How did South Africa lose its moral compass?


By Botha Laubscher

A number of Sunday evenings ago, I browsed through the television channels and for a while got hooked on an eNCA program where a large group of representatives from various non-governmental organizations discussed the question: Has South Africa lost its moral compass?

The answer to this question is obvious given the high levels of crime, murders, farm killings, corruption, gang activities, violence against women and so on.

Later in the program, the group discusses solutions to the problem. Although a number of solutions are mentioned that will certainly help to improve the current situation, many of the solutions are aimed at resulting problems (symptoms) rather than at the underlying core causes.

Moral values ​​are unique to every mentally healthy individual – part of everyone’s character or in other words their views of what is right and wrong, good or bad or acceptable and unacceptable. (In a previous article) op RNews I used the exact same words to define culture.) So if we say that South Africa has lost its moral compass, it therefore means that there are a large number of individuals who have lost their moral compass – that is, persons whose personal value system is such that they see crime or even murder as acceptable or even justified.

Should such individuals be in charge of organizations or the government, then dishonesty and corruption will also become part of those organizations’ culture simply because the head and/or management of that organization does not act against the misdeeds (does not discipline them) or even , is himself involved in wrongdoing or corruption.

Such individuals can also easily be involved in gangs. There are claims that approximately 12 million people in South Africa (20% of the population) belong to gangs. I cannot vouch for the correctness of this, but it is common knowledge that large and powerful gangs exist.

The question of how it happened that South Africa lost its moral compass can therefore be reduced to the question – how did it happen that so many individuals lost their moral compass?

In order to be able to answer the above question, we must first understand how the moral compass of individuals is “controlled or managed”.

The moral compass

In practice, moral standards are shaped and controlled by four authority structures. These structures are firstly the parents or family, secondly the community (which consists of the school, church, environment in which you live, your circle of friends and family, organizations you belong to), thirdly the state (laws and administration of justice) and the fourth authority structure is the belief in a supreme being.

Each authority structure has its own methods and ways in which they discipline the individuals should the individuals not follow the rules. Chastisement is the process by which the person is taught what is wrong and bad and encouragement is the process by which the person is taught what is good and right.

The next important question we must answer is: Who makes the rules?

Here it is important to look again at culture. Culture is, as already said, actually a set of rules of what is seen by the cultural group or community as good and bad, right or wrong. It is shaped by the experience of previous generations about what works and what doesn’t, that is, what is good and bad as well as the dominant religion of the cultural group. Culture is passed down from generation to generation.

If we now, as an example, look at the Afrikaners in previous dispensations, according to the fifth commandment all four of the authority structures would be subject to the authority of God Triune, the Supreme Authority. According to this commandment, every Christian believer, on top of his obedience to God, must also obey the authority of all three other authority structures on the condition that they act in line with God’s will as revealed in His Word and nature. This therefore means that every authority structure is also responsible to God Triune. Right and wrong, good and bad are clearly and completely aligned within this structure. Any deviation from the rules will be punished by the appropriate authority structure.

Let us now look at what happened and is still happening with the four authority structures and the disciplinary processes in South Africa.

As a background to understand why this happened, it is necessary to look at two aspects of the modern liberal ideology, namely the drive towards equality and the emphasis on individual freedom.

First, the great equality. This ideology only sees people and everyone is equal, even similar or the same. The focus on people as equal individuals means that natural boundaries established by different cultures, religions and languages ​​are wrong for supporters of this ideology and that such boundaries must be positively broken down. The aim is therefore to convince all individuals to support one common culture, religion and language and thus to create one homogeneous and equal citizenry. Forced integration of cultural groups is therefore being driven all the time. South Africa is seen and promoted as one.

The second aspect of the ideology that is important is individual freedom. Modern liberalism preaches that individual freedom is all that matters and that everyone, including children, can decide what they see as right and wrong, good or bad. Children in America can even choose their own gender. This is essentially an unbound freedom.

Let us now look briefly at the four authority structures that govern the moral standards.

Parents or family

This is about the education of the child – a process that must be done in harmony by parents, church and school. The mother is currently no longer fulfilling her traditional role as educator of the children due to, among other things, the equality ideology or in other words the emancipation of the woman or because she supposedly has to work due to financial reasons or because she is a single parent and so on. Discipline by the parents and in the schools has been watered down as corporal punishment, the traditional and proven effective method of discipline, is now banned.


Schools are an important role player and part of the community’s role in the education of the child. Discipline and thereby also respect for the teachers has watered down. Religion has been taken out of the schools and if the school desks are shared by children from different cultural groups, whose definitions of right and wrong, good and bad, differ drastically from each other and also differ from what is taught in the parents’ house, it creates confusion the child.

Furthermore, taking into account individual freedom, he can decide for himself what is right and wrong. This confusion continues also at the tertiary level where drink, drugs and free sex are rampant. This conflict between cultural thinking and rules that everyone must accept for the sake of political correctness and no one dares to speak about for the sake of nation building also prevails to a lesser or greater extent in the neighbourhoods, businesses and elsewhere in communities.


All religions are equated in the name of religious freedom and the boundaries between them are broken down. The Christian religion for one is in many churches so watered down and accommodating towards other religions that it has strayed far away from true Christian teaching.

Discipline in the churches simply does not work anymore and is no longer applied at all because members simply leave the church if the pastor or elder would address them, because their individual freedom gives them the right to decide what is right and wrong in them eyes are At government level, the supremacy of God has also been replaced by the supremacy of a very flawed constitution and the Constitutional Court is now the supreme ruler.

The state

I suspect that the modern liberal ideology works positively towards the destruction of the other three authority structures so that in the end only the state is left to make the rules, i.e. the state becomes autocratic. This is a trend in many of the Western countries where the ideology has also progressed further but, unlike in South Africa, law enforcement in those countries is effective, in South Africa the state has also failed in law enforcement (punishment). Nor are laws always acceptable to all cultural groups.

South Africa has thus lost its moral compass because all four of the authority structures that must control the moral compass have watered down or largely failed.

The solution to the problem is not simple, but an important first step will be for parents and more specifically mothers to take the education of their children more seriously and give it a higher priority. The era of obedient parents must be replaced with a return to obedient children with strong moral values. Nor is sport at school more important than Christian, national education.

  • Botha Laubscher is retired executive director of Clover.