Eva Nolle, Security Consultant
Eva Nolle is a risk and security consultant with a focus on the African continent and is Board-certified in security management. As a Senior Analyst for a German risk management firm focusing on the Middle East and Africa, she enabled businesses to gain a better understanding of the potential risks. Further, she was the Operations Manager for a pan-African corporate intelligence company in South Africa and trained employees of various companies as well as journalists for the deployment to high risk counties. Drawing on her own practical experience through project work in many of the countries, she assists corporate entities in conducting business with confidence on the African continent.
How South Africa’s upcoming ANC electoral conference might spur political protest
Since the end of Apartheid in 1994, the African National Congress (ANC) has been the ruling party in South Africa. Due to the parliamentary system, the majority party in the National Assembly traditionally elects its President as President of the Republic. President Jacob Zuma, who came into power in 2009, is constitutionally barred from running for a third presidential term. Ahead of the 2019 General Elections, the race for power within the ANC and ultimately the country has therefore begun.
In December of 2017, the ANC will hold its conference to not only elect the President but the so-called Top Six who are responsible for running the day-to-day business of the party. Prime candidates for the presidential position are former businessman and current Vice-President Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who not only held various ministerial positions since the 1990s but was the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission since July 2012. In this struggle for power, the internal rift of the ANC deepens.
Despite being surrounded by many controversies himself, Ramaphosa, who has recently distanced himself from the President, is basing his campaign on a judicial enquiry into State Capture. Since late 2015, more allegations have surfaced surrounding a corrupt relationship between President Zuma and a wealthy business family, the Guptas. The opposition parties first made claim of State Capture when information surfaced that the Guptas had offered ministerial positions and were influencing the running of government. Although Jacob Zuma has since withstood yet another vote of confidence, more ANC politicians are accusing the President of bringing their party into disrepute and are asking the President to step down. Whilst these party members are likely to vote for Ramaphosa during the December conference, the more probable winner is Dlamini-Zuma who is basing her campaign around radical economic transformation of the country.
Radical economic transformation is a key strategy decided on by the ANC to reindustrialise the country’s economy and further emphasise black ownership. Although being a plan decided on in 2012, it is yet to be backed up by defined policies and a stringent course of action.
For the past few years, South Africa’s economy has faced a downward trend. The growth rate of 1.3% predicted for the year in February 2017, had to be reduced to 0.7% by October. The projected growth rates for the years to come are not sufficient to create enough jobs for the ever-increasing population, so the unemployment rates will rise. The government does not have adequate plans to counteract this development and would need immense foreign direct investments (FDI). However, corruption allegations against the President, political instability, unpopular economic decisions and a surge in crime, has shaken investor confidence. Since April 2017 the country has been downgraded to junk status by two of the three leading credit rating agencies. Many investors are now erring on the side of caution, withdrawing funds or refraining from committing more investments. Some are barred from conducting business with a country in junk status all together. The newest forecasts of economic growth of 1.1% and 1.5% for 2018 and 2019 respectively, make a further downgrade by the last agency a matter of when rather than if.
Although an economic change is needed, Dlamini-Zuma’s approach is running the risk of further discouraging investments into the country. In line with the Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) strategy, Dlamini-Zuma wants to focus on reducing the inequalities between the black and white population of the country. Despite the end of Apartheid over 20 years ago, a majority of black people are still in weaker economic positions than white people. Whilst there is certainly a need to empower the poor, a free market economy is founded on the awarding of contracts and employment based on competitiveness rather than demographics. In the run-up to the ANC conference in December, Dlamini-Zuma made it clear that her aim is to transfer the wealth from “the white minority to the black majority”. Although this has been the aim of government policies for many years, such radical statements within the current economic situation will have a negative impact and aggravate – already high – racial tensions.
Not only are South African businesses discouraged from pursuing opportunities, but it will be more difficult for foreign companies to operate in-country which would further negatively impact the country’s economy and not result in the desired effect. The outcome can be questioned further, when probing the motives of Dlamini-Zuma.
The ex-wife of Jacob Zuma has herself been implicated in the scandal evolving around State Capture and receiving illicit funds from the Gupta family. In light of the allegations against the Gupta family and President Zuma becoming more severe, the patronage for his ex-wife as his successor appears to be an attempt to obfuscate the controversies surrounding his Presidency. With his second term running out and public pressure rising, Zuma seems to prepare for his departure by ensuring that deals lucrative to him are being pushed through before the change in power and to secure his own future rather than the country’s.
In the face of a corrupt regime being handed over to a successor that will continue the legacy, the country will more than likely face further economic downturn. In an environment where the government and its leaders do not stand up for their citizens, the population is increasingly likely to rise in protest. More and more South Africans are starting to voice their discontent about the political and economic situation in the country. Some of the protests have turned violent. If the ruling party fails to rally behind their citizens and stands up for change at the upcoming December conference, South Africa will likely see a rise in political protests.
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