The Republic of South Africa (RSA) is rightfully considered to be one of the most economically advanced countries on the ‘dark continent’. The state is also considered ‘by default’ to be one of the most democratic in Africa. However, it does not mean there are no serious problems in the country that threaten its socio-political and economic stability. The African National Congress (ANC) is being torn apart by factional rivalries. The lack of necessary investments hinders the economy growth. A number of large state-owned enterprises is on the verge of bankruptcy. The country’s energetic system is in crisis. The anticipated land expropriation from the white farmers without compensation breeds conflict. At the same time, the corruption scandals undermine the credibility of the ruling elite.
The main conflicts within the ANC:
– Divergent positions regarding the mandate of the South African Reserve Bank (the RSA’s central bank). The ANC’s left wing demanded to expand the functions of the bank by assigning it the responsibility for economic growth achievement. A transition to quantitative easing policy was also expected from the central bank. The Secretary General of the ANC, Ace Magashule, supported this position. ANC’s and RSA’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa, along with the Chairperson of the ANC’s Economic Transformation Commission, Enoch Godongwana, opposed the proposition;
– Tony Yengeni, the ANC’s National Executive Committee member and also the chairperson of the ANC’s crime and corruption committee, published an article in weekly newspaper The Mercury calling on to banish from the party the officials trying to establish complete control over the party structures by means of corruption. Although Yengeni did not mention any names, he accused the party officials actively engaged in business of attempts to usurp the power in the ANC by systematically bribing the decision makers. According to him, the corrupt cadres blatantly ignore the party conference decisions. Yengeni called for a thorough large-scale investigation to reveal the ‘real sponsors and buyers’ of the ANC’s units. He released this statement soon after the party’s anti-corruption commission had declared there was no evidence supporting the accusation of David Mabuza, the Deputy President of South Africa and Deputy President of the ANC. The media and civic activists accuse Mabuza of being responsible not only for the widespread corruption but also for the organisation of about 20 political assassinations.
The main areas of concern on the domestic agenda of the RSA:
– Load-shedding and the energy monopoly Eskom default threat. The total company debt has reached $30 billion. In the beginning of 2019, massive power cuts took place all over the country, affecting even the mines and other industrial enterprises. Many experts explain the decline in the RSA’s GDP by 3.2% in the first quarter of 2019 as a direct result of these blackouts. The risk of further load-shedding remains relevant up to these days. For instance, on June 9, 2019, a complete power shutdown was discussed for the municipality of Moоi-Mopfana. The government has come up with a programme to prevent Eskom default by funding it from the budget. During 2019-2022 alone, the company is to get assistance of $5 billion. In public opinion, the dominant point of view suggests that the debt resulted from the corruption within the monopoly and the company’s inefficient leadership;
– The tariff increases and the rise in food prices in 2018-2019. As of July 1, 2019, the water tariffs should increase by 15%, the electricity tariffs – by 13% (the latter is subject to approval of the national regulator of electricity market). The price of basic food items has risen significantly: the cost of rice and brown bread increased by 6%, sugar – 11%, bananas – 14%, tea – 17%;
– Large state-owned companies like the air carrier South African Airways and the South African Broadcasting Corporation face a risk of bankruptcy;
– The possibility of land expropriation from the Afrikaners without compensation. On the eve of the parliamentary elections 2019, the ANC leaders promised to expropriate the land from the white farmers without compensation. However, this reform has not been implemented yet. In some areas, numerous clashes between the farm owners and the black radicals take place. The latest incident was registered in Ugu District Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal, in which a farm owner had been injured and hospitalised. The radical position supported by a number of media persons has played a catalytic role in this conflict. Zindzi Mandela, the daughter of Nelson Mandela and the South African Ambassador to Denmark, called Afrikaners in her Twitter posts ‘cowards’, ‘rapists’, and ‘shivering land thieves.’ South Africa’s International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor refused to fire Zindzi Mandela over these posts stating that she had been acting like an ambassador and had complied with the government’s code of conduct for social media. This is how the leader of the far-left party Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Julius Malema, commented on the situation around the ‘land question’, “We are not calling for the slaughtering of white people – at least for now.”
– Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane filed charges against Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan. He is accused of participating in the formation of an investigating unit at the South African Revenue Service (SARS) designed to allegedly gather intelligence on the financial operations of the high-ranking officials. Gordhan is expected to go to court soon to block the possible sanctions by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
There is no secret that the political system of the RSA is in crisis. However, the latest events have highlighted how limited the effect of Cyril Ramaphosa’s attempts to stabilise the situation in the country is. The ANC managed to keep the majority of seats in the Parliament, even with the lowest electoral support for the last 25 years. Yet a spectrum of economic problems remains unsolved. In addition to that, there is no consensus within the party on how these problems should be tackled. The emerging division is only increased by the anti-corruption campaign, obviously exploited by some members as a tool to occupy the commanding heights in the party structure.