Remarkable strides have been made since South Africa embraced democracy. By John Young.
When Nelson Mandela took the oath of office as the first president of democratic South Africa on 10 May 1994, anything seemed possible.
Moments of glory came South Africa’s way as the world celebrated with the national rugby team when it won the global title on home soil in 1995, and when South Africa successfully hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup. South Africa has also hosted large and important United Nations’ conferences.
In 2014, twenty years will have passed since the world’s most inspirational leader set ambitious goals for a new nation. The passing of two decades presents an opportunity to reflect.
The 2011 Census reveals major gains in delivering essential services to previously neglected communities:
A key factor in South Africa twenty years on from 1994 is stability. This could by no means be taken for granted in the run-up to the first democratic elections. Bombings and violent attacks threatened to unleash a civil war, but through negotiation and compromise South Africans found a way to start building something new.
In the years since 1994, South Africa has had four presidents, and regular elections, run by an independent body, are regarded as completely credible. The country’s founding constitution is widely admired around the world. The Dinokeng Scenarios brought together 35 leading South Africans to debate how the country was going to look in 2020. In reflecting on the achievements to date, Dinokeng noted: There have been few countries where sitting Presidents and Deputy Presidents have appeared before the Constitutional Court, or where one arm of the administration (the National Prosecuting Authority) has gone to court against another arm (the South African Police Service) – an indication that the system of checks and balances is working.
It was further noted that as the media and civil society is strong, a military coup is ‘very unlikely’. However, the Protection of State Information Bill, adopted by the ANC in parliament after the Dinokeng Scenarios were published, is very controversial and its critics claim that it will stifle investigative journalism.
Business and economy
South African companies are not only making their mark around the world but they have shown an ability to create value that is truly world-class. The 100 biggest companies on the JSE, are doing better than the global average for median cash-flow return on investment (CFROI).
The Sunday Times in 2012 published a set of economic indicators that showed a decline between 1994 and 2012 in household savings to disposable income, and a concomitant rise in household debt. In every other category it was good news:
About two-million houses have been built by the state, life expectancy is starting to improve again (60 years in 2011 compared to 56.5 in 2009), and about four-million jobs have been added (JP Landman).
Approximately 18-million people receive grants such as disability or pensions, and anti-retroviral treatment is administered to two-million people (Jonny Steinberg).
The big increase in the number of black senior managers is an indication of the success of black-empowerment legislation and company activity.
About the Author: John Young writes for South African Business.