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What might be in 2023

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The year 2023 is fast approaching, and it’s time to consider what the new year will bring.

Just a week ago, Cyril Ramaphosa looked a virtual certainty to be re-elected president of the African National Congress (ANC) at its 55th National Conference in December 2022. But as they say, “A week is a long time in politics.” He’s now facing possible impeachment over his actions following the theft of huge amounts of foreign currency, and mounting pressure to resign. Which faction of the ANC will prevail at this conference is vital as the country heads for elections in 2024. This may be when the Jacob-Zuma-allied part of the ANC resurges. Expect some shenanigans.

To my surprise, COVID-19 subsided in 2022, and in many ways, the world went back to normal, with travel, working from the office, and gatherings resuming. A face mask is a rare sight today. It’s almost hard to believe all the restrictions imposed on us for two years. I don’t feel confident that the world is prepared for the next pandemic.

And what about my predictions last year? I foresaw continued loadshedding and a struggling South African economy – but you didn’t have to be a genius to see that! I said, “Politically, the fragile coalitions formed in the wake of local-government elections will be put to the test” and indeed, many of them collapsed. I also asked, “Will we, eventually, receive the report from the Zondo Commission into Allegations of State Capture and see some senior figures prosecuted?” We have seen the former, but little progress on the latter. “There are flashpoints that might erupt into fighting in 2022, including by Russia against Ukraine and China against Taiwan,” I said. Again, tragically, one out of two. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the story has dominated the news, and the war has worsened prospects for the global and South African economy, hiking prices of fertiliser, food, and fuel. The war has also exposed South Africa’s closeness to Russia, in spite of claims of non-alignment to the conflict. I cannot see any resolution to this brutal war in the short term. It may well go on for years.

Next year, there will be some important national elections in Africa, including in Libya, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe, I expect ZANU-PF to win yet another disputed election. In Nigeria, Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress is slightly ahead in opinion polls. If he wins, it will break the unwritten rule of combining a Muslim and Christian on the presidential ticket, with two Muslim candidates. In all, 26 African states are to hold elections at local, provincial, or national level in 2023. I hope these polls result in more stability in an increasingly coup-prone continent.

The Jewish state celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2023. Look out for big parties in Israel, South Africa, and across the Jewish world, and introspection about how far Israel has come and its persistent problems. It’s also 50 years since the 1973 Yom Kippur War, after which international sympathy started turning away from Israel and towards the Palestinians. Israel’s incoming Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, will lead a heavily right-wing government in 2023, even as he still faces corruption charges.

King Charles III will be crowned in May, full of pomp and ceremony like only the British can lay on, 70 years after the late Queen Elizabeth II was crowned.

In terms of milestones, 2023 is the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Eskom. I’m trying to make light of it. The iconic Hollywood Sign also turns 100, as does German-Jewish-born United States statesman and academic, Henry Kissinger (in May). Fifty years ago, in 1973, the first mobile phone call was made, the Watergate scandal broke, and the Sydney Opera House was opened. And 25 years ago, in 1998, the film Titanic won 11 Oscars, Google was founded, and the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed by Al-Qaeda, killing 224 people.

In 2023, there will be the Cricket World Cup in India in October and November. Sigh! We’re likely to see another spectacular choke by the Proteas. I’d love to eat my words if I’m wrong. There’s also the Rugby World Cup in France in September and October. Our beloved Springboks win it every 12 years (1995, 2007, and 2019) but have never been able to defend their title. Their results have been disappointing after lockdown, in spite of good wins over the All Blacks and England. My prediction is an Irish or French champion. Let’s hope coach Jacques Nienaber and the mercurial director of SA Rugby, Rassie Erasmus, can spur the Boks to glory in Paris. Cape Town will proudly host the Netball World Cup in July and August.

Have a happy new year!

  • Steven Gruzd is an analyst at the South African Institute of International Affairs in Johannesburg. He writes in his personal capacity.

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