Meritocracy is not a concept many South Africans are familiar with, but it is quite easy to define. It is a form of government where leaders are chosen and promoted based on merit, their skills, and how well they perform. “There is a desperate need for something like this in South Africa. As a developing state, it would help to have such a system where favouritism, nepotism and corruption do not have a place," says political analyst, Somadoda Fikeni.
There are not many countries in the world that subscribe to the political philosophy of meritocracy, but one example is the Republic of Singapore. Its economic success is often linked to treating skills and ability as engines for growth, that encourage people to push themselves for individual and collective achievement.
Fikeni believes meritocracy, is good, in that it will encourage people to produce their best. "If taken literally, however, it could easily become elitist and aristocratic.” To avoid creating a group of people who abuse their positions in power, Fikeni says that a meritocracy must be grounded by a democracy. “Mix it with a degree of constituency and participatory democracy. Voter participation must be a factor.”
Another factor that is necessary for a meritocracy to function is a professional class of people with expertise, experience, and commitment. Some critics bash this form of government, because not all people have had the same opportunities for training and education – but it still gives everyone an equal chance to compete, and better themselves to make a difference.
Fikeni says rewarding a person for their input encourages hard work, unlike promoting someone due to their social connections. “It is something prestigious. Only the best of the best will be put in exclusive positions."