Shortly before Christmas, government’s former spin-doctor turned Twitter Colonel tweeted “2017 is going to be a loooong year”. I tend to disagree with Mzwanele Manyi on almost everything, including his recent remark that constitutional democracy has failed in South Africa. But his short, misspelled prophecy about the calendar year that lies ahead, that’s something different.
2016 was a nightmare. A slaughter of sincerity, integrity, candour, and a long list of other nouns we tend to ascribe to those we look up to. When 2016 came to an end, we celebrated our survival - not our advancement.
From the word go, South Africa was served with a cold dish of repulsive politics. That was the appetiser. Then came the main course – a decomposing economy, which survived only thanks to the good graces of the major ratings agencies. That came with a side order of racist incidents. For dessert, the world got the obituaries of a number of loved celebrities and, of course, Donald Trump being elected the 45th President of the United States.
We breathed a sigh of relief when the year came to an end, perhaps not taking cognisance of what lies ahead.
Politically speaking, last year’s Local Government Elections will be remembered as a light breeze when compared to this year’s ANC Elective Conference. The only thing worse than the public selection of office bearers, is when a similar process unfolds within the ruling party behind closed doors.
This is an aggressive and divided ANC. Aggressive because it is facing the threat of losing power when voters return to the polls; divided because of the two battling factions. This is made all the more obvious by ANC stalwarts and heavyweights speaking out against the party’s President and his methods. Jacob Zuma is also set to appear before the party’s internal disciplinary committee later this month. Surely not the best start, but the President is a survivor and we need to keep a close eye if we are to do the same.
More worrying is the fact that key state and law enforcement institutions remain threatened. The Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority appear to be pawns in a political game of chess. IPID and Treasury seem to be their main targets, but who knows who they will go for next. And the new Public Protector has hardly proved herself a worthy successor to the illustrious Thuli Madonsela.
Socially speaking, 2017 is likely to see more racist incidents on social media. It’s not that they never occurred. Now, racist remarks only reach the masses easier mainly because they are broadcast on public forums. This also means they are more visible to the media. This at least prompts a discussion between South Africans who often prefer to remain ignorant. If these outbursts suddenly disappear, it’s not because we have abolished racism. The perpetrators will only be more careful of what they say, and where they say it.
As for the economy (sigh), it seems to be the biggest loser, second only to the public which depends on its growth. Yes, a ratings downgrade still looms, but the biggest concern is the highest unemployment rate in years, coupled with sluggish growth. And off course a nice fuel price increase was exactly what was needed to set the tone. The Reserve Bank could also soon raise interest rates.
All this said, now that we expect the worst, a bit of good news could go a “loooong” way, to quote Mr Manyi. Challenges bring opportunity, and as everything is unpredictable, we should expect anything. The President is angry, so to speak, and as the end of his term nears, he has less to lose. He has failed to carry out a number of political beheadings and the longer this is the case, the stronger those become who tend to oppose him.
South Africans and institutions are now better equipped to deal with anti-social behaviour. We can budget for tougher times, although they’ve already come on one of the most difficult months, financially. But we can make it and, if we prepare well, can make strides and hopefully this time next year, celebrate something more than our survival.