WHAT WILL 2017 BRING?
The New Year has started off with a bang and there is every reason that this will continue for the remainder of the year.
Donald Trump was inaugurated the forty fifth, and oldest ever, president of the United States amid a storm of controversy about whether he or former President Obama had a higher turnout at their inaugurations. Trump then proceeded to implement as many of his election promises as possible during his first week in office through issuing Executive Orders. Trump will no doubt dominate the international political news during 2017.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has had a bumpy start to the year. The British Supreme Court ruled against her decision to use “the royal prerogative” to trigger article 50 of the EU treaty for Britain to exit the European Union, this will now require a vote by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords where the opposition parties intend to introduce amendments which could delay her programme. This week she has become the first foreign head of state to meet President Donald Trump. After the apparent, even if controversial, success of her meeting on Friday some sources are speculating that this may be the start of a new special relationship similar to the one that existed between Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Regan.
The important elections in Germany and France will also be keenly watched for any noticeable moves to the right and/or the establishment. These results could significantly affect the future direction of the European Union.
In South Africa the political landscape is going to be dominated by the ANC leadership election which will take place at the Party’s elective congress in Gauteng from 16 to 20 December. During 2017 the conflict and divide within the ruling party will continue and even get out of hand. This will be a defining year as the ANC’s leadership debate heats up and new fall-outs emerge to reduce the once mighty ANC to a shadow of its past.
Even though the campaign for the election of a new leader has not started, as the ANC leadership would have South Africa believe the “disciplined comrades and structures” appear to be in full campaign mode either supporting their ‘non’ candidate or mostly denigrating rival candidates. So far there are five or six “non candidates” who have indicated that they will be available “if invited” (campaigning in ANC talk) to run for the top position in our glorious movement.
The ANC is already racked with factions and in the run up to the election especially with more candidates being announced, a full blown civil war could erupt. It is very likely that this elective congress could cause the ANC to fracture with the defeated factions hiving off to form their own new party.
Every decision or policy announcement in 2017 will be made in the interests of one or other faction within the ANC; the interests of South Africa will be secondary. There will be ample forums and opportunities for this grandstanding. ANC Legotlas, policy conference or meetings will be held both nationally and provincially all with an eye on the elective congress in Gauteng in December.
Zuma has already announced and given ANC economic cluster instructions that they must develop policies that promote “more radical transformation”. Addressing the ANC 105th anniversary at Orlando Stadium on 8 January Zuma announced “
It started at the Orlando Stadium at the ANC’s 105th birthday bash when Zuma announced that, “Radical economic transformation remains at the core of our economic strategy. More decisive steps must and will be taken to promote greater economic inclusion and to advance ownership and control and real leadership of the economy by black people.”
At the recent ANC Legotla it was reported that Zuma has instructed the party’s economic cluster to rework the party’s economic transformation policies which, alongside increased black ownership in banks, will also include plans to speed up the redistribution of land as well as increasing black ownership in major economic sectors such as construction.
The State of the Nation address (SONA) will be held on 9 February and it will provide the first indication of what the government is planning for this year. This will be followed by the national budget speech on 22 February.
Another clue to 2017 will be if and when Zuma’s anticipated cabinet reshuffle takes place and what changes he makes. I am not convinced that he will go the extent that some analysts are predicting and that he will remove Pravin Gordhan as Minister of Finance and replace him with Brian Molefe. Such a move would severely fracture the party a move that I cannot foresee. In my opinion Molefe does not have the xx to be a politician, he would burst into tears during the hurly burly of the parliamentary debates and skunk off to his quiet Sandton Shebeen to lick his wounds.
Despite all the ANC rhetoric they are no doubt aware that unemployment remains the country’s most volatile challenge. They must therefore be aware of the need to avoid a downgrade of the national credit rating to junk status. As such it would be reckless to ignore the advice of Walter Bigelow Wriston and former chairman and CEO of Citicorp who said that “Capital goes where it’s welcome and stays where it’s well treated”
State capture will continue to dominate the headlines during 2017. Allegations will continue to be levelled at the Guptas who will no doubt respond with counter allegations against white monopoly capital. During the year there will be at least two high profile court cases in this regard. Firstly Pravin Gordhan is seeking the court to rule that he is not permitted to get involved in the relationship between the banks and the Guptas. Secondly Zuma will be requesting a review of Thuli Madonsella’s State of Capture report.
Zuma will be challenging the validity of the High Court judgement reinstating the 783 corruption charges arising from the Arms Deal that were withdrawn in 2009. Should Zuma lose the appeal it would present Shaun Abrahams with a predicament? If he reviews the case and decide not to charge Zuma it could well become one of the first cases to go to Adv. Gerrie Nel and his new Private Prosecutions Unit which could have embarrassing ramifications for Abrahams.
No doubt other issues that will continue to make news are the ongoing tussle between the various municipalities and Eskom over the failure of the municipalities to meet their financial obligations. At present Eskom appears to be targeting the smaller municipalities. It will be interesting to see when and how the power utility is going to handle the big fish, Soweto which owes about R4 billion which is almost half of the entire amount owed to Eskom.
No doubt the fees must fall campaign will again rear its head this year. Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande still seems no closer to a solution. This issue could even escalate because it is no longer purely a matter fees but as been hijacked by certain radical elements who keep on moving the goal posts.
2017 will also be a challenging year for the Democratic Alliance. Last year’s success in the local government elections is going to put them in the spot light. Voters all around the country are going to be following their progress in those Metros and towns in which they govern. Voters are not only going to want to see good and efficient government. They also do not have time on their side. Voters are tired of the ANC blaming everything on apartheid and will not give the DA too long to blame it on the previous ANC administration.
While there are certainly impressive steps being taken in the three new DA governed metros to uncover and eliminate corruption and fruitless expenditure voters also want to see visible changes in their residential areas and experience improved service delivery.
The newspaper letters columns and social media are already starting to publish items about a lack of, or poor service delivery. In many cases these are flamed by ANC activists but it may cause people to start looking for problems until the rumours gather a momentum of their own. Even in those municipalities where the DA does not govern DA voters are going to expect service way beyond what these councillors are able to achieve.
Probably the greatest hurdle in the three new DA metros is going to be the new budget. In all three cases the municipalities are governed by some form of coalition or understanding with one or more party and balancing the needs of the voters with the widely diverse ideologies and policies of the different parties is going to require a lot of give and take from the various leaders.
With an eye on the 2019 general election the DA, having proved that they are not a Western Cape regional party, are now going to have to prove that they are not only an urban party. They are going to have to prove that they can campaign and make significant inroads into rural communities.
This year is also going to be challenging for the EFF. In the same way as the upcoming municipal budgets will be a challenge for the DA, the EFF faces the same challenge. Should the two parties not be able to meet each other and the budget is not approved the ANC governed provinces would relish the idea of declaring the municipalities as ungovernable and placing them under administration, ANC led of course.
After a somewhat disappointing performance during the local government election where the EFF only grew by 1% to 8% whereas Julius Malema said he was expecting their vote to grow to 15%. They now have to demonstrate that they are a potential party of government and not merely a protest group.
The results of a by-election in Metsimaholo in the Free State will be of little comfort to any of the main parties, the results were:
Forum for service delivery 22.48%
Metsimaholo Community Association 15.68%
While one by-election in one town is not enough from which to draw conclusions could this herald a trend away from the establishment towards coalition governments in South Africa?
Well let’s see what comes first the State of the Nation Address or the cabinet reshuffle and the consequences thereof.
Until next time,
This newsletter is published by Clive Hatch former Leader of the Opposition in the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature and former DA Provincial Leader. These views are my personal views and do not represent those of any other person or organisation.