How Long Will South Africa Survive?

The Looming Crisis

R. W. Johnson

A trenchant assessment of the ANC’s political elite in power and their role in dashing the hopes and aspirations of the post-apartheid generation

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How Long Will South Africa Survive? Hardback
August 2015£25.00
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In 1977, Johnson’s best-selling How Long Will South Africa Survive? offered a controversial and highly original analysis of the survival prospects of apartheid. Now, after more than two decades of the ANC in government, he believes the question must be posed again.

‘The big question about ANC rule,’ Johnson writes, ‘is whether African nationalism would be able to cope with the challenges of running a modern industrial economy. Twenty years of ANC rule have shown conclusively that the party is hopelessly ill-equipped for this task. Indeed, everything suggests that South Africa under the ANC is fast slipping backward and that even the survival of South Africa as a unitary state cannot be taken for granted. The fundamental reason why the question of regime change has to be posed is that it is now clear that South Africa can either choose to have an ANC government or it can have a modern industrial economy. It cannot have both.’

Johnson’s analysis is strikingly original and cogently argued. He has for several decades now been the senior international commentator on South African affairs, known for his lucid analysis and complete lack of deference towards the conventional wisdom.


R.W. Johnson is Emeritus Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, and was the only South African Rhodes Scholar to return home after the fall of apartheid. He has published twelve books, scores of academic articles and innumerable articles for the international press.


‘Well-written and well argued, his book is at its best describing the eye-watering corruption, nepotism and gang-violence that seem to link powerful officials in Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal to the wider ANC. … That South Africa’s black leaders appear to have fulfilled the worst predictions of their white supremacist predecessors makes uncomfortable reading. What surprises Johnson is how quickly they managed to do it.’ — The Times

‘Provocative polemic … produces a devastating charge sheet against the ANC.’ — The Sunday Times

‘An immensely readable and disturbing book. Let us pray that his prophecies are this time mistaken. …Ten years ago, Johnson would have been crucified for saying such things, but How Long? was greeted by an ominous silence in South Africa, making its way on to local bestseller lists without any review attention, not even attacks from Johnson’s enemies. It seems even they are reconciled to the fact that Johnson is right again: South Africa is in crisis.’ — Rian Malan, The Spectator

‘Johnson’s newest book speaks to the corruption that now riddles the country’s body politic. As a result, it is increasingly up to the country’s politicians, economic and business leaders and others to explain how they, if they were in charge, would arrest the decay and reverse the process. The country clearly wants to hear such things and is increasingly hungry for solid answers.’ –– Daily Maverick, South Africa

‘In 1977, Johnson was taking stock of where the apartheid state stood in relation to its likely end, and his prediction was more-or-less correct: 15 years later, it was officially dead, and South Africa had a new, democratically elected government. In the new nostradamic book, Johnson seems to be talking about a similar time frame, perhaps shortened to a decade or so, but in interviews he has given a much shorter period until we hit the wall, saying South Africa has a mere two years before it has to go begging to the International Monetary Fund for a bail-out. … Johnson has a great polemical gift … punchy’ — Mail & Guardian (SA)

‘This book will undoubtedly be met with outrage among South Africa’s political and intellectual elite. If so, it will not be because of any great deficiencies in the text, but because of the grip of ideology on the country’s elite. By the same token, it will be hailed by some people in opposition circles simply because of the vigour with which it criticises not only South Africa’s current government, but the entire history of the ANC since the late 1950s, as well as for its devastating critique of African nationalism more generally.’ — Professor Stephen Ellis, Free University of Amsterdam, author of External Mission: The ANC in Exile, 1960-90

The Looming Crisis confronts the Naipauline problem of post-colonial nation states: the transformation of freedom fighters into oppressors. … the extreme prophesies in The Looming Crisis do not diminish the value of Johnson’s diagnosis of South Africa’s problems.’ — Newsweek, ‘The Most Important International Nonfiction Books of 2015’