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Failed States

31 August 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: By Stiaan Klue, Chief Executive
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Where have all the good men gone
And where are all the gods?
Where's the street-wise Hercules
To fight the rising odds?
Isn't there a white knight upon a fiery steed?
Late at night I toss and I turn and I dream
of what I need

Bonnie Tyler

According to Wikipedia a failed state is characterised by one or more of the following:
  • loss of control of its territory, or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force therein
  • erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions
  • an inability to provide public services
  • an inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community
Despite many naysayers South Africa is far from being characterised as a "failed state".

Roads are being built, the majority of schools are functioning, the criminal justice system convict criminals and issue civil judgements on a daily basis, SARS is able to collect taxes according to budget, elections are held regularly and in accordance with international requirements, the securities exchange show a healthy amount of daily transactions and share prices are generally positive, the availability of running water, sanitation and new housing projects are continuing and expanding. South Africa as a state has the ability to be a state and are performing state functions - establishing security, providing public services and maintaining the rule of law.

Failed state index

The United States think-tank Fund for Peace and the magazine Foreign Policy publishes an annual index called the Failed States Index. The index's ranks are based on twelve indicators of state vulnerability - four social, two economic and six political. Although the Index has been criticised for not being rigorous enough its findings and indicators make for interesting reading. Indicators used for the index include: wide spread public scapegoating of certain groups i.e. xenophobic attacks, chronic "brain-drain" and loss of the middle class, uneven economic development along group lines, severe economic decline, progressive deterioration of public services and the emergence of state-sponsored or state-supported private militias that terrorize political opponents.

I am an African

Thabo Mbeki, as Deputy President, on 8 May 1996 at the adoption of the South African Constitution made the following insightful remarks: "The constitution ... seeks to create the situation in which all our people shall be free from fear, including the fear of the oppression of one national group by another, the fear of the disempowerment of one social echelon by another, the fear of the use of state power to deny anybody their fundamental human rights and the fear of tyranny".

The origins of a failed state can therefore be found in disrespect for the values as enumerated in South Africa's Constitution. Recent events such as Marikana, xenophobic attacks, Limpopo education crises, service delivery protest although terrible and unnecessary do not qualify South Africa as a failed state but are serious warning signs that the values in the Constitution are being eroded.

Perhaps all South Africans need to recommit to our Constitutional values.

Taxes and Failed States

During the month of August eligible tax payers have to submit their provisional tax returns. It is important that tax payers and tax practitioners ensure that the correct amount of tax is paid. This is a Constitutional obligation.

We should not lose sight of the fact that an important bulwark against becoming a failed state is the collection of tax funds.

If we value the Constitution and abhor the events as listed above we should do our bit to ensure the proper function of the state.

In turn we should expect and demand that government officials are held to account and perform their work with diligence.

We should not allow bad news to distract us from our duty to pay tax. This will give us the moral standing to demand adherence to Constitution values by all stakeholders.


Section 240A of the Tax Administration Act, 2011 (as amended) requires that all tax practitioners register with a recognized controlling body before 1 July 2013. It is a criminal offense to not register with both a recognized controlling body and SARS.


The Act requires that a minimum academic and practical requirments be set to register with a controlling body. Click here for the minimum requirements of SAIT.

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