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How far will South Africa’s ANC shift?

January 11, 2009

Given that the leaders of the world’s most firmly capitalist countries are splashing around unprecedented billions to nationalise banks, prop up industry and try to get economies moving, it might seem churlish for anyone to question South Africa’s ruling ANC for planning to spend a bit more freely.

This weekend, the African National Congress set out its election manifesto priorities of creating jobs and improving education and health – promises interpreted by many as marking a generally leftward shift under the leadership of president in waiting Jacob Zuma.

But the plan raises the questions of how the spending will be paid for and how dramatic a shift to the left there will be – of major interest to investors as well as South Africans.

“Zuma did not attach a price tag to the manifesto, but ANC leaders privately admit, to allay fears of a tax hike, that it would be too costly to implement,” said this article in the Sunday Independent.

Africa’s biggest economy has grown significantly since the end of apartheid in 1994, although the dynamism had started to falter even before the global financial crisis spread gloom around the world.

South Africa’s poor and its workers had long complained that the benefits were not being shared around fairly and that only those in a new elite were thriving. The leadership under Zuma, widely expected to become president this year, was always going to be under pressure for more social spending from the ANC grassroots and the party’s union and Communist Party allies.

The pressure may have increased further with the emergence of the new COPE party after the ousting of President Thabo Mbeki. Although COPE’s electoral impact is uncertain and it has not yet spelled out its policies clearly, the fact that close allies of Mbeki are behind it has suggested it is likely to align more with the former president’s stance, seen as ‘pro-business’.

Zuma has always been at great pains to spell out to business leaders and foreign investors that there would be no dramatic changes under his rule. Flight of investment could further weaken the rand, mean job losses just at the moment when the ANC wants to create more and force up government borrowing costs.

That could make it even harder to finance populist pledges without resorting to measures that might create even more financial instability.

This article in South Africa’s Times raised questions over the ANC’s plans for the central bank and whether that would damage its standing as a pillar of macroeconomic stability seen as vital for growth.

It is certainly going to be a very tricky time. How substantial do you think any shift to the left is and would it be for the best? If conflicting promises have been made to different interest groups then which are going to be met? Can they all? If not, then what will be the reaction of those who feel disappointed?

(Picture: President of the ruling African National Congress Jacob Zuma dances on stage at his party’s election campaign launch. Reuters)


We know that this is Zuma time. Mbeki and his peers gave their best by pushing the majority of South-african people in chronic poverty. For this, we do not want again to see mbeki in power even if he will wear a fake identity called COPE. Let our leader Zuma bring socio-economic reforms in this country.

Posted by pay | Report as abusive

Should the ANC maintain its majority in South Africa and Zuma remain its President, then South Africa will follow the path of Zimbabwe down to absolute ruin. It will be the end of a civilised South Africa.

Posted by Bongo | Report as abusive

mmm yah, the problem is that if one looks at the ‘leaders’ in the new ANC there seems to be very few with the capacity, skills and/or experience to rescue dear ol’ SA. All they seem to want to do is push failing economic policies without dealing with the real causes of the problems (namely the continued use of politically motivated appointments), who have very little understanding, skills and necessary experience needed to get things sorted, but then again the ANC is so focussed on race (sorry no whities thank you) it’ll do when not to drive SA closer to another Zim in 10 yrs time…we’ll see but I’m not hopeful, listening to malema, vavi etc doesn’t inspire any confidence only decades of rhetoric…amandla! yip that’ll fix everything!

Posted by Jostian | Report as abusive

COPE has raised the issues of jobs, crime and black empowerment.
South African needs to build a future and stay out of the past.
The ANC has done the work, there job is over.
South Africans are gathering to tackle the issues.

Posted by R. Meyer | Report as abusive

I am proudly South African. Forced to fend for myself away from my county and family.
Due to colour, crime and a history written by a political incorrectness I live in land that is not my own where my skills are required and not my colour.
I am not shamed, South Africa is my home. A colourful nation divided by colour that can’t corrected history.

Posted by R. Meyer | Report as abusive

I am a proud South African, who had to leave my beloved country due the crime and violence. I believe that Zuma will bring the much needed change South Africa needs and he will take care of the Country’s needs first. It is important to solve issue like crime, jobs, infrasture in our own country before dedicating time to another country. The ANC has changed and I believe it has lost all its principal standings. Mandela is a great hero and man and it is pity to see how his values and beliefs were destroyed


Mr. Zuma is not conventional political leader who hold a specific position, he is much more a liberal than a leftist. He has the ability to shift his policies once he notices that not getting the support he need. I am not expecting him to be a radical left winger.

Posted by Philippe Mandangi | Report as abusive

i am a scholar, currently completing my grade 11. I feel as if South Africa is doomed to follow in Zimbabwe’s footsteps. COPE was our only HOPE! sorry to say, but its seems as if our newly elected president is on a power trip, one that’s going to effect all South African’s and impact OUR FUTURE gravely


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