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Political landscape to be dominated by ANC elective conference, State capture accountability, civil unrest


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Political landscape to be dominated by ANC elective conference, State capture accountability, civil unrest

A truck burnt during the July 2021 riots
Photo by Reuters
A truck burnt during the July 2021 riots

10th February 2022

By: Donna Slater
Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer


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South Africa’s political economy will be dominated by three key themes this year – the African National Congress’s (ANC’s) elective conference in December, the “long shadow” of the 2021 unrest and a push for accountability regarding State capture and the findings of the Zondo Commission, Standard bank chief economist Goolam Ballim has noted.

Presenting Standard Bank’s Reset Economy 2022 expectations about where the country is heading, he said that, enveloping most of this year’s political landscape, would be the “grudging demise” of the ANC.


“President [Cyril] Ramaphosa’s likely re-election in December, as party leader for a second term, will slow the pace of this descent; but last year’s events, including the July unrest and the local government’s elections, have shown that so-called party renewal will remain elusive,” said Ballim.

Nonetheless, he said Ramaphosa’s likely re-election should, to some extent, anchor the ANC’s political outlook, as well as contain the volatility in sentiment. “It may be that discussions will centre more on who joins Ramaphosa in the ANC’s top six [President, Deputy President, national chairperson, secretary-general, deputy secretary-general and treasurer-general].”


In this regard, Ballim said, reorganising the ANC’s top six is a critical step Ramaphosa must take to achieve “more lasting reform” in his second term. “Here we expect the focus to rest primarily on the positions of Deputy President and the secretary general.”

Regarding the civil unrest, its underlying factors and repercussions, Ballim said the event had opened a new front in the ANC’s internal battle for power, as clear evidence has emerged, linking ANC officials to the violence. “Ramaphosa has openly and frequently argued the attacks represented an assault on the democratic State.”

Further, since July 2021, there have been a series of subsequent suspicious attacks on critical State systems, including the Transnet cyber-attack, evidence of sabotage at Eskom’s Lethabo power station, and more recently the fire at Cape Town’s Parliamentary building and the vandalisation of the Constitutional Court in January.

“It may be that these attacks are not only potentially connected, but that they may be driven by networks within the ANC and the State that are opposed to Ramaphosa’s reform agenda,” suggested Ballim.

The ambition behind these attacks, might be to project Ramaphosa and his administration as “weak and ineffective”, providing a means through which to disrupt his wider political consolidation and chances of re-election as ANC leader later this year, he says.

“Given the threat that such attacks will continue this year as the stakes intensify, [and] considering the ANC’s pending elective conference . . . Ramaphosa’s success this year, and throughout his likely second term, will, to a greater extent, rest on his ability to unshackle himself from the ANC’s decline, and together with his party allies aggressively push the reform agenda,” said Ballim.

Regarding South Africa’s macroeconomic situation and future, Standard Bank does not anticipate any material new initiatives to be announced this year.

Instead, the bank suggests that any reform implementation upside would rely on the processing of reforms that have been in the system for some time, and will “hopefully be pushed through more decisively”, he said.

Going forward, Ballim said Ramaphosa would be challenged by overriding ANC party tensions and in the delivery of reforms that better support economic recovery.

“For instance, [Ramaphosa] will need to evoke some of that uncharacteristic boldness that he displayed in pushing through the 100 MW threshold reform last year.”


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