Defend Truth


South Africa must establish a Second Republic


Eddy Maloka holds an Honours degree and PhD from UCT. He was a student leader on campus in the 1980s, later a lecturer, and a warden at a number of student residences. He also served as president of the University Convocation. He is currently Visiting Professor at the Wits School of Governance, and Professor of Practice at the University of Johannesburg’s Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation. He writes in his personal capacity.

If South Africa continues on its current trend consistently for the next 20 years, history will fossilise us into a condition of a permanent state of self-destruction. The time has come for a Second Republic.

Ghana is in its Fourth Republic, created through a new constitution in 1993. France has been under a Fifth Republic since 1958. Countries establish a new republic as a drastic measure for a variety of reasons. It could be in the aftermath of a traumatic experience like war, to effect a strategic shift from an undesirable past like a period of military rule, or to rebrand the country for repositioning it to adapt to changed circumstances.

South Africa is at this crossroad.

The last few years have been traumatic. The country is in a bad shape. Everywhere, people are calling for renewal. The media is making things worse, feeding our minds with a narrative of a nation that is a bad story. Prophets of doom may have been correct after all that this South Africa project was just a pipe dream. We were once a miracle, a rainbow nation; now the path is cleared to our inevitable demise.

Read in Daily Maverick: The ‘Bafana Bafana’ political forecast: South Africa’s prospects tied to ANC leadership, factional battles and alliances

A crisis is a moment in history when the old can no longer hold; when something new has to happen. The old ways of doing things no longer work. The status quo is at a saturation point. The continuing persistence of things as they are only leads to decline, stagnation, degeneration, and, eventually, to implosion and total collapse. Its ideological manifestation is a state of confusion, panic, anxiety, uncertainty, demoralisation, and also a moment for zealots and populists to show off their opportunism.

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Its other face is a crisis in diversity management demonstrated by phenomena such as the rise of racial nationalism and xenophobia.

Such a moment is a call for leadership, and tends to produce three types of leadership response: the Captain of the Ship, the Ego, and Madiba’s Mojo.

The Captain of the Ship leads with bravery, but his only success can be in making sure that the ship remains on course, it doesn’t sink. God willing, he’ll get us safely to the shore! The Ego will use the moment for a self-serving purpose, usually to achieve his leadership ambition, but without a cause, purpose, conviction, or a vision, except for personal gain. Consumed by his ambition, the Ego will inadvertently chaperone the crisis to further decline and collapse, to our death foretold.

The Madiba’s Mojo – “it always seems impossible until it’s done” – is a leader who’ll achieve the impossible. These are the leaders who invented planes when most of us thought it was impossible for humans to fly. They are the undaunted, those who are unfazed by any challenge, any change; they don’t fear the unknown; they are curious, creative, innovative, persistent; they never stop trying something new, something different. They are our goal-getters, our trailblazers, our high achievers; and they are at their best in moments of crisis.

South Africa exhibits these features of a crisis. Time for change has come; this change is inevitable. But we must manage it to our advantage, otherwise our country will collapse under the heavy weight of uncontrollable forces of history.

We must be proactive to seize this moment presented to us by history. We must establish a Second Republic to replace the compromise, post-apartheid dispensation we created in 1994. Our approach should not be piecemeal – about land, the judiciary, or this and that. Instead, we should be bold and decisive and overhaul the entire dispensation to align it with our times.

The time for the Second Republic is now!

History is the best teacher. Its one lesson is that countries, in the course of their historical development, will experience many changes, but that there will be that one, most important change that will have the most transformative and long-term impact on the nation. Some countries never look back after this moment, and use its impact positively, to take the nation to greater heights. Other countries, sadly, fail to emerge from this transformative moment, to put it to good use, but instead undergo a long period of decline afterwards, to the point of degeneration and infinite stagnation.

History shows that a country needs at least a generation, about 30 years, to undergo a significant, transformative shift. China took 40 years. In South Africa, we are still under the 30 years since our 1994 epoch-making moment. We spent much of this period on the right path, but then started moving off course somewhere midstream. Unceasing load shedding, unattended potholes that are growing in number and size, train stations that are stripped, and a national airline carrier that is grounded for two years, are all signs of a country in decline.

If we continue on this trend consistently for the next 20 years, history will fossilise us into a condition of a permanent state of self-destruction. That is how some countries, many of them with a promising future at the beginning like us, failed to take off and are perpetually stuck at the bottom, while others reached for the skies.

A number of domestic factors account for this. The most common is infinite regime instability due to frequent, disruptive, unconstitutional changes of government, lasting for decades without a break.

