The Indlulamithi South Africa Scenarios 2035 initiative, which was launched in 2017, has involved conversations about the country’s trajectory and through robust research it has since been able to produce three scenarios to help South Africans think about possible realities.
One predicts that a new government works to end corruption and reduce violent crime, and thereby convinces the world that South Africa is open for business.
The 2035 scenario envisions that the liberal right-of-centre coalition that took power in 2024 alienated citizens with its austerity and repressive crime-fighting tactics, giving way, in 2029, to a fragile populist coalition.
In this scenario, in 2026, economic growth increased substantially owing to a number of structural reforms in the 2020s.
“…but people didn’t see the benefit of economic growth; you can talk about 5% economic growth but if it does not improve employment and doesn’t improve social delivery, it means nothing. South Africans became gatvol.”
The scenario further suggests that the new coalition government embraced an authoritarian populism at odds with the Constitution, lashing out at critics and journalists, denigrating migrants, and seemingly working with criminal syndicates.
It highlights that the spoils of office and the budgets of State-owned enterprises were carved up and served to the connected.
“Those able to do so increasingly decamp to South Africa’s booming neighbouring countries or further afield for opportunities unavailable at home. Those who remain, hustle more than ever, and contend with broken public health facilities, contaminated water supplies, and rickety infrastructure,” the scenario said.
Presenting the scenarios, Johannesburg-based Afro-Middle East Centre executive director Na'eem Jeenah, explained that in another of the scenarios, in the mid-2020s, South Africans were frustrated by weak government, slow economic growth and lack of improved services.
He said defiant South Africans, civil society and community groups launched a protest movement against inequality, poverty and lack of services. Alliances were forged across social divides, race and class.
He added that artists, too, got involved, giving new life to the creative industries, placing huge pressure on government and business to respond to people’s demands. There was a fresh sense of active citizenship and constitutionalism, he said.
“A wobbly coalition took power on the basis of ‘listening to the people’. By building cooperative structures between government, civil society and the private sector, the ‘Concord Compromise’ government relentlessly focused on service delivery, dealing with poverty and inequality, driving down crime, improving education, and shoring up South Africa’s core infrastructure,” the scenarios highlighted.
Jeenah said that the new spirit and genuine political competition raised the political game, with South Africans feeling confident they were extending real and recallable mandates to those they voted for.
After the 2034 election, three major parties sign elaborate ‘Concord’ agreements that became the basis for a stable and focused government.
Jeenah explained that despite its poor governing record, the coalition was re-elected in 2034, gaining from the lowest-ever voter turnout in a national election. He added that the government used its incumbency to reward core followers, close democratic space, and harass opposition parties and non-governmental organisations.
Organised crime syndicates seize the initiative from an increasingly disorganised and corrupt State and the country’s official unemployment rates exceed 43% and youth unemployment soars above 60%.
The scenarios also suggested that the 'Concord' parties will likely win the majority of councils and metros in the 2036 local election.
ECONOMY AND ENERGY
Another scenario highlighted that in 2024 government shored up Eskom and accelerated private provision of power. Government allowed municipalities and companies to generate 200 MW per entity and feed into the national grid; demand became more manageable.
Jeenah highlighted that South Africa closed Kendal, Lethabo and Matimba coal stations early, in 2034. And Tutuka in 2035. The more efficient Kusile and Medupi power stations are operational and equipped to mitigate atmospheric damage. Both are scheduled for 2060 closure, he said.
“With private sector help, Transnet’s free-fall was arrested through recapitalising freight routes. Steep drops in crime since 2030 eased tourist fears and tourism and related industries increased gross domestic product contribution to 4.5%, adding 1-million jobs,” he averred.