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Gazing Into The Political Crystal Ball For The Year 2018

Warning: Predictions not for the faint-hearted... but not to be taken to heart!

12/01/2018 12:12 SAST | Updated 12/01/2018 12:31 SAST
Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa (R) chats with President Jacob Zuma during the 54th national conference of the ANC. December 16, 2017.

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COMMENT

If you are wondering what 2018 has in store for us in politics, help is at hand.

Will it be the year in which South Africa's leaders will be able to go through the eye of the needle?

Let's gaze together into the political crystal ball. Warning: Predictions not for the faint-hearted... but not to be taken to heart!

January

The ANC celebrates its 106th anniversary with a rousing speech from its brand-new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, and has some startling announcements from the first ANC NEC meeting.

The NEC has decided nothing that will restore confidence, as the Zuma faction insists on Zuma staying. He continues to defy all odds.

The country has got accustomed to the ANC's ritual of "January 8 statements" and has come to expect nothing groundbreaking from them -- 2018 is no different, as the year is routinely declared the year of Nelson Mandela.

POOL New / Reuters
South African President Jacob Zuma (2nd L) stands behind a statue of former South African President Nelson Mandela. On Zuma's left is South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. REUTERS/Schalk van Zuydam/Pool (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: POLITICS)

Comment: Nothing new must be expected too soon from the new ANC leaders. The outcome of the December conference is an indication that the majority of ANC members do not think the ANC is in a crisis.

February

Zuma delivers his last state of the nation address. Although he's refused to go, all predictions are that he won't deliver the state of the nation address in 2019 –– but his supporters did not want him to leave without the dignity of a final state of the nation address.

This speech will largely focus on his legacy as head of state over the last decade -- obviously avoiding all the scandals that painted his tenure. A last "good story to tell" speech –– prepare to snooze through it all, if the "It's not me; it's you" vibe of his final ANC conference address is anything to go by.

Comment: The very act of Zuma still standing up to deliver a SONA is an indication of the ANC's failure to rise to the occasion and his lack of acknowledgement of the damage that he has caused the ANC over the past decade. The only speech that South Africa really needs from Zuma now, is his resignation speech –– written for him by the ANC.

Universities are in turmoil, as thousands of students turn up to demand the free education that Zuma promised. The universities can't cope with this, and so there is a standoff with the national treasury –– as they don't announce any measures that show where the billions will come from that will deliver free education.

Comment: One of the reckless decisions that Zuma made in an attempt to influence the outcomes of the ANC's elective conference was the announcement about free education. This took even the treasury by surprise, if their press statement to "note" the decision is anything to go by. Ramaphosa can't be seen to be reversing this, but tough decisions will have to be taken to turn this kind of decision into reality. The rating agencies will be watching him on this one. Zuma is giggling away into the sunset after throwing this curveball into Ramaphosa's court.

A lot of April fool jokes about Zuma's sudden resignation will do the rounds –– but will any of it materialise so soon?

March

The Constitutional Court decision on Zuma is finally addressed in Parliament, with Parliament adopting the rules for Zuma's impeachment