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April 29, 2024

South Africa’s democracy is turning 30 – but a silent crisis threatens its hard-fought gains

South Africa has made significant strides since the end of apartheid over 30 years ago. However, a silent crisis threatens to undermine the hard-fought gains of its young democracy. At the heart of this crisis is a socio-economic gap that is expanding at an alarming rate. Despite South Africa having the richest mineral resources in the world, poverty and inequality persist. This is linked to systemic issues including high levels of corruption, lack of access to quality education, and widespread unemployment. Unemployment affects more than a quarter of the population, with the majority being the youth. This has led to widespread disillusionment with the status quo, resulting in protests and calls for systemic change. Corruption is another major issue. Despite numerous efforts to curb it, South Africa ranks poorly on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index. Not only does corruption deter investment, but it also diverts resources away from much-needed social services. Academic standards also leave much to be desired. Despite heavy investment in education, South Africa ranks poorly in literacy and numeracy rates. Despite these challenges, South Africa has also made undeniable progress. Life expectancy, for example, has increased substantially since the end of apartheid, and opportunities for black and other non-white South Africans have expanded. To protect these gains and ensure their sustainability, it is crucial that South Africa addresses the underlying issues that threaten its democracy. These systemic issues need to be addressed not only by the government, but also by civil society, the private sector, and international partners. In the