The South African political environment has seldom been as uncertain as during 2020. Combinations of political, economic and social conditions are currently preparing the ground for radical political change and many political and economic commentators are seriously worried about even the shorter-term future of South Africa. The COVID-19 dynamics worsened this situation further by causing even more negative dynamic force, which further strengthens the possibility of a so-called bad-case scenario. Factors including political instability; violence and intolerance; social conflict and violence; and negative economic growth with accompanying issues, like unemployment, poverty, xenophobia, poor service delivery and the flight of capital and expertise, add to uncertainty and bleak existence. Endemic corruption and the political implications of the Zondo commission of investigation (politically spoken for the offenders) have been the biggest challenges to face by the supreme authority of law (and most probably the constitutional state) since 1994. Something has to give somewhere and it is no foregone conclusion that political forces are not stronger than the basis of the current political dispensation. Serious questions are asked about the political outcomes of the application of what is sometimes presented as “the best constitution in the world”. There is even concern about the South African state as a state, and its future as a unitary state over the long term (Johnson 2015:221–46). The envisaged amendment to section 25 of the Constitution promises to lead to increasing conflict until a stage where it will be difficult to manage.
By taking complicated systems as theoretical point of departure and using related concepts like systemic entropy, deterministic chaos, the weak-state phenomenon and system transformation, an explorative contemporary analysis is made of the South African politics, with worst-case and best-case scenario perspectives as outcomes. Variables like the political context; the political economy of the country; social factors and accompanying dynamics; and the ANC dynamics against the background of an unstable and dynamically changing world order are emphasised. The conclusion of the explorative study is that the political tipping point has already been reached and that we are faced with a bad-case scenario. Indeed, evidence indicates that a bad-case scenario is the most probable. It has far-reaching implications for our future over the short term as well as the long term. Can the Ramaphosa government, notwithstanding the circumstances, turn the tide, or are we indefinitely en route to political decay that will even claim Ramaphosa and his government as victims? According to me a reversal of the situation is no longer possible.
The article is explorative and tries to shed light on South Africa at a tipping point on the basis of a theoretical framework and empiric evidence, with the possibility of a bad-case scenario.
Keywords: political decay; political entropy; political tipping point; political transformation; scenarios; South Africa; weak state