Change is coming: Alarming projections on economics, violence and the ANC

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South Africa is on an alarming downward spiral, and the current violent protests could be a serious issue leading up to the August 3 elections.

This was the view of researchers at a seminar hosted by the Institute for Security Studies – Violence, economics and the future of the ANC – in Pretoria today.

Researchers Jakkie Cilliers and Ciara Aucoin described and forecast three pathways to South Africa’s future in two new papers – a desirable Mandela Magic high road, an uninspiring but most probable Bafana Bafana scenario, and an alarming downward spiral called Nation Divided.

Public protests and violence levels are on the rise, mainly caused by economic pressure and poor service delivery.

“Protests have become a part of daily life, increasing markedly since 2010,” said Aucoin.

“What’s worrying is the growing number of them that are turning violent.”

Analysts raised concerns about structural inequality and the ruling party’s incredibility and said that the country’s growing violence might or might not be a serious issue in the August election.

“Election violence does not have deep roots in South Africa,” said Aucoin.

There was a significant drop – from two thirds in 2011 to one third – of South Africans who trust the current president and a decline in trust of public institutions over time, Afrobarometer 2015 survey results indicated.

“South Africans clearly want change,” said Aucoin.

“Elections have up to now been the main avenue for bringing about change in South Africa. The test is whether the ANC can provide the leadership to ensure this remains the case.”

ANC’s division of “conservatives’ and “reformers”, brought by the power struggle, might soon place South Africa into a political revolution.

“These internal dynamics are arguably more important to watch than the dynamics between the ANC and opposition parties,” said Cilliers.

During the local government elections in August this year, and then in the 2019 and 2024 national elections, the public confidence would probably continue to erode.

“The upcoming local elections in August will tell us what to expect when the ANC elects its new president in 2017,” said Cilliers.

“Our most likely outcome sees the ANC lose its majority in Gauteng in 2019, with a probable loss of the province to the Democratic Alliance in 2024, the year that sees ANC votes dip below a national majority.”

But all is not lost.

“South Africa has no choice but to build an inclusive economy that deals with our historical legacy issues,” said Cilliers.

“This should be the primary focus of the government. But at the same time, we need to invest in a knowledge economy to spur much more rapid rates of growth – something that the current model of a developmental state cannot deliver since it requires a close partnership with the private sector.”

They added that progress would come from increased investment in the country’s technological innovation capacity and a reformed set of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment policies that allow for more targeted approaches to structural disadvantage.

Due to the instability of South African leadership, its economy is at high risk – on the downward curve for the future, said researchers.

Unified commitment to see change was the only solution to improve the country’s current state.

South Africa is imbalanced, where wealth and extreme spending co-exist with unemployment and inexorable poverty.

Relegation to the sub-investments position was likely by 2017 due to the progressive weak economic growth and government departments that were unable to deliver, the researchers said.

“This is enough of a challenge for any government,” said Cilliers, head of African futures and innovation at the institute.

“Corruption and patronage at the top have made tackling inequality almost impossible. And that’s before we factor in the policy incoherence and lack of leadership from the ruling party.”
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