Equally important is the toxic and chaotic political environment that would consume a country for years due to incessant infighting among the elites, making national cohesion impossible, and engendering hopelessness in the national psyche. Consequently, this country would fail to build proper and reliable institutions; its governance orientation being too arbitrary, disorganised, personality driven, and dominated by rampant corruption.

Therefore, South Africa has to find its way back to the right course and stick to it uninterruptedly for at least the next 30 years. We need a sustained, protracted, positive trajectory for decades to come. For this to happen, we must engender political peace among our elites, within and across the political spectrum. We must also build reliable and stable public sector institutions; foster an open and competitive political environment that encourages innovation; and deploy strategic transformative interventions in society, while ensuring that even if political regimes change, the broad thrust, trajectory and direction of the country remains the same.

Frequent changes to the line of march, one zigzag after another, will not lead to desired results. If we don’t act, arrest and reverse this decline trend now, we will find ourselves 100 years later, still moving in circles, still squabbling over who is the best singer of Dubul’ ibhunu (Shoot the Boer), while a much smaller country, a neighbour perhaps, with less resources, would have used the 100 years to rise up the development rank and even travel to the moon and back.

The Second Republic is our way out of this crisis. There are things we inherited from 1994 that we no longer need, like redundancies in our Cabinet structure that were created out of the Codesa process as a compromise to accommodate departing elements of the apartheid regime. Our provinces are another compromise whose expiry date has long passed. They were our last big effort to win over the erstwhile proponents of federalism who did not want to see a dominant ANC in charge of a unitary state.

Proportional representation made sense in 1994 for a country that was divided to the core. It was successful as a political tool to ensure that no important political voice in the country was left out as we set out to construct a post-apartheid Parliament. But one flip side to this good system is that it puts political parties above the people and gives us leaders none of us elected directly. Party bosses are in charge, not the people. Public representatives are accountable to the party, not to the people.

The Second Republic will be an antithesis to this system. People’s power must be its central pillar. It should stand on a reformed electoral system of public representatives who are directly elected, including the president.

With provinces gone and merged into our current local government, we could explore a new three-tier state system that has street committees at community level as a third tier. We will need a strong Parliament, with portfolio committee chairs ranking at the level of ministers to give this body more teeth in its role in holding the executive accountable. Through its integrated programmes nationwide and across the three tiers of the state, the School of Government will ensure continuity in the trajectory the country is following despite changes in government. Our civil service will be professionalised and merit-based.

The Second Republic should not be confused with the erstwhile “Second Transition” resolution of the ANC’s Mangaung national conference which was largely about accelerating the socioeconomic transformation of South Africa. The Second Republic, for its part, is about revisiting the South Africa project we initiated in 1994 based on lessons learnt over the last 28 years, to make a strategic break with what no longer works, and set the country on a fundamentally new course.

We will need a new constitution that can be validated through a national referendum, and this goal can be achieved within two years. One option is to find a constitutional formula to extend the term of the current Parliament by two years, or give this task as an assignment to the next administration after the 2024 national elections.

Once in place, the Second Republic will be a game changer. It will give us back the optimism we have lost, resuscitate project South Africa, and restore the national, unifying focus we had in 1994. It will displace the current, toxic national narrative that is dominated by our justified outcry against corruption and will disorientate political factions and render them irrelevant. Our youth will not be as despondent as they are today as this new dispensation will be constructed in their image.

An African proverb puts this better: “At that particular time a mad person gives you something, take it immediately before he changes his mind.”

History is this mad person. It is presenting us with an opportunity we can only miss at our own peril. DM


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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Craig B says:

    We need a new government not a new republic. It was purposely designed for participation and this view is for centralism and power concentration. Will never work with the culture of corruption and the evil republic that we do have saved our asses from going to complete hell due to corruption.

  • Bruce Q says:

    What an absolute abundance of hogwash.
    A tragic waste of my time reading this entire article looking for something relevent.
    And he’s a Professor lecturing at our universities?
    Lord help our hapless students.

  • Pieter Kotzee says:

    The solution is easy: copy Singapore, not China, Brazil or Russia

  • Quinton H says:

    Seeing that China is used as a guiding principle – I dare you to be corrupt in the Chinese government. Lets see if you’ll survive the firing squad when found to be guilty. Secondly, people point out Sharpeville, go and check out the Tiananmen Square protests. The Chinese government took a no nonsense approach 40 years ago. And today they flourish. Meanwhile in South Africa, we focus on the comrade buddy buddy system, and nobody is guilty of anything. They don’t care about infrastructure. Why do you care when you get money in your pocket in anyways… Oh wait my bad, all that they have to do is throw all the white people in the ocean. All your problems solved right?

