After reading his critically acclaimed How Long Will South Africa Survive?, I attended a talk by RW Johnson in Durban this week.
Hosted by deVere Acuma, the talk covered some of the headline realities and concerns raised in the book regarding the South African economy, government, and political climate.
It is the author’s opinion that historically when South Africa has faced the kind of economic crisis it is facing now, political changes have followed. This is exampled by the economic downturn which preceded the end of Apartheid between 1985 and 1990. It is not uncommon that economic challenges force political change.
Given the awful state of the current government, change might not be a bad thing. Sadly, the author didn’t go further to predict what these changes might look like.
He did go onto to explain that niggling political instability, the ever impending junk credit rating, increased interest rates, drought and rising food costs, and a stagnant economy are all evidence of South Africa’s current economic crisis. In this kind of climate, something has to eventually give.
However, the ruling party will find it hard to make these changes themselves. Their systems and policies have largely created this crisis, and trying to reverse or change these are politically almost impossible. And economically hard, given how dependent they (personally and politically) have become on the financial benefits of this system.
The ANCs current house of cards has been built over 20 years, during which time restrictive economic policy, onerous labour legislation, and a largely failed education system have crippled employment, entrepreneurship, and foreign and domestic investment.
The house of cards has also been made up of an unnecessarily large civil service.
South African civil servants earn up to 40% more than their private sector counterparts. This has proven a huge drain on public coffers, but is also designed to keep civil servants obliged to the hand that feeds it and therefore intertwined and complicit in the ANCs poor economic choices. In short, the civil service has been keeping the ANC in power. But for how much longer? What happens when the money runs out?
The biggest question remains; if the ANC can’t fix this, what political landslide will proceed this economic crisis?
Source: The South African