Friday, 3 November 2017

A failed state?

From Anthony Turton on Facebook
In a previous post I noted that the water situation across the whole country is deteriorating in a domino effect of incompetence and political infighting. I suggested that we are seeing state failure happen as the fabric of social control is being ripped apart. I then suggested that three critical areas should be monitored for the lessons learned:
1) Cape Town - for proactive intervention as a narrative of scarcity is converted into a narrative of future abundance;
2) Port Shepstone (Ugu) - for a failed state scenario;
3) and Gauteng - for a major city that has lost its water security due to state capture activities, that will inevitably plunge the local economy into increasing crisis as a result of the loss of resilience, but could still be turned around if credible leadership emerges in time.
This post is about (2) Ugu, where we now have a form of water war underway. The water war literature is broadly divided into two genres:
a) conflict over water (typically the result of scarcity);
b) and conflict in which hydraulic infrastructure is targeted to reach a specific objective (not directly driven by scarcity, but causing an induced scarcity as a weapon of war).
The Ugu case falls into the second category.
In a nutshell, the local municipality has been hollowed out over time by rampant criminal activities, including a drug trafficking conviction for the wife of a senior politician. There is also ongoing assassination and violence as various factions clash over control of the financial resources flowing from ratepayers to criminal syndicates. The municipality has simply lost control and factions are now sabotaging water infrastructure and threatening the lives of drivers moving water in by tanker. The ANC has lost control on the ground, and the criminal justice system has failed to investigate, arrest and bring to trial any of the perpetrators. In short, the state has failed in its core duty at this localized setting.
One of the casualties of this is Murchison Hospital, which has no water, and has had at best erratic supplies for many months now as this localized factional war has been festering. This hospital serves a large but impoverished community with a high level of HIV/AIDS. In a previous post I suggested that this is a second Esidemini unfolding before our eyes, unless we intervene in time. The Department of Health is either unwilling, or unable to intervene; and the Department of Water and Sanitation is equally ineffective. In short, this is a text book case study of state failure at localized level, but with roots in national departments in crisis due to internal criminal activities of their own. Left on its own, we are now likely to see the death toll mounting as factions clash violently, and as impoverished people are left to die as a result of a failed health care system. Property values will be under pressure and start to crash as confidence is lost and people's life savings are destroyed. The Ugu district is home to many pensioners, as well as a large population of deeply poor rural citizens. In short, this is a tragedy that is more than simply an object of academic curiosity. It is symptomatic of what can happen across the entire country if the status quo is allowed to prevail.
So while all eyes are on Cape Town as they dodge the bullet, let us not forget the human tragedy unfolding in KZN; but let us also not loose sight of the fact that state capture dynamics have eroded resilience in Gauteng, placing that economic hub at growing risk until 2025.
If you care about our country, please reflect on this and do what you feel needs to be done to make a difference.

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