Of all the clichés of doom, “ticking time bomb” is the most popular for signalling an inevitable eruption in SA, a devastating bang imagined as the unavoidable consequence of mounting discontent that eventually proves irrepressible. Weary news consumers could be forgiven for instinctively discounting the risk; democratic SA’s time bombs are always just ticking. Or is it only the metaphor that’s deficient — and to blame for a complacency that is a genuine risk? The billions lost to corruption in the two decades since the arms deal have not had a final incendiary result, but consider the far-reaching costs. The same is true of the (continuing) dismal failures of our schooling system, of healthcare and policing, of the electricity supply. Nor has the stubborn attachment to economic and other policies that staunch dynamism and discourage the most enterprising triggered a fireball so much as a dispiriting dwindling of investment, jobs, opportunities, hopes of prosperity and social optimi...

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