Analysis  >  Friday Briefing: The coming chaos

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Taking our collective eye off the ball

During the campaign for the US presidency in 1991 and 1992, then Democratic candidate Bill Clinton was able to woo an electorate not negatively disposed towards the incumbent – George HW Bush – by making the election about a struggling economy. Clinton's catchphrase became "It's about the economy, stupid" and propelled him to a famous victory.

Why? Because in the end it's always about the economy.

Except in this country.

Here we're way to focused on who is fighting whom in the ANC, which faction is in the ascendancy and how long will some or other deployee last. Recently the soap opera that passes for South African politics became even more self-involved, with the continuing battle between Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and what seems like everyone else, and the drama about who gave money to President Cyril Ramaphosa's campaign for the ANC's leadership.

What we should be focusing on – and what we should make noise about – is the economy. Growth is tepid, unemployment stubbornly high and disillusionment real. We're increasingly hearing murmurings of a bail-out by the International Monetary Fund, and even though it's not imminent, we need to change the national debate, argues Mcebisi Jonas. Daniel Silke identifies five pressure points that could trip up the ANC and, consequently, the country and academic Derek Yu takes a critical look at the jobs economy.


Pieter du Toit

Pieter du Toit

It's becoming common cause, but South Africa cannot afford to delay making the big decisions any longer. But, Mcebisi Jonas, who was fired as deputy minister of finance by then president Jacob Zuma during the height of state capture, says it's too early to judge President Cyril Ramaphosa.


Financial data analysis graph over world map. Hori

5 crucial tests for the ANC that could make or break us – including the economy

Daniel Silke

Dealing with the economy and its rescue is a potential risk for Ramaphosa – but also an opportunity to boost support if adequate corrective measures are implemented. Still, battle lines over land and the NHI will pry open broader divisions within not only South African society but also internally within the ANC as the reality of the state's spending capacity and its attractiveness to the outside world clash with the dictates of previous ANC policy outcomes.


South Africa is notorious for its persistently high unemployment but slow job creation rate. Numerous government economic growth strategies (RDP, AsgiSA, New Growth Path and National Development Plan) set explicit quantitative employment goals over the years. However, having a job entails much more than merely not being unemployed, as there are "good" and "bad" jobs, and one must ensure a basic living standard is met.


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