  • David Mark says:

    A great article, but for me the way to save South Africa is really about jailing the corrupt and firing the incompetent. This country would be so much better if the state money was spent where it was supposed to be spent, and state employees cared enough about themselves and the people they serve to do a proper job.

  • gorgee beattie says:

    Well said
    Problem is,
    How to implement a Second Republic
    Please explain how to get rid of the scoundrels and incompetents and find suitable replacements

  • Johan Buys says:

    A new one would be our fourth republic. First there was the White Nationalist Republic, then the Miracle Rainbow Republic, then the Banana Republic – what should the next one be sub-titled?

  • Stephen T says:

    I will agree to only 2 points in this article: that we are on a path headed towards stagnation (Marxism) thanks to the ANC, and that any new constitution must be ratified by a national referendum.

    The rest of this article is essentially conveniently forgetting what it is about the ANC that got us into this mess in the first place. Put plainly, it is their centralist government style that has consistently caused both the ubiquitous incompetence in the public service as well as the near total lack of accountability that has directly led to the catastrophic plundering of the economy.

    And here is Professor Maloka advocating even more centralism as a solution to the centralism that has crippled the country and stunted its future. South Africa is not a unified country. It never was. Nor do I believe we should think of “unification” as the universal salve to the nation’s troubles. That’s just the same old silly socialist idealism that is so vague as to be devoid of any pragmatic implementation.

    I think as a country we need to arrest the toxic legacy of the ANC by strengthening the institutions of a democratic republic that are so necessary to bring about a stable and peaceful society based foremost on law and order. To this end, a decentralised federal system of authority makes a lot more sense in this context. Federalism is not without its complexities but I believe its intrinsic benefits outweigh the difficulties of implementation in the current South African context.

  • Karl Sittlinger says:

    Lets not give up on provinces quite yet, at least until there is some accountability for the near total failure and huge collapse of infrastructure due to lack of maintenance and corruption of the ANC and their thieving cadres. Sure, the ANC would just love a fresh start to bury the madness of the last 20 years (aling woth the hundreds of billions stolen), but if we don’t ensure at least a bit of accountability, what will stop the ANC (or what ever corrupt derivative it may be in the future) from keeping on with the lies and looting?

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    So you think the electorate would trust the first republic to negotiate a better second? In your dreams. But I think you are right to have identified a gap worth pursuing. Somehow.

  • John Stephens says:

    I agree entirely with the proposition set forward in this article. I have written to the same effect on a number of occasions. The second republic must be a creation of the people, not another set of compromises between different power groups in the country. This is where I depart from President Ramaphosa who wants to create a new deal negotiated between the Government, Labour, Business and political parties. None of these organisations have a mandate to negotiate a new social contract. They are all self-interested, agenda bound entities and we will end up with another unworkable solution that does not actually serve the people.
    I propose a National Convention, where communities elect delegates (not representatives) forming a delegation for each community to the Convention. No party affiliations allowed. Unlike representatives, delegates can be recalled, briefed, and instructed by the people. Delegates have to report back to their communities on a regular basis while negotiations continue.

    It is important that the people participate in the constitution making process. Voting for or against a fait accompli in a referendum after the event is an extremely poor substitute for actual participation. Of course, there is a lot of detail to work out regarding such a National Convention, but the details can be sorted out once we agree that that is what is required.
    John Stephens

  • Chris 123 says:

    If this bunch did it’s job and stopped spending it’s whole time lining it’s own pockets we would already be half way there. Merit should be the only yardstick.

  • Andrew C says:

    We have a mindset where people feel it is legitimate to take part in corruption in order to fast track wealth creation. The reason they feel this is because they were the victims of apartheid and were set back generations. Affirmative action was supposed to address this, but it didn’t work. The result is corruption on a massive scale.
    Creating a new republic is unlikely to change this perception.

  • Robin Smaill says:

    Perhaps Eddy Maloka is an idealist but direct representation would be a positive step towards removing the power of political parties and the associated corruption. Every representative must be answerable to the people who elected them so they can be removed if they don’t preform.

  • sl0m0 za says:

    total waste of time to read……

  • Antonie Meyer says:

    You talk about engineering a republic for and by the people, but how many of the people are actually going to read, never mind comprehend this article? Not to mention all the complicated facets that go into making a republic? Guess a percentage. I’d hazard a guess that on average people think about as far as next week.

    Get the right people for the job and protect what you’re building, by force if you have to. How many buses are you going to buy before you figure this out?

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