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Rian Malan Reviews How South Africa Works by Greg Mills and Jeffrey Herbst and How Long Will South Africa Survive? by RW Johnson

How South Africa Works: And Must Do BetterHow Long Will South Africa Survive?Verdict: carrots

This is a book review, but the works involved are dense and complicated. So pretend it is a heavyweight title fight instead.

In one corner we have Jeffrey Herbst, a former professor of politics at Princeton University, and Greg Mills, executive director of the Brenthurst Foundation, a think-tank funded largely by the super-rich Oppenheimer dynasty. Their book is titled, “How South Africa Works”. And in the other corner, throwing warmup punches, is RW Johnson, retired Oxford don, chairman of Good Governance Africa’s board of directors and author of “How Long Will South Africa Survive?”.

Messrs Herbst and Mills’ book comes festooned with approving quotes from captains of industry, prominent intellectuals, the governor of the Reserve Bank and even Johnny Clegg, the thinking man’s rock star. At first glance, Mr Johnson seems to be the underdog, forced to rely on his record–12 books, including several best-sellers, and the present prominence of his former students, three of whom sit in the cabinet of British Prime Minister David Cameron.

At stake in the coming fight is not a ceremonial belt with a golden buckle, but the title of champion prognosticator on the future of South Africa. Our contenders agree that South Africa is heading towards crisis but there are subtle differences as to the cause and considerable divergence regarding the likely outcome. That said, strike the bell and begin the bout.

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