BLOG: The concept of a failed state, and its application to our beloved South Africa, is much under discussion at all levels and in many circles. A simple definition of such a state is: a sovereign government that has disintegrated to a point where basic responsibilities cannot be met.
The following are internationally recognised: a loss of territorial control of portions of the nation-state; erosion of legitimate authority for collective decisions; an inability to provide public services; weakness at central government to raise and handle funds and taxes; a lack of unbiased quality leadership.
On these follow widespread corruption and criminality, the intervention of the wrong actors, the appearance of refugees and sharp economic decline. The political theories of Max Weber inter alia define a state as maintaining a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force.
When this is broken through the dominant presence of warlords, paramilitary groups, corrupt policing, armed gangs, or terrorism, the very existence of the state becomes dubious.
Typically, the state then is rendered ineffective and is not able to enforce its laws uniformly because of inability, high crime rates, insurgency, extreme political corruption, an impenetrable bureaucracy, cadre preferences, judicial ineffectiveness, military interference, and cultural situations in which traditional leaders wield more power than the state over certain areas or topics.
Internationally a derived concept of "failed cities" is based on the notion that a state may function generally, but execution at the sub-state level may collapse in terms of infrastructure and socio-economy policy.
Certain areas may even fall outside central state control, becoming a de facto sub-section. The central state then transforms into "an instrument of predation" and the state effectively loses its monopoly.
These inherent characteristics have been tested on the international scene. Boas and Jennings did case studies - Afghanistan, Liberia, Sudan and the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. From this they argued that the main label of the failed state is inherently political. And, be warned, primarily on Western perceptions.
International research also refers to the Fragile States Index with its three groupings, each containing appropriate indicators, by example:
- Social, with demographic pressures, refugees or internally displaced persons, group grievances, human flight and brain drain, factionalised elites.
- Economic, with most uneven growth and development, poverty and economic decline (spatially and between communities).
- Political and military indicators, measuring democracy, state legitimacy, public service, human rights, rule of law and security.
Somali and the Central African Republic were high on the negative side, while Finland is currently the most stable and sustainable country on this list.
Due to a lack of space and personal preference, I avoided the inclusion of South African examples. Just think of two: taxi powers and control of the Cape Flats. The active reader may apply all the above into a self-guided exercise.
There simply have to be three columns: where a failed state factor already applies to South Africa; uncertainty, and thirdly a no. In most cases the results towards the existence of a failed state are shockingly close and real!
Sources indicated; also widely from the internet.
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