GARETH VAN ONSELEN: The ground from which autocracy grows
The election of Jacob Zuma made manifest SA populism; his administration produced an environment in which it will be able to thrive for years to come
Socioeconomic problems, depending on their intensity, have a number of potential grand implications for any society. At their worst, there are the obvious consequences: deprivation, corruption, crime and the warping of social norms and cohesion. But it is, arguably, politically that they risk the greatest possible danger.
Historically, environments defined by systemic socioeconomic chaos are fertile ground for dictatorship. And if not dictatorship, then for the rise of authoritarianism and an “iron leader”. Today, SA would seem to qualify. Certainly, if its condition is unchecked, the implications are profound. Put more practically, if one agrees that the country is experiencing a low-grade civil war, then wars engender generals, and generals don’t do democracy.