How Long Will South Africa Survive?

The Looming Crisis

July 2016 9781849047234 288pp


In 1977, R.W. Johnson’s bestselling How Long Will South Africa Survive? offered a controversial and highly original analysis of the survival prospects of the apartheid regime. 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. 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, in keeping with his reputation for lucid comment and his willingness to tackle established consensus.

Table of contents

1. Then and Now
2. KwaZulu-Natal, the World of Jacob Zuma
3. The ANC Under Zuma
4. Mangaung and After
5. The New Class Structure
6. Culture Wars
7. The State’s Repression of Economic Activity
8. The View from the IMF
9. The Brics Alternative
10. The Impossibility of AutarcA trenchant assessment of the ANC’s political elite in power and their role in dashing the hopes and aspirations of the post-apartheid generation.hy



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

‘Well-written and well argued, Johnson’s 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

‘An immensely readable and disturbing book. Let us pray that his prophecies are this time mistaken.’ — Rian Malan, The Spectator

‘Johnson confronts the Naipauline problem of post-colonial nation states: the transformation of freedom fighters into oppressors. … the extreme prophesies do not diminish the value of Johnson’s diagnosis of South Africa’s problems.’ — Newsweek

‘An assembly of facts that illustrate and reinforce how, since the electoral victory of the ANC under Mandela in 1994, South Africa’s governing apparatus has degenerated into an instrument of patronage and self-enrichment by the new black elite.’ — The Times Literary Supplement

‘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


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.

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