“South Africans often seem to suffer from negativity, which leads them to believe that their politicians and political leadership are more corrupt and inept than those in other countries. But show me one country with political leaders who do not face severe internal challenges, and whose policies are not under constant challenge,” Stringfellow argues. “Unfortunately, public life at present seems to be highly polarised everywhere. One thing is certain though, South Africa has faced similar challenges in the past and found a solution—we will do so again.”
South Africa is a robust democracy, and there are grounds for optimism in the fact that our institutions, such as the courts, are getting better at holding the executive to account. Politicians and governments exist to serve the people, not the other way around, and even the most seemingly entrenched political orders are vulnerable to the wishes of the people, especially in a democracy.
Stringfellow adds that most people want the same things—safety, the chance to share the fruits of prosperity, a bright future for their children. They will make sure they get a government that will give that to them. The past will become less important than the future.
In other words, the current status quo is not permanent. South Africans should take their eyes off the troubles of the present and begin to plan—and invest—for the long term.
“We need to market our beautiful country to the world and we need to stop thinking that only our country has problems. Every country has problems. Instead, we need to focus on solutions to our challenges,” Stringfellow says. “If we don’t look to the future, we will miss out.”
He points out that in 2001, a similar mood of doom and gloom pervaded the country. Crime was a major cause of dissatisfaction, and the political climate was noxious. The rand plummeted, and there was rush to move capital offshore. Talk was that South Africa was set to become the next Zimbabwe, and the future looked bleak.
“Well, what happened was that those who invested offshore lost money, while those who kept their money in South Africa benefitted hugely from booming property and stock markets,” Stringfellow notes. “People who invested in South Africa made a fortune. Is history repeating itself now?”
The figures bear him out. Between the first quarter of 2006 and the first quarter of 2016, the JSE All Share Index grew by 439 percent, much higher than the 68 percent of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
“South Africa remains a country of massive potential. Of course we have significant problems, but time has shown that we also have the capacity to solve them,” Stringfellow concludes. “Time has also shown that those who are prepared to invest in this country are well rewarded. Failure is not something governments impose on their citizens; rather, success is something that a country’s citizens create.”