9 Ways Government Has Failed South Africa

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A new survey points to major challenges the government faces in 2016, having largely failed in most critical areas in 2015.

According to a survey published by international research firm Afrobarometer, the majority of South Africans agree on the most important problems facing the country and want government to do a better job at a range of issues including increasing employment, reducing crime, and providing greater access to housing.

The Afrobarometer team in South Africa, led by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) and Plus 94 Research, interviewed 2,400 adult South Africans in August-September 2015.

It found that unemployment remains by far the most important problem for South Africans, followed by housing, crime, education, poverty, and corruption.

Citizens rate the government poorly on most key performance areas and mostly on economic policy areas, rated positively on welfare distribution (84%) and food security (60%).

Public disapproval of government performance on crime reduction, management of the economy, and the fight against corruption all increased by more than 10 percentage points since 2011.

However, notable exceptions to this trend are the majority approval of government performance in the areas of welfare distribution, uniting the country, food security and  meeting educational needs.

These are the nine areas in which South Africans feel most let down by government:

  1. Fighting corruption
  2. Narrowing income gaps
  3. Reducing crime
  4. Creating jobs
  5. Keeping prices down
  6. Managing immigration
  7. Improving standards of the poor
  8. Managing the economy
  9. Electricity supply

Government performance 2015

Education has moved up in the priority list, but overall the problems that government should address have not changed substantially since 2011.

SA top priorities

A recent report by the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) warned that South Africa is likely to enter a long-term period of low economic growth.

The IRR’s CEO, Dr Frans Cronjé, said: “The African National Congress did particularly well in driving growth rates upwards after the adoption of the Growth, Employment, and Redistribution (GEAR) policy in 1996. Between 2004 and 2007, South Africa even averaged growth in excess of 5% of GDP as unemployment fell sharply.

“However, in the current policy climate, which is hostile to investment-led growth, the picture is very different. GDP growth levels are likely to average below 2% to 2019, even as interest rates begin to rise. This will preclude any reduction in the unemployment rate and will begin to exert growing pressure on household disposable income, which will in turn reduce domestic consumption levels,” Cronjé said.

Policies on labour and empowerment make any export-driven manufacturing recovery impossible – despite the benefits to exporters of a currency that we expect to run to beyond R17.50/$US.

The current commodities slump will also run for much longer than many other analysts predict and this will preclude a mining export recovery.

“Policies on migration, foreign exchange control, and intellectual property will hobble a recovery driven by the service industry. It is extraordinary that in the broader policy field, the current Cabinet has effectively hemmed in every potential avenue of economic expansion in South Africa,” the IRR said.


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