Pongola - January 7 2016 could hardly have been worse in this thunderously beautiful, water-parched, and economically reeling nation of 53 million residents at the bottom of Africa.
The rand slid in value to its lowest level ever and is now worth barely more than 6 US cents. The business confidence index fell to its worst-ever rating. National meteorologists projected that a deep drought, already a year old, would persist until the end of 2016.
Agronomists said that grain harvests were likely to be half the normal total. Layoffs in the farm sector caused by moisture scarcity and unplanted fields lifted the country's persistent joblessness to more than 35%. Thermometers in Pretoria reached a sun-blistered peak of 41.5 degrees Celsius, the highest ever recorded.