Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

The political, economic and social state of affairs in South Africa

Article from AFRIC Editorial
For over some years now, South Africa which has been considered an exemplary nation as far as democracy in Africa is concerned but today it is facing a dire economic, political and social climate. The country which is recovering from the ruins of Apartheid is still hit by sporadic violence and xenophobic attacks amidst efforts to improve economic growth. Many blamed former president Jacob Zuma for the dilemma the country is experiencing, but with the election of a new president, nothing seems to have changed.

However, it will not be completely fair to say that the new government is making no efforts to overcome these issues. But concerns have been raised over the effectiveness of the actions put in place towards solving the major problems plaguing the country.

The upsurge of violence and crime are some of the issues South Africa is yet to adequately deal with coupled with the fact that the government is far from achieving its goal which is to guarantee the free public service to all South Africans and to improve the employment rate. This is not a new issue because the frequency of crime has long been one of South Africa’s major challenges.

It is sad to note that years after a new president took over the country, economic growth is still stagnant, the high rate of unemployment persists and crime and insecurity are still very much alarming. The prevailing situation in the country is evidence of the popular opinion that Ramaphosa has inherited the predicaments brought about by Zuma’s 9 years rule.

However, Ramaphosa has attempted to fix the mess he inherited after he overhauled the South African Revenue Service (SARS) to help overturn declining tax returns to improve growth prospects.

Unstable political atmosphere

The political scenario in South Africa is facing a quagmire as almost all parties are being hit by severe challenges. While the ANC is battling corruption allegations and the need to meet the demands of the nation, the Economic Freedom Fighters, EFF as well as the Democratic Alliance, DA, are having a tough time managing the internal crisis.

The ANC still has challenges dealing with Zuma’s allies within the party who are constantly undermining the authority of the president and acting contrary to party and government policy.

Meanwhile, although the EFF managed to increase their share in parliament from 6% to about 10%, in the May 2019 elections, the party lead by Julius Malema is dangling with its share of the problems which many fear will cause cracks within the party. While the EFF is preparing for its second Elective Conference which will take place from December 13 to 16, there are internal tensions that could be tearing the party apart.

Several sources have been quick to identify the development of factions within the EFF. According to reports by the City Press, those who are a part of the “The Amapiano” group are clamoring for more democratic procedures and the need for members to have a say in deciding who runs the affairs of the party. Contrarily, others who identify themselves with The Amatorokisi remain loyal to Malema.

The president of the party Julius Malema revealed that he may face a challenge to his leadership during the upcoming elective conference in December. Hence, Malema has to look for means to secure his leadership position in the party, if not he could be voted out sooner than he expected. Furthermore, the party which fought against corrupt politicians in the country now has corruption charges hanging over them.

However, the EFF is not the only party dealing with internal squabbles as the Democratic Alliance has also been hit in the past months. The height of issues the DA had to deal with was the resignation Mmusi Maimane in October 2019 from the party. In his resignation speech, Maimane stated that because the DA has been seen as a party mainly for minorities, the majority of mostly black South Africans do not relate to the DA and have problems trusting the DA. His resignation was followed by that of Athol Trollip, the DA federal chair.

Equally, after the appointment of Helen Zille as the new chairperson of the party’s federal council in October 2019, many considered this a blow to Maimane especially as Zille was part of those who were very critical of Maimane’s leadership. The DA has also had to deal with the resignation of Herman Mashaba, the mayor of Johannesburg who criticized the party over racial inequality. However, reports indicate that his resignation was triggered by the appointment of Helen Zille.

South Africa’s economy stagnates

Reports indicate that South Africa is still struggling with its growth and reforms as the country’s debt to GDP grows and state-owned entities remain in shambles. This is contrary to the hopes that the election of Cyril Ramaphosa will make things work positively for the country.

According to the International Monetary Fund, IMF, South Africa’s economy today is still plagued by several challenges including weak growth, a deteriorating fiscal situation, and difficulties in the functioning of state enterprises. The IMF which visited South Africa early November 2019 to discuss economic and financial developments in the country as part of its bi-annual surveillance function, called on the government to create an environment that is suitable for investment.

This request was made after the growth forecast of the country was downgraded to just 0.5% for this year, which is far lower than the 1.5% projection that was made in February.

The slow growth the country is experiencing is having a damaging effect on tax revenue, which is now projected to be about 250 billion rands, which falls short of what was forecast in the 2019 budget. It has also been reported that the government’s continuous support to state-owned enterprises like Eskom, which is the power utility is causing the government to exceed its expenditure this year.

Recently, Cyril Ramaphosa decried the lack of transformation at the highest levels of the private sector. Ramaphosa cited the fact that management heads in most private companies are still highly dominated by white men. He noted that Africans only make up 15% of top management, although they constitute about 79% of the active population.

Thulas Nxesi, South Africa’s Labour and Employment Minister had earlier indicated in August 2019 that 20 years ago after the putting in place of the Employment Equity Act, there has been little change in the top management of the private sector.

Ramaphosa has however noted that although South Africa’s growth is happening at a slow pace which is now a concern to many, the government is laying out concrete plans to deal with major challenges the country is facing as well as laying down a solid foundation for the next few years and beyond. He reiterated that there are no shortcuts to solving the problems in the country, hence, the government has to ensure that things are properly done.

Social tensions increases in SA

Data provided by the South African Police Service (SAPS) crime statistics and the Victims of Crime Survey (VOCS) revealed that the levels of violence have remained very high in the country.

More concretely, information made available by the National crime statistics indicates that 18 673 murder cases were reported between April 2015 and March 2016, with 18 127 attempted murders. They went further to note that about 14 thousand carjackings, 51 thousand sexual offenses, 132 thousand robberies, and aggravated circumstances, and more than a quarter of a million drug-related crimes were committed and reported in South Africa in the same year.

The country continues to face social unrest with the rate of xenophobic attacks increasing. These riots have been ongoing for several years with severe material and property damages. These attacks which date back to 1995 when immigrants from Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique who were based in Alexandra Township were seriously assaulted for several weeks, have continued to resurface years after.

Statistics indicate that between 2000 and 2008, about 67 people had lost their lives in such attacks. Other attacks were reported in May 2008, which killed 62 persons and an equal number in 2015. Foreign governments were forced to send home some of their citizens due to another outbreak.

In February 2017, South Africans officially staged an anti-immigrant protest in Pretoria. In a petition handed to government representatives, immigrants were accused of taking jobs from South Africans and causing crimes in the country. Even though some protesters were arrested during the march which took place, it did not deter them from their anti-immigrant activities.

The most recent xenophobic riots which broke out in 2019 in Sydenham, Jadhu Place and Overport areas of Durban forced several persons to seek shelter in a local police station and mosque. It was followed by the Johannesburg attack in September 2019 during which several businesses owned by Africans were destroyed. Due to the damaging consequences, over 640 Nigerians opted to return to their country with the free flights provided for by their government.

This only proves that South Africa is still in a dire situation and the efforts made by the government so far are not adequately resolving the major issues plaguing the country. To put an end to the continuous violence in the country, there has been a call for collaboration among experts drawn from the government as well as civil society.

It can be noted that since after his election, Cyril Ramaphosa is fighting hard to stabilize public finances and increase economic growth. The challenges Ramaphosa’s government is facing today is evidence of the fact that South Africa is still suffering from the damaging effects of Zuma’s leadership and may continue for a long time. Although he seems to have done well in rolling back state capture in various key institutions and solidifying his political position, more work needs to be done to bring about the much-expected change in the country.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Photo credit : google image/illustration

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