“The mining strikes are not such a problem for us. What is much worse is the Oscar Pistorius murder trial and the Nkandla story, because where South Africa’s reputation is most vulnerable is in the area of safety and efficient governance,” Dominik Heil, managing director of the Reputation Institute South Africa, told CNBC Africa.
“The government is not being seen favourably, and we are cementing those two perceptions around the world, and that’s where our reputation is most vulnerable. We’re seeing that the big stories now hit straight into that curb.”
South Africa has been under the international microscope since early March, due to the start of the Paralympian Oscar Pistorius murder trial. Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in February 2013, and the story has since peaked local and international interest.
(WATCH VIDEO: Current global view of S.Africa)
More recently, a report by the country’s public protector Thuli Madonsela, which investigated upgrades done at President Jacob Zuma’s homestead in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, threw more attention to the country.
The president’s homestead had been under investigation after it had been discovered that a hefty amount of public funds had been used to build Zuma’s private home.
(READ MORE: S.Africa’s Zuma slammed for $23 mln home makeover)
Heil added that the outside perspective of South Africa is different from the inside perspective of its countrymen, as concerns vary depending on a macro and microeconomic level.
“If you’re in South Africa and you feel like the government’s not looking after you – there’s no security, you don’t feel safe – it affects you personally, and therefore you’re much more affected by those things. People in South Africa are losing their emotional bond with their own country fast,” he said.
A country's reputation can be worth billions of dollars, and is a key component in the survival of its tourism, trade and investment inflows.
“We should actually not see Nkandla as a 200 million rand problem, it’s a multi-billion rand problem for the country. [The president] would know that, and that makes it even worse. In any normal democracy, if you have this multi-institutional meltdown that we’re seeing, there would be no question that this government would no longer be in place today, given yesterday’s news [of the Nkandla report],” Heil explained.
He added that South Africa’s government was failing to hold itself accountable to basic democratic standards, but the hope was that the coming elections will address the failures through the voting process.
“People really need to make up their minds on who should take the country forward. I think that it is now entirely unacceptable for any South African not to go to vote, because this matters now. If you’re not voting, you cannot say ‘I’m a patriot, I am here for South Africa.’ Not to vote is entirely irresponsible.”