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African Briefs

Africa Brief                                                                             9 August 2016

The Traditionalist Citadel     

by Cees Bruggemans                    words 850

There was never anything particularly complicated about President Zuma, the man. Apparently personally very charming, his preferences have been widely on display for many years, for which reason the description ‘traditionalist’ appears most fitting of his style, longings and values.

But whereas his was a traditionalism that for long needed to be shared by others perhaps less so inclined, where he found himself ultimately constrained to some degree, this election outcome will allow him shortly to shed some of these many obstructing factions (in a cabinet reshuffle) and thereby sharpen his political base. It may create opportunity for him to shape a much narrower own brand of traditionalism.

Africa Brief                                                                             7 August 2016

The Long Fuse     

by Cees Bruggemans                   words 780

SA has had by now some 150 years of attempts at modern (meaning western-type) self-government. Starting in the Cape Colony under British tutelage, through two independent Boer Republics subsequently absorbed following a devastating colonial war, to Union in1910 for the first time within our present geographic confines, to independent Republic in 1960, and to fully inclusive Democracy in 1994.

This has been a slow, long fuse. Remarkable for what it achieved, and even more clearly for what it didn't, forever handing to the next generation unfinished business crying out for resolution, yet being denied easy, timely comprehensive breakthroughs. And none more so than today, still struggling often desperately to recast the latest mould started in 1994.

Africa Brief                                                                                   3 August 2016

SA Struggle Economics 101    

by Cees Bruggemans                 words 1230

Do you also have difficulty in reconciling everything you hear, smell, see & read? That supposedly we are aiming to eradicate unemployment, poverty & inequality but are ending up force-feeding political and labour elites while displaying some of the oddest behaviour imaginable, with half our society remaining marooned as dirt-poor chance-less outsiders.

How does one reconcile the professed aims and sinful reality beyond blaming distant forefathers indefinitely? Is there logic to these outcomes? There certainly is, though clearly not western-inspired economics 101, as I have by now been told a few times too many. What we have is “struggle economics 101”, which you won't find in global text books, but may encounter on a slim Nkandla bookshelf, lodged tightly among a few struggle manifestos.

Africa Brief                                                                             24 July 2016

Pre-election meditations     

by Cees Bruggemans and Prof Willie Esterhuyse                   words 1150

Only 10 days from now, SA will be heading back to the polls, if only for local elections. Still, there is a lively expectation in the air. Is our politics shifting or more static than we ever imagined? If it is shifting, with what consequences, especially in some of the major metropolitan areas such as Nelson Mandela Bay (PE), Tswane (Pretoria) and Johannesburg where the long prevailing ANC hegemony appears to be in some doubt.

We generally hear that we have a very successful democracy, considering the loud and widespread protest about failing government affairs and politicians. And yet this is a misnomer. If we had a well-functioning democracy, any political shortcomings would be efficiently addressed through appropriate channels. The fact that so many have to hit the street, march and burn, or litigate to make themselves heard by making enough noise and obtain different results, suggests our democratic institutions are failing in doing their work efficiently.

Africa Brief                                                                             3 July 2016

Pre-modern & post-industrial    

by Cees Bruggemans and Prof Willie Esterhuyse                   words 850

To fully appreciate what went wrong since 1994, and what keeps going wrong on a stupendous scale, one has to focus on the quality of our political leadership (or its glaring absence), the choices they are prepared to make, the consequences which then result.

When results turn out poorly (indeed disastrous), there is always the temptation to rewrite history. Thus we have to hear in recent times, in a callback to earlier siren calls, that the Constitution agreed in 1994 was fatally compromised from the beginning. It gave too much to the Whites, too little to the Backs.

Africa Brief                                                                             26 June 2016

Four major 1H16 surprises  

by Cees Bruggemans                    words 1100

For me there were four major surprises so far to 2016. Brexit was obviously the biggest, overnight. Despite pocketbooks being extremely powerful levers, the many British voters experiencing a sense of loss of local control over their lives to distant autocratic Brussels bureaucrats in all its complexity (and this including immigration) clearly reached boiling point.

This deep British anger driving the leave vote should perhaps not come as such a surprise, when taking a historic view and the wrenching dislocations brought by globalisation. One can ascribe Trump’s rise in the polls ultimately to similar forces. A brass businessman with marketing talent, he has drilled deep and wide into the American psyche and found anger galore, ignored by the traditional establishment. Whether it will offer enough critical mass to overcome Hilary Clinton, with her war chest so much bigger than his, may depend on last minute stumbles as yet hidden from view.

Africa Brief                                                                             19 June 2016

Float like a Butterfly...     

by Cees Bruggemans and Prof Willie Esterhuyse                   words 1300

The old Beatles song “Words of wisdom, let it be, let it be” has something to it that comes recommended, even after these many decades.

South Africa also needs words of wisdom. And they can be found. Except that an enormous uncertainty has arisen, for there are many words of unwisdom, too, indeed they often seem to be in the ascendancy. Yet the wisdom keeps coming through loud and clear, creating a disturbing dissonance, for what to disregard, what to believe, what to plan for?

Africa Brief                                                                             12 June 2016

Realism and Hope     

by Cees Bruggemans and Prof Willie Esterhuyse                   words 950

South Africa finds itself today in a challenging space, where raw realism about much bigger adjustments to come confronts hope about surviving this coming transition.

The raw realism is coming from government and the way it is proceeding in recasting SA society and economy. Hope one continues to find mainly among the many modern enclaves seeking to sustain their way of life in increasingly turbulent times potentially making their relevance less clear.

Africa Brief                                                                             5 June 2016

SA’s escalator economy     

by Cees Bruggemans                   words 1150

There are, broadly generalising, three types of escalator economies. Personally, I now have experience of two of these. Regarding the third one, you will have to take my word for it.

The sensations offered by such escalator types differ enormously. There is the “up” variety in isolation. A pair of “up” and “down” experienced as one, being in close proximity to each other. And then there is the “down” variety on its own.

Africa Brief                                                                             29 May 2016


by Cees Bruggemans                   words 820

Okay, we are leaving mad May and are about to enter crazier June. What could possibly be worse than May? The Fed getting antsy, Trump victorious, the Zuma crowd apparently not at all checkmated (but working on a resurrection?), the economy clearly skimming the zero line?

So how about June? Adopt the braze position? S&P & Fitch reporting on our rating grade (as kindly as Moody's or far more worldly?), Abe announcing yet another postponement in raising the VAT rate (the world is apparently in danger of a Lehman collapse and fiscal policy needs to ride to the rescue, as told to the G7?), the Brexit date with destiny is looming (are the Brits really still in, as bookmakers claim, or are they getting out ahead of the EU crowd?), summer season in the Mediterranean (meaning another flood of refugees from all over as the Turkish Erdogan deal breaks down?), more European terror (as the source feeding all this steadily radicalises and exports). And at home ever more dissonance (confusion as few things make sense, except in a nihilistic, selfish sense). Business confidence morose (and nailing down the last loose deck cargo), banks similarly tightening credit criteria. And the economy still skimming but ready to do some dipping, or are those only tyre marks as we screech to a standstill?

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