Pre-view 2017

Expect 2017 to be much more of the same on most fronts

Prediction 2017.jpg

Both South Africa and the bigger world were in the midst of fundamental transition phases on many fronts as 2016 ended. They remained there, came sunrise on 1 January 2017. Don’t expect the general news agenda to change much any time soon.

Three spheres of life in interaction with oneanother and increasingly so, also across international borders of a globalised and instantly connected world, determine the development of history: First and foremost, the economy and its competition for resources; secondly, political power and its structurers; and lastly society in how it reacts to and rebounds on what happens in the first two.

Domestic front

On the domestic front, at the end of 2016, the economy narrowly escaped a sovereign credit downgrade but unemployment remained dangerously high and growth prospects dismally bleak. Politically, the ruling party was in disarray, with strong indications that the country is heading for coalition government after the 2019 elections.

On the societal front the #feesmustfall # campaign told the story of the rising tide of growing popular dissatisfaction with the tired remnants of the global imperialist/capitalist economic structures. It ended with lots of unfinished businesses that just might be back on the agenda come February 2017.

The only certain political outcome for South Africa in 2017 is that Mr Jacob Zuma by the end of the year will no longer be the president of the ANC and we will know who will be president of the country come 2019 – that is if the ANC does achieve an outright majority in that election.

Locked into the process, taking us to December’s elective conference of the ANC, there are plenty of uncertainties and potential for turmoil, including the succession battle that has started and Mr Zuma’s numerous legal battles and the process of dealing with the Public Protector’s ‘state capture’ report are far from over.

Effectively the election campaign for 2019 has also already started and can produce some interesting developments, as well as pose some major challenges for opposition parties.

For one, it will take nifty footwork from the main opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA), to manage its relationship/coalition with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and its outspoken populist leader, Mr Julius Malema. Besides assisting the metropolitan governments under DA control, Mr Malema already declared that he will support the DA to oust the ANC in 2019. 

One can also expect the DA to go through some testing times in its efforts to reposition itself as a party representing the majority (black) population. Its announcement late last year that it is planning to introduce racial targets/quotas across all structures of the party from its branches upwards, takes it into treacherous grounds, with its diverse traditional power base anchored in a liberal value system.

However, that the DA has the potential to become a really important factor on the political stage is illustrated by the fact that its leader, Mmusi Maimane, made it onto an international list of five “political leaders from around the world who are emerging as significant talents and possible contenders for influence in 2017 and beyond”.

The list, compiled by professor Nick Bisley, executive director of La Trobe Asia, puts Maimane up there with people like France’s Le Pen, stating: “In 2017, Maimane must consolidate that advantage (the DA’s strong showing in the 2016 municipal election) as the DA positions itself to challenge for national power in the 2019 national elections.”

On the broader economic front, more symptoms of an economic structure in trouble can be expected, as seen late last year with the court battle between informal miners, or the so-called zama-zamas who are making a meagre living from abandoned mines, and the corporate owners of those mines.

Also, expect the debate and political battle around a national minimum wage and issues like land reform and quotas for supermarkets to buy produce from smallholder farmers to surface once more.

And then, the ever-present danger of a credit downgrade is also sure to surface before the year is too old. As it stands, ratings agency Moody’s indicated that it is likely to make key rating calls on Britain, China and South Africa among others this year. This in the face of rising political risk and debt levels which are àpushing a number of countries on a downgrade warning to a record high.

Economic reform will probably, in line with international developments, never be far from the top of the agenda during 2017.

Global front

Globally, at the end of 2016, there were also a good number of ‘unfinished businesses’ on the agenda that will live on in the new year. These include, Donald Trump occupying the White House, moving from the realm of speculation to the world of lived reality; likewise the United Kingdom leaving the European Union (EU), known as Brexit, which will cast dark clouds over the EU; the diplomatic spat between the US and Russia over alleged Russian meddling in the American presidential election; the rise of populist leaders and political parties with looming elections in some important Western countries like France; and many more.

On the 1st of January, the website Global Risk Insights, in an article in its preview of 2017, warned that ‘cyber power’ presents new risks to global politics, security, and commerce, while at the same time there is a proliferation of articles about the challenges and dangers social media platforms are increasingly posing to reliable news flows and the survival of traditional media houses.

And, as 2016 closed with a number of horrific incidents of terrorism, a just-released report by the US Institute of Peace and the Wilson Center in Washington DC, concludes that: “While the media and political opportunists are often guilty of overplaying terrorism threats for ratings and votes, the drivers that fuel violent extremism – namely weak/failing states, conflict, and debilitating socio-economic conditions – are unlikely to go away any time soon, and thus neither is violent extremism.”

In the meantime, signs of a new round of the ‘Cold War’ picking up steam on multiple fronts, are mounting – from the Middle East to the Pacific

More than ever before, we are living ‘The Age of Uncertainty’, predicted by John Kenneth Galbraith in 1977. Professor Barry Eichengreen, a former senior policy adviser at the International Monetary Fund, speculates that if Galbraith wrote his book now, he would have called it ‘The Age of Hyper-Uncertainty’.

by Piet Coetzer & Eve van Basten

Follow us on Twitter | Like us on Facebook
comments powered by Disqus

Subscribe to the newsletter

Final Word

Final Word

IntelligenceBul Final Word Confusing world of sluts, gays and lesbians 0 years - reply - retweet - favorite

IntelligenceBul Let's Think Will Zuma admit that he is a “shady man”? 0 years - reply - retweet - favorite

IntelligenceBul Propery & Wealth Home-grown financial solution for a truly South African dilemma 0 years - reply - retweet - favorite