Information on the year ahead in South Africa – For Business traveler
The fallout from the tumultuous ANC Congress in Polokwane in late 2007 – at which Jacob Zuma defeated Thabo Mbeki for the ANC presidency – seems to indicate that the 14-year rainbow nation honeymoon is finally over.
It is relatively easy to identify the events that are going to dominate the headlines in South Africa in 2008; but much more difficult to predict the outcomes and the fallout. One thing is certain: the year ahead will be a testing one.
It will test the political maturity and the economic ingenuity of the new democracy. The prospect makes some South Africans uneasy, but not fearful. They have weathered worse storms before. But there is an unsettling realization that the country may be a very different place by the time 2009 rolls around.
Certainly it will have a new President waiting in the wings. Important Cabinet changes will be in the offing, if only to reward key members of the winning faction. The ANC will still be the ruling party, but an ANC drastically changed from within and under the control of a faction that rejects both the style and some of the substance of former ANC president, Thabo Mbeki…
Power struggle two
A power struggle of a different kind will play out in the year ahead, and for many years to come. Eskom, the country’s sole generator of electricity, started 2008 by confessing that there would be a chronic shortage of power for the next eight years, at least. It begged government to turn away any new project making large demands on power resources. And then it proceeded to introduce daily power-cuts across the nation, wreaking havoc on roads, causing factories, farms and businesses to lose millions, and domestic users to lose their equilibrium.
The timing could not have been worse.
South Africa’s prosperity hinges on attracting international capital to grow the economy. Power cuts scare investors. On top of that, the Soccer World Cup looms closer, and massive infrastructural development must be completed before then. Furthermore, the blackouts came just as the sub-prime crisis rocked bourses around the world. The cumulative effect is powerful.
From Cabinet down, emergency measures are being hatched. Some form of rationing will be imposed. South Africans have a reputation for ‘making a plan’, and patchwork solutions will almost certainly modify the crisis. But it is all devilishly inconvenient