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ANC’s demise could spell chaos, warns analyst



Independent political and economic analyst Dr Frans Cronje has warned South Africans “not to wish for the ANC’s [African National Congress’s] demise [in the next election] until we know exactly what should replace it”.

Cronje was speaking to Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein on 19 June as part of Goldstein’s webinar series on the outlook for South Africa.

“We may have one shot as a free and open democratic society to transition from the post-1994 government to a new one. If the coalition in government is chaotic, shambolic, and disappoints people, that may raise to a dangerous extent doubts in the merits of democracy itself. And if that happens, we open the door to radical populism,” Cronje said.

“It’s a safer position to have the ANC in power for another five years and allow the opposition to organise itself properly than to throw the ANC and gamble on whatever is going to take its place.”

If the election were held today, the ANC on its own would get just more than 50%, Cronje said, which was “essentially a function of an aging rural demographic. Even if the ANC is slightly below 50%, it has enough friends and allies and proxies that it can call upon short of the EFF [Economic Freedom Fighters] to get itself back over the 50% level again.”

Though Cronje is a pragmatist, his message is one of hope and faith in South Africa’s future.

When the pair spoke on the chief rabbi’s webinar back in March, Cronje predicted a lessening of loadshedding, which was hard to believe at the time. As other analysts and the media predicted a black winter – literally – Cronje saw light on the horizon. His prediction has apparently come true.

“In our opinion, corruption wasn’t the primary reason for loadshedding,” said Cronje. “The primary reason for the depth of loadshedding was a far-too-rapid exit from coal and, when that was reversed, loadshedding was much relieved.”

He said his think tank, the Social Research Foundation, believed that South Africa had vast quantities of power stations with generating capacity – a significant proportion of which were lying idle and many of which were in the country’s coal fleet. However, the government was pursuing a policy of decommissioning coal, letting the coal fleet run down, and seeking to replace lost capacity with wind power and solar.

It quickly became apparent that “at this point in time, South Africa couldn’t use wind and solar power to fill the demand necessary to end loadshedding and generate enough electricity to enable economic growth so we could get out of the unemployment inequality and poverty problems that are such a risk to our future.”

It believed the easiest way out of loadshedding would be to refit the country’s coal fleet – a short-term solution to eliminate some loadshedding and enable a modest amount of economic growth. A shift in government policy in this direction was the reason for reduced blackouts.

Cronje emphasised that it was a mistake to be dogmatic about South Africa’s energy choices. “It makes a great deal of sense to transition the South African economy out of coal, regardless of your stance on climate. But South Africa has a second environment, one in which 50% of young people don’t have a job. If that’s not addressed speedily, we run the risk of popular sentiment destabilising the country’s politics to the point that we risk the survival of our democracy.”

The chief rabbi noted that the improvement in loadshedding reflected a move by the government away from ideology to address human suffering.

Cronje agreed, saying the same movement was needed regarding the National Health Insurance (NHI), “which if implemented in the fullness of time as it’s currently drafted, would cause immense damage to South Africa because the country wouldn’t be able to sustain its middle class. The middle class would exit, and capital and skills on the back of that. The sentiment slump would do great damage.”

However, we’re still far away from final implementation, and one way to defeat the NHI is to understand that the ANC is deeply rooted in revolutionary ideology, Cronje said. “If you take a firm, well-argued, well-resourced position to say that this policy is so at odds with our best interests and those of the country, we’re prepared to oppose it firmly, the ANC will initially probe your sincerity and test you see if you’re going to back down. If it sees that you’re prepared to stand your ground and that you have backing, it will begin to negotiate.

“If political activity is about forcing a balance of power, and if you can force a balance of power on the question of NHI now and build up public opposition and resistance, you will stop the process and reverse it.

“Once you’ve reversed it sufficiently, you can introduce a new process that brings about much better healthcare access to all South Africans while maintaining the excellence of the private sector. There are many serious and pragmatic individuals in and around the ANC who would be grateful to use that opposition as an excuse to stop the dangerous drift of this policy and supplant it with something more constructive. We have more than enough time [to do this].” Cronje said every person could make a difference to move the needle away from the NHI.

Regarding South Africa’s close relationship with Russia, Cronje said it was unlikely the West would punish or alienate South Africa, because of its strategic importance. Such alienation would only push South Africa further into the orbit of Russia and China. He also believes the Russia-Ukraine war will soon reach a stalemate or even come to an end, which in turn, will lessen South Africa’s relationship with Russia as a point of conflict with the West.

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1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    Nov 24, 2023 at 6:33 pm

    Please ask Frans Cronje the following, What would the government stand to benefit by going schedule 6 Load-shedding on Black Friday? Because they must know that it is another massive blow to the economy, or what is Kraft of it. South Africans will not go into towns, they will not spend that small amount of money on a taxis only to find that the centre’s, the shop’s, the ATM’s are closed. This is seems very deliberate?

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