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What’s in store for 2024

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In our last edition of the year, I look back at how my predictions for 2023 panned out, and what 2024 may hold.

Last year, I wagered that ZANU-PF would win the Zimbabwean elections, which it did in spite of the opposition crying foul again. I picked the wrong candidate for Nigerian president though.

On sport predictions, I wrote, “2023 will see the Cricket World Cup in India … sigh. We’re likely to see another spectacular choke by the Proteas. I’d love to eat my words if I’m wrong.” Though I hoped the Springboks would defend their Rugby World Cup title, I plumped for Ireland or France on home soil.

No-one foresaw the protests over judicial reform that rocked Israel for months or the horrific massacre on 7 October and ensuing war on Hamas in Gaza. I believe this terrible war will continue for several months into 2024 as Israel attempts to decimate Hamas. It’s anyone’s guess as to what the day after the war will bring. Optimists may draw comfort from the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War of 1973, which ultimately led to Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt.

There are more than 40 elections scheduled for 2024, with eight of the world’s 10 most populous countries going to the polls. The two vital elections for us will be in South Africa and the United States (US). Israel’s national unity government may well fall after the war on Hamas is concluded. The electorate may punish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the 7 October attacks.

With mounting loadshedding, soaring unemployment, and crumbling service delivery, the African National Congress may slip below 50% support, ushering in the country’s first national coalition government. If so, it’s likely to join forces with smaller parties. Gauteng and the Western Cape look like they will be won by the opposition. South Africa celebrates 30 years of democratic rule next year – a chance for introspection and reflection. Expect South Africa’s withering criticism of Israel to continue, especially if Pretoria pursues a case against Israel in the International Criminal Court.

There’s still a long way to go until the US elections on 5 November 2024. It may be a repeat of the 2020 poll, with incumbent octogenarian Joe Biden up against septuagenarian Donald Trump. Without being ageist, are these really the best that the US can offer the electorate? Trump, in spite of facing multiple court cases, has a big lead against Republican party hopefuls like Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis. There has never been a run-up to an American election quite like this one.

The war in Ukraine also shows no sign of ending soon. I fully expect it to rumble on throughout 2024. Both sides still believe they can win this war on the battlefield. The seven-president African Peace Initiative, driven by South Africa, has little to show for itself so far. A key factor in this war will be whether Western support for Ukraine can be sustained. I believe Russian President Vladimir Putin is banking on it dissipating, a scenario more likely if Trump wins and if the Republicans dominate Congress.

The BRICS grouping – originally comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – will double in size as Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are scheduled to join on 1 January. Argentina’s newly elected President Javier Milei may turn down the invitation to join the club. South Africa will also use the year to prepare for its presidency of the G20 group, which commences in 2025.

The United Nations is set to host The Summit of the Future in September 2024, at the halfway point of the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. These are meant to be universally achieved by 2030, but the COVID-19 pandemic has put these in jeopardy in many parts of the world.

The year 2024 is the 50th anniversary of the resignation by US President Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal. It also marks 50 years since Turkey invaded northern Cyprus, and the 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” when Muhammad Ali fought and beat George Foreman in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo).

It’s 25 years since the North Atlantic Treaty Organization bombed Yugoslavia in 1999, the year Ehud Barak became prime minister of Israel, and Thabo Mbeki became president of South Africa. So much history has passed since then.

The biggest sporting event next year will be the Paris Olympics in July and August. It will be interesting to see how arch-rivals the US and China stack up on the medal count. China, as an aspiring superpower, has invested heavily in elite sports programmes. Paris also hosted the games a century ago, in 1924, immortalised in the film Chariots of Fire. Next year will also feature football’s Euro 2024, hosted by Germany.

Happy new year, everyone!

  • Steven Gruzd is a political analyst in Johannesburg. He writes in his personal capacity.

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