Looking back over the last 12 months it is most instructive
to see what exercised our minds over the last year and where we find ourselves
Malema – he started the year as everybody’s favourite:
people either loved to hate him or they just loved him. He ended the year in a
much diminished state having been suspended from the ANC for 5 years. Although
there is an appeal outstanding, it is clear that he will discover that without
the ANC the Youth League is nothing, and without the Youth League he is
nothing. He did not have a good year.
Nationalisation – it reached its high point in September
last year at the ANC’s General Council meeting in September. A commission was
appointed to investigate the issue, and reported back in November 2011. The
ANC has asked for further refinements to the report and it will probably be
released in the new year. We must await the recommendations, but I share the opinion
of many others that we will not see nationalisation. Perhaps higher taxes on
mining companies, and it looks like many companies will take more trouble to
provide better housing to employees and involve them in share schemes.
Spreading the bounty around, yes; nationalisation, no.
Failed state –this phrase was noisily bandied about at the
end of 2010, but has simply gone silent in 2011. The publication of different
sets of Development Indicators at the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011
(separately by the government and a non-governmental organisation, the SA
Institute for Race Relations) simply provided objective proof of how SA’s
on-going progress. For all the chattering around the well-stocked dinner
tables of the chattering classes, the country is progressing in more areas than
it is regressing. The National Planning Commission’s Diagnostic Report (May)
and its draft action plan for the next 20 years (November) gave official acknowledgement,
from none other than the President’s office, to all the weaknesses the country
suffers from. As a hardnosed stockbroking veteran puts it – if 50% of the plan
gets implemented the country will be a better place. The “failed state” notion
can be confined to the dustbin for the lazy thinking it is.
May elections – this was well discussed at the time.
Suffice to say that the ANC went from 66% support in 2009 to 63% this year,
losing ground in 8 of the 9 provinces. Not a meltdown, but significant. Strip
out its progress in KZN and its share of the vote declined to 61.7%. The DA
went from 17% to 24%. The ANC became more Black and the DA considerably less
White –, Whites now form less than 50% of the DA support base. The battle is
moving more and more to the middle.
Courts – the judicial branch of government had a very
active and good year. The legislation abolishing the Scorpions and
establishing the Hawks was ruled deficient with not enough independence for the
Hawks and Parliament was instructed to strengthen such independence within 18
months (by September 2012). At year-end the Appeal Court, in a unanimous
decision, declared the appointment of Mr Simelane as head of the NPA invalid.
This will probably be appealed to the Constitutional Court, but Justice
Minister Radebe has lots of egg on his face for his recommendations to Pres
Zuma. A pending Constitutional Court decision on the arms deal resulted in
Pres Zuma appointing a Commission of Inquiry into that matter. Prepare for a
juicy 2012 as we hear about the shenanigans of Europeans paying bribes and South
Africans accepting them. It is going to drive the re-evaluation by South
Africans of European and themselves a step further.
Labour market flexibility – important snail’s progress was
made on the special treatment of newcomers into the labour market.
Government’s proposed wage subsidy for young people will probably be introduced
from the next tax year. In the textile industry a ground-breaking agreement
was signed to grant a substantial discount (30% and 20% in urban and rural
areas respectively) to newcomers, provided 5 000 new jobs are created by
employers by 2014.
Labour brokers – the year started with much anxiety about
a proposed ban on labour brokers. At year end it is still unfinished business,
but there are several indications that we will not see an outright ban – more
the kind of regulation that already exists in many countries.
Media – in August 2010 we predicted in this Comment that
the two main parties, government and media, would have to respectively back
down and step up.
It is inching that way: the infamous Secrecy Bill was amended
substantially (the DA’s Dene Smuts declared that they are “75% happy” with the
Bill). However, the longer the issue dragged on, the stronger civil society
resistance became. The last time we saw such intense democratic activism
around a public policy issue was with HIV/Aids in the early 2000s. This time
it is even more intense.
The print media responded to the threat of a media tribunal with
two processes. The existing Press Council reviewed its Press Code, among other
things expanding the list of grounds for complaint. An extensive campaign was
launched by the Council to familiarise journalists with the content after
internal findings that fewer than 10% of journalists had ever read the Press
Code. Secondly, the editors’ forum (SANEF) and Print Media SA set up the Press
Freedom Commission under the chairmanship of Judge Pius Langa to look into all
forms of regulation as practised worldwide and come up with a proposal. People
close to the process believe that government has not given up on its plan for a
tribunal, but is giving this commission a chance to finish its work and will
consider its proposals.
Fiscal/debt problems in the US and EU – It is sobering to
remember that the SA economy has tripped only twice since 1993 – in 1998 and in
2009. In both instances it was because of global developments (the South East
Asia crisis in 1998 and the global financial crisis and resulting recession in
2009). Can it happen for a third time as a result of the debt crisis in the
developed world and the resultant low growth/possible recession? This must
certainly be the biggest risk for SA as we enter 2012.
Re-appraisal of Africa – the latest Economist front page
proclaims: “Africa rising”. It is in sharp contrast the same magazine’s front
page a few years ago: “Africa – the hopeless continent”. How things change!
One comes across more and more anecdotes of SA companies – not just the big
listed ones but also engineering consultancies and other service companies –
moving into Africa and making good money. That may very well help to counter
slower growth in Europe and elsewhere.
Wishing you a happy festive season.