“Dinokeng group” urges civic involvement


An attempt by the state to overstretch itself and play too ambitious a role will not help SA out of the global recession, according to a set of hypothetical scenarios for SA’s future published yesterday.

“As long as we remain a state-centred society we are doomed,” said Vincent Maphai, South African Breweries executive director for corporate affairs and transformation and one of 35 participants in what are known as the Dinokeng Scenarios.

In two of the three visions for SA for 2020 painted yesterday by the Dinokeng group, the state plays a role that is either weak and neglects to reverse its failings, or it becomes increasingly interventionist, crowds out private initiative and leads to unpopular and destabilising economic reform measures, Business Day newspaper reported this morning.

In the third scenario, the state plays its most useful role when held to account and forced to respond to demands made on it by a newly resurgent activist society.

The scenarios presented yesterday at Johannesburg`s Constitution Hill were not intended to be a prescription of what SA`s future would be, said Mamphela Ramphele, a Dinokeng participant and chairwoman of investment holding company Circle Capital Ventures.

Rather, they were a starting point for discussion at different levels of South African society about the direction the country should follow.

“We have never had serious conversations as South Africans about what policies we are going to follow, not just at the macro level but at the micro level,” Ramphele said.

The scenarios presented yesterday challenge the prevailing notion among African National Congress alliance partners the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party that greater state involvement will by itself remedy SA`s challenges of providing much-needed basic services and jobs, Business Day added.

“What will, in fact, make the state work in a way that meets the needs of the poorest — who do not have the middle-class option of turning to the private sector for schooling, medical treatment and suburban safety — is the resurgence of activism by ordinary citizens.”

Ramphele said the scenarios were intended to spur debate. The 35 participants who produced the scenarios — coming from backgrounds as varied as banking, business, religion, labour and land -rights activism — spent many hours arguing about what was best for the country, whether in fiscal or monetary policy.

INET Bridge reports the group also included former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town Njongonkulu Ndungane and Graca Machel, wife of Nelson Mandela.

Ramphele said at the end of the analysis: “A healthy democracy and strong socioeconomic development require a healthy interface between an effective state and an alert and active citizenry.

“South Africans are standing at a crossroads. Each one of us, citizens and leaders, must choose how we walk forward. Through the steps we take, we will create our future.”

“South Africans find themselves confronting some stark realities,” the team said. “There is rising political intolerance, weak state capacity, and a failure of leadership to successfully build one nation.

“The government has too frequently turned a blind eye to corruption and incompetence in the public service. This undermines a key provision in the Constitution that promises an accountable and efficient public service.

“Racial polarisation persists, as do poverty, unemployment, and inequality. South Africans have stood by as the country’s educational system has faltered, and we have stood by as parts of the public health system have crumpled under weak management.”

The team pointed out in their report that the persistent challenges of education, health, crime and poverty are not due to a lack of funds: indeed public funding has consistently increased over the past 13 years.

Rather, they say, at the heart of our challenges is weak state capacity, and an unwillingness, or inability on the part of ordinary citizens to challenge and engage government.

“The message of Dinokeng is this: The government needs to become more accountable to citizens, and citizens themselves must more robustly engage government so that all of us can address the pressing challenges of our time,” the report says.

“Only in this way can we hope to navigate our way towards a future that lives up to the promise of 1994.”

The Dinokeng Scenarios exercise was sponsored by Old Mutual and Nedbank.

The team was brought together by six convenors, Ramphele, who chaired the convenors, Ndungane, Machel, Bob Head, who represented the sponsors, Vincent Maphai, chairman of BHP Billiton and Rick Menell, chief executive of Teal and deputy chairman of African Rainbow Minerals.

The team suggested three possible scenarios could come about in future.

The first is the gloomiest. It assumed that we continue on the same path that we are on today. “Our pressing problems unemployment, poverty, safety and security, and poor public health and education delivery worsen,” it suggests.

“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.”

In the second scenario, the news is not a lot better. The state both manages and leads the process of addressing our challenges. Citizens either support strong state intervention or are acquiescent in the face of a more powerful state.

“If citizens are not acquiescent, the state may become authoritarian,” the team reckons.

“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.”

Finally the good news comes in scenario three. “Our challenges are addressed through active citizen engagement, a catalytic state, and strong leadership across all sectors,” the team says.

“Good governance, competent delivery, and active citizen involvement become the key to fixing social problems that will become deadly if unaddressed”.


External link: www.dinokengscenarios.co.za