South Africa: Co-Responsibility, Not Populism, Is What Brazil and South Africa Need


'The country of the future, and it always will be.' This was Brazil during the boom and bust years of the 1970s and '80s, when its people wondered if their country would ever realise its vast potential of wealth and opportunity. Today the same adage rings true. After five years of political crisis, economic decline and social upheavals, starting with an anti-corruption investigation that has become the largest in world history, and ending with the election of a right-wing populist, Brazilians and the world at large are asking whether Brazil can claw its way back and finally become the country of the future.

The Brazilian paradox of world-class institutions and pockets of excellence, juxtaposed with perpetual inequality and instability, has emblazoned a fault line of a divided nation. Uncertainty and recurring crises, and not the positivist national motto of "order and progress" adopted by its leaders at independence, defines the Brazil of today.

This sounds all too familiar to South Africans. The high hopes of representative leadership, inclusive governance and a progressive constitution, expected to deliver on this country's vast economic potential 25 years ago, have failed to materialise. Parallels with Brazil run deep. There are a number of lessons...

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