Fragility and the State: Post-apartheid South Africa and the State-Society Contract in the 21st Century

  • L Connolly


The notion of a fragile state has changed over the last decade to encompass countries with only pockets of stability in an otherwise functioning state. This broadened spectrum of fragility is a positive move for the international sphere in that it highlights areas of weakness in states which could have a detrimental effect of the country and provides recommendations for building up resilience in these fragile states. Most commonly, one needs to undertake statebuilding measures which will re-legitimise the state-society contract – meaning that the expectations of the society from the state are in balance with what the state can provide to the people. Throughout 2012, South Africa experienced more service delivery protests than in the three years prior. Issues such as education, employment and wage disputes were ripe in the country and across the globe. It became clear that pockets of fragility were creeping into South Africa and the state was no longer able to meet the needs of the people. In a new democracy, increasing fragility is dangerous, as it could spread to increased violence and protest, which could ultimately destabilise the country and the region as a whole. This paper argues that some aspects of South Africa’s sectors are weakening, and that changes need to be made to renew the state-society contract and build up resilience in these areas of fragility in order to prevent future protests and violence.

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eISSN: 1562-6997