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WHEN Nelson Mandela died, he sadly left behind a country plagued by economic instability.

While much has been made of South Africa's violent society, inherited from the unfair apartheid system Mandela helped topple and compounded by immigration from poor neighbouring African nations, the economic indicators are just as dire.

A quarter of the South African population actively looking for a job cannot find work.

Last financial year alone foreign direct investment into South Africa plummeted 24 per cent, according to the Financial Times, while investment into Africa during the same period rose 5 per cent.

Department of Foreign Affairs data shows Australia's total trade with South Africa has dropped 11 per cent in the latest year-on-year figures.

South African President Jacob Zuma had the job of confirming to the world that Mandela was dead. While doing this, Zuma would have reminded many listeners and viewers about South Africa's continuing struggle to turn its fortunes around.

Zuma has been a president plagued by controversy.

Just days ago, according to reputable publications in Britain, Zuma was told to repay a decent part of $21 million of taxpayers' money that he spent on so-called security upgrades to his private home.

The ''security upgrades'' were, at first, justified as being necessary for a head of state, but a leaked report apparently written by South Africa's national ombudsman - called the public protector - says many of them had nothing to do with security.

These included a swimming pool (the Department of Public Works said it was a ''fire pool'' needed to double as a water reservoir in case of a fire, even though photos show the property had a large water reservoir already).

Other security measures reportedly included a visitors' centre, cattle kraal, amphitheatre and paving and new houses for relocated relatives. All this in a country where the life expectancy is 55 years, according to World Bank 2011 figures.

Not surprisingly, thousands of South Africans have called for Zuma's impeachment via social media.

In past years, Zuma has been acquitted of rape and had corruption charges against him dropped.

Headlines about such matters are distracting for a country that needs to do a lot to get back on track. If South Africa wants to become a stable and safe African nation, it should look at fixing the economy and start by harshly assessing the spending of its government officials.