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African Briefs

Africa Brief                                                                             23 October 2016

Three SA Themes     

by Cees Bruggemans and Prof Willie Esterhuyse                   words 950

SA politics and her economy face three major options in the weeks, months (years?) ahead. None of them palatable but presumably realistic, but varying in intensity from the mild to the extreme. Which of these futures await us?

There is the option of continuing (for the time being, until the 2017 leadership contest) with our present unstable condition, in which the Zuma regime has all the cards (buttons to push), yet refrains from a cabinet reshuffle and dumping of finance minister Gordhan (thus not proceeding to final complete state capture). It is a scenario in which Zuma has the power but could be uneasy about what is arraigned against him inside his party, not particular visible on the outside, but strong enough to protect Treasury and the disciplines some of us cherish.

Africa Brief                                                                             16 October 2016

Our radicalising prospect     

by Cees Bruggemans                    words 1430

The world will probably be saved from a Trump presidency, though Britain won't be from a hard Brexit. As to SA, we have a whole gauntlet steadily shaping that promises more rather than less radicalisation, unless miracles intervene.

There is a portion of our urban middle class which would prefer to get on with their lives within established Rainbow rules. But there is apparently also another portion of our urban population that would like nothing more than overthrow the existing order and radically change our context. One does not need to search for Third Forces to drive such transformation. It is really much simpler than that, tied up with deepest historic pain and frustration accumulated over generations.

Africa Brief                                                                             9 October 2016

Two quite different SA tales 

By Cees Bruggemans              Words 1200

Instead of the usual one article, may I offer you today two-in-one. It is that kind of reality out there. Different tales requiring equal attention.

Africa Brief                                                                             2 October 2016

The warring government     

by Cees Bruggemans                    words 550

Most governments try to serve the national interest, but as we have discovered in recent months, we have a government at war with itself. And nothing done about it either. Just letting it carry on, as the most natural thing to be happening.

The main battle front appears to be Treasury, and the areas trying to change things, meaning SARS. There seems to be a standoff in progress, with no indication of the stand of scoring, and whose winning. Instead, this vagueness, letting things hang in the air, indefinitely.

Africa Brief                                                                           18 September 2016

Time to take SA inventory     

by Cees Bruggemans and Prof Willie Esterhuyse                   words 1230

Our domestic politics are so fluid, and convoluted, that we can think of various scenarios that make sense when seen on their own, internally consistent and at least up to a point plausible in their own right. But we know too little about inner machinations, especially within the leading party, to formulate a firm view as to which way these forces will tip and set us on our way post-Zuma.

One does sense, though, that within all this fluidity there are tipping points that favour different directions. The challenge is to absorb the politics, the dynamics, and suggest which tipping point might be the real one, eventually, among all the feinting, the stealth, the false information, the polite withholding, the patience, the sabre rattling, and a thousand more such poses and most of us having no clue which is the real thing to keep in focus as we trail through the maze.

Africa Brief                                                                         11 September 2016

Looking through SA Stealth     

by Cees Bruggemans                   words 880

When nobody is being straightforward, it is a challenge to appreciate where we are, never mind where we are going. Of course, in politics anyone is rarely clear about their intentions. Be it personal, business or state.

Our South African condition at present, however, offers a few peculiarities not usually encountered. Most of us tend to operate according to certain broadly understood rules of engagement. Such as for a government that includes doing everything in its power to promote the common good, pursue the national interest. When such collectives are replaced with narrow personal aims (me, myself & I), something has deeply changed in the country at large.

Africa Brief                                                                             28 August 2016

Era of Practical Politics     

by Cees Bruggemans and Prof Willie Esterhuyse                   words 1350

The old modern Era of fully inclusive democracy, basically a short interim, started in 1994 and ended in 2004, at which point the ANC hegemony reached its high tide – 69% of the electorate voted in its favour. After that, already some erosion, but the freefall came only with the rise, spreading and tentackling of Zuma, terminating in a 54% local election vote four weeks ago. A shocking rapid demise for a party once thought invincible.

Simultaneously, the old liberal cause, from humble beginnings that had also confronted a previous generation of Nationalists, and had been part of their demise story, kept on marching, transforming itself into an ever broader spread of race and political interests from its Cape base as the DA. Beyond these two majors there was more fragmentation and yeasting, focused on IFP, UDM, Cope, FF+ and many others. And since 2014 the EFF.

Africa Brief                                                                             21 August 2016

The Waning Years     

by Cees Bruggemans                   words 850

The ANC’s reality of governing a modern country started in 1994. Choices then made, with course corrections along the way, would in time contribute to future outcomes, either favourably or unfavourably reflecting on the party. Its political longevity would depend on its ability to address the complexities facing it, and the evolving nature of the democratic electorate.

Fast forward 22 years, and it shows a few good things were done & accomplished but also that a few things were not done the right way, given the many gaps opening up between a demanding electorate and her government, setting in motion a slow political unraveling. Have we entered the waning years of ANC governing, with what kind of consequences?

Africa Brief                                                                             18 August 2016

New SA political challenges   

by Cees Bruggemans                    words 900

These are interesting political (economic) choices. The ANC preferring purest collective responsibility (nobody falling on his own knife in case of outright failure). The DA wanting to be able showcase delivery in many more key places (but as yet too weak to do so decisively?). The EFF on its mission to confront both majors with its own radical agenda – rooting out corruption, addressing incompetence, but also apparently intend on upending the western institutional foundation of our society (such as capitalistic property rights, instead focused on poverty relief as a major forced-redistribution mission rather than offering a growth model?).

And so we embark on yet another journey confronting our many unresolved inner differences. Instead of smoothing over the deep ideological cleavages, seeking pragmatic compromise shortcuts to a better life for all, learning from each other as we go, the knife of discontent may have to go in deeper with yet another twist. This will lead in time to new political choices. But the journey could be costly.

Africa Brief                                                                             14 August 2016

Weighing Coalition pro/cons     

by Cees Bruggemans                   words 1500

The local elections ten days ago send loud signals to all but the stone deaf, of which there remain many. Compared to previous national jousts, many walked away from the ANC, NFP or Cope, many of whom elected then to vote DA, EFF or IFP. Or stayed away in disgust.

But in 27 municipalities (10% of the total!), including four major metros, it resulted in hung councils, with no single party gaining a winning outright majority, and either coalition or minority governing to be the outcome. Coming days will be a hotbed of dealmaking. Which way will it go, with what possible results? All permutations cannot be imagined, for which reason scope for big surprise (and outright denial until it happens).

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