These include basic needs such as education, employment, improved livelihoods, clean water, sanitation, food security, healthcare, personal freedom, and personal safety.

The rationale is that a high GDP per capita does not necessarily equate with a decent quality of life and the provision of basic needs for all citizens. In pursuit of a more representative portrait of progress and success, the Social Progress Index studies 133 countries and evaluates their social and environmental index, in addition to, and relative to, their GDP.

For example, the US ranks second on GDP per capita, but 16th on social progress; New Zealand ranks first on social progress, but 25th on GDP per capita.

SA ranks 65th on GDP per capita, and 59th on social progress. It scores highly on the “opportunity” indicators, such as personal freedom, but significantly worse on basic needs, improved livelihoods, and personal safety.

In Green’s opinion, these are solvable issues, but the lack of social progress has the potential to undermine the areas in which we score highly, such as personal freedom. It is a conundrum that we need to tackle urgently.

What is encouraging is that we have so many strong, successful private and public-private organisations and companies leading innovative advancement programmes.

Primedia’s PrimeStars programme, for example, uses cinemas all over the country as educational theatres of learning. Disadvantaged pupils from more than 15,000 secondary schools are engaged in a range of programmes, from matric maths and science revision, to leadership and entrepreneurship development.

We need to bring together the public and private sector on a more cohesive, national development platform if we hope to resolve our social progress powder keg.

We are racing towards the August elections and most municipalities continue to be in crisis. Auditor-general Kimi Makwetu published the municipal audit results in June.

He said there had been “an encouraging, five-year improvement” in the audit results, with clean audits increasing from 13 to 72 in the current period. But he also pointed out notable regressions: “More than 50% of municipalities are struggling to report reliable information on service delivery.”

It gets worse: in 2014-15 the auditor-general rated the financial health of 92% of the municipalities as “concerning” or “requiring intervention”. He pointed out that 26% of municipalities were in “a particularly poor financial position by the end of 2014-15, with material uncertainty with regard to their ability to continue operating in the foreseeable future”.

Makwetu said the lowest improvement rate was in compliance with key legislation that governs municipal operations. This has decreased from 95% to 78% since the 2010-11 period. Irregular expenditure has more than doubled in the past five years to R14.74bn and is incurred by an increasing number of municipalities.

The provinces with the highest clean audits were the Western Cape (73%), Gauteng (33%), and KwaZulu-Natal (30%). Makwetu commended the leadership in these provinces for having “proved the value of investing in strengthening internal control, valuing stability in the administration of municipalities, and taking decisive action on both internal control failings and audit findings”.

Noble and true words, but they do not extend far enough in a political landscape in which lack of service delivery is a major trigger of protest and violence. SA requires enormous political leadership to tackle civil society’s volatile frustration around these issues and to show tangible delivery. Municipal officials have to be held to account.

In the absence of this, the outcome is obvious: there will be more violence and an increase in lawfare, with citizens collectively taking municipalities to the court.

A recent example was reported by Carmel Rickard. The ratepayers of Kenton, Bushman’s River, and Natures Landing took the local municipal managers to court for failing to sort out the local sewerage works, which led to raw sewage flowing into the Bushman’s River estuary and into the sea; failing to establish a new waste dumpsite; and failing to respond to ratepayers’ considerable correspondence on these issues from November 2011 to September 2014.

It is an important precedent for all citizens, and we will see more of this. However, the problem with lawfare, or the Stalingrad defence that Judge Dennis Davis talks about, is that instead of the country proactively advancing social progress — our basic needs and personal security — the state is increasingly using public resources to defend its inaction and lack of performance. This will continue until the money runs out.

 First published in Business Day on Wednesday, 13 July 2016.