Hard times ahead for South Africans in 2020, president must act
If the start of 2020 is anything to go by, then the rest of this year - and possibly next year - is going to be extremely difficult for most South Africans.
The economy appears stuck in the doldrums, with the International Monetary Fund and the World Economic Forum sending us ominous warning signals, while the ratings agencies appear to have written us off.
The IMF has lowered its growth forecasts for South Africa for 2020 and 2021 to less than 1% (0.8%) from just over 1% last year. They blamed “structural constraints and deteriorating public finances”. In other words, Eskom and corruption.
Despite the best intentions of President Cyril Ramaphosa, there is a perception that he is not doing enough to sort out the most pressing problems in our country. Yes, he is dealing with legacy issues left by his predecessor, but South Africans want an assurance that things will be okay and we can only have that if we see decisive action from our president.
As things stand, they are bound to become even tighter for South Africans this year, with the possibility of more people losing their jobs beyond the 1440 already announced by Massmart, the 3000 expected at Telkom and the thousands more predicted in the ailing mining industry.
Don’t be surprised if Statistics SA adjusts the unemployment rate up from the 29% of 2019. The jobless rate has increased steadily over the past few years, instead of going downwards in search of the elusive 6% by 2030, as outlined in the National Development Plan - a document to which most in the government merely pay lip service.
Ramaphosa, as a former leader of the Mass Democratic Movement, still believes in governing by consensus and through consultation. This can be seen in his preference for things such as investment and jobs summits. But the goals outlined at these summits do not translate into tangible differences.
People want immediate relief and don’t believe the government can create jobs in the current environment.
In his January 8 statement, which he read in his capacity as ANC president, Ramaphosa used vague words to outline the ANC’s vision for the country. He spoke about “building a capable state that serves all the people”; “building a united and cohesive society”; “investment, jobs and inclusive growth”; “an effective land reform programme”; “eradicating poverty and improving people’s lives”; and “education and skills for a better world”.
As the president prepares to deliver his State of the Nation Address (Sona) at the opening of Parliament next month, we are hoping that he will be more specific about how he will build a capable state; how he will ensure more investment, jobs and inclusive growth; and how he intends eradicating poverty and improving people’s lives.
Some of these “priorities” appear to be too ambitious and could be seen as over-promising. South Africans want more jobs and for the lights to remain on. Every time we are hit with power outages, it cuts away at the confidence we have in the government and its ability to sort out our problems.
As long as Eskom remains unstable, our country and economy will also remain unstable.
We also want to see an end to corruption and the prosecution of those who benefited from corrupt activities.
Many South Africans were encouraged by the president’s overhaul of the National Prosecuting Authority, but it’s time for them to deliver.
It should not be junior officials who are made to take the fall for corruption, but senior officials in the government and private sector.
All in all, 2020 promises us a bumpy ride. Things are bound to get worse before they get betterbut better they will.
Fisher is chief executive of Ikusasa Lethu Media. Follow him on Twitter: