state that they are in, so we develop ways of driving into potholes slowly, or on pavements. Or we just buy new tyres when the potholes burst our car tyres. These things we accept look small, and it’s easier to just have a plan B because we’ve given up on government doing things right. But this is how failure becomes normal. This is how we begin our descent.

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