Scenarios point to binary future for SA post-2024: prosperity or penury – Jakkie Cilliers

Scenario planner Jakkie Cilliers, founder of the ISS and author of the 2017 book Fate of the Nation, shares updated perspectives on SA’s political future. It’s a sobering message for those hoping for change, and points to a binary consequence after the 2024 Election. Two big events in the next week, however, will provide some clear milestones. Cilliers spoke to Alec Hogg of BizNews.

Find Timestamps of interview below:

  • 00:44 Jakkie Cilliers on the scenarios laid out in his book, “Fate of the Nation”
  • 03:17 On his forecasting of the 2024 election
  • 05:15 On a future of prosperity or penury
  • 15:01 On whether 2024 will see a Rainbow Coalition or not
  • 16:53 On the urban black vote and Action SA
  • 21:15 On the Eskom crisis playing a role in the political realm

Jakkie Cilliers on the scenarios laid out in his book, “Fate of the Nation”

The scenarios have stood the test of time. And I have in the subsequent years been updating that quite regularly. The major finding stands very well, which is the major challenge that faces the ANC, which was even in that time steadily losing support, is becoming an increasingly rural party and facing a challenge in particular urban areas, and that the structural decline has not shifted. So in the most recent updates, about a year ago, I started with two sets of scenarios. The one was where Ramaphosa stays on as president as I expect him to do in a few days time and in 2024. And that gives you the Bafana Bafana muddling-along scenario. I also had a “Thuma Mina” scenario, which is where Ramaphosa gains a resounding victory – his faction dominates within the NEC and then subsequently in Cabinet. So the ANC does quite well in that scenario. The second set of scenarios related to where Ramaphosa was forced to step aside as the RET faction has been pushing him. That gave rise to two scenarios. The one was Mandela Magic, which is where the ANC, in a sense, implodes and you find a more rapid move towards coalition government, possibly even by 2024. And then the other was Nation Divided, which was where Ramaphosa does not stand. Somebody like Lindiwe Sisulu or an RET faction member takes over and the ANC support plummets and the party struggles. So I have been working on that and updating that. But I still think that what we refer to as the base case, the Bafana Bafana scenario, largely holds. 

On his forecasting of the 2024 election

I think that the ANC is probably going to lose its majority, maybe 47, 46, 45%. Before Phala Phala, my forecast was 47%, which meant that it needs an alliance with one or two smaller parties to govern in coalition. So Ramaphosa stays South Africa’s president until 2029. Then in 2029 there will be a big change in South Africa. At that point, because I think ANC decline is structural in nature, in 2029, the chances are for an opposition coalition government to govern South Africa. I think the ANC is going to lose their majority in 2024. I think they’re going to be ousted in Gauteng – Gauteng support may go down to around 40%. But the big challenge and the big question both in Gauteng and nationally is where does the “reformist wing” of the ANC go? Is it able to cling to power with an alliance of smaller parties or is it forced to choose the EFF or the DA? That choice will be very important for South Africa. It’s a choice, in simplistic terms, between growth, good governance and redistribution, and all kinds of challenges that reflect in the RET faction within the ANC. So South Africa’s heading for a very critical time, first in Gauteng and then eventually in 2029 at the national level. 

On a future of prosperity or penury

Scenarios are a way to think, to frame the future. And the future is always more complicated and more messy. I guess the big question remains, what happens to the urban black vote? And that then comes to the issue, if there is an alternative political movement that starts and there are many efforts, they have many “wannabes” that can excite and mobilise the urban black vote. And that is a potential game-changer. And that really is what everybody is fighting about. The other big game-changer, I think, relates to the nature of the opposition. What the DA has done in the Western Cape – it governs it well, but it’s not been able to extend that message and ethos into the rest of South Africa and particularly in Gauteng. And it is seen as a remnant of South African white politics. And unless the DA is able to change that, it remains capped in its ambitions and in its potential as a potential alliance partner. The ANC’s instinct is towards the EFF. It sees the EFF as a breakaway child, although that has changed a little bit. But ideologically, the RET faction within the ANC is much closer aligned and they are certainly not in the ascendance. I think the problem that we have in South Africa is that Ramaphosa has faced one problem after the other. If it wasn’t state capture, it was Covid. If it wasn’t Covid, it’s the invasion of Ukraine. If it’s not that, it’s Eskom – which of course is entirely of the ANC’s own making. He’s been battling to deal with this while trying to keep the governing party together. And it’s that challenge of holding the ANC together that translates so dramatically into what we would call poor leadership, ineffectiveness, lack of action, because 80% of his time is holding the ANC together – because if the ANC splits, it loses power.

On whether 2024 will see a Rainbow Coalition or not 

I don’t think that’s possible, not in 2024. I think the ANC will remain the majority party. It will have almost twice the support of the closest rival. So the coalition that you are speaking about, let’s refer to that as a kind of growth coalition, won’t get to the 50% without the EFF and at a national level it’s almost impossible to think of all those parties, particularly the DA and the EFF getting together. So I don’t think that it’s a realistic possibility in 2024. There could, of course, be a split in the ANC. If there is a split in the ANC, then things change. If we find, for example, in the next few days, that leaders in the ANC that really are campaigning against Ramaphosa in Parliament vote against him or abstain, at the end of the day you find that the RET faction splits off and maybe then enters into talks with the EFF or something like that. Then you could find a substantial difference in what’s going to happen in 2024. But that’s the only scenario where I think the ANC falls far enough that it does not form the core of a governing coalition. 

On the urban black vote and Action SA

In our forecasts, I think the most we give Action SA (and this is forecasts that are not done based on opinion polls – it’s a real look at trends and history and so on.) I think we give Mashaba 5% in 2024, which would be huge. For a party to come from nothing, to get a 5% – the only party that’s managed that is the EFF. So if he can manage that, that would be great. But that would be spread across South Africa. It doesn’t translate into perhaps even an opposition in a particular province. So at a national level, bringing 5% to the table, that’s significant. At places you’re above the IFP, Freedom Front Plus and so on and so forth. But it’s still less than half of what the EFF has – 11, 12%, a quarter of what the DA has. So it can be important, but it’s a long slog and I think that the only way to get there is through a long slog. There’s no other way. But he certainly has name recognition. I think the issue around his focus and his efforts around migration have cost him a little bit. I think that the broader South African populace is quite xenophobic – a function of apartheid, a function of also the way in which the ANC have governed the country. 

On the Eskom crisis playing a role in the political realm

Yes, it is. We’ve been deep in loadshedding territory for how long? This is entirely a disaster of the ANC’s making because of their inaction and eventual action. But it’s not only Eskom, it is the Zondo Commission rolling out, and it is crime levels. So the ANC is struggling with the effects of its poor governance. But remember, they are at 57% at the moment. So if they go to 47, 46%, that’s ten, 11 percentage points. That is a huge drop in support. And that support is increasing in the rural areas because in Gauteng, as I said, I expect that the ANC support will drop to just about 40% and then that’s the big issue. Then what happens with Coalition politics? Is it possible to put together an opposition government in real time and then to see what happens with regard, particularly, to the relations between the DA and the EFF? Given the assumption that there is no other large party which could be Action SA in Gauteng that makes inroads, I think the issue for Herman Mashaba and Action SA is exactly what happens in Gauteng – it’s the economic and demographic heart of South Africa. And taking Gauteng changes the politics of South Africa. An alternative argument to spreading yourself out across South Africa is to focus on where Mashaba is strong (which is in Gauteng), because if the ANC is ousted from Gauteng, then both Cape Town and Gauteng are out of the ANC’s grasp, and then its goose is cooked. 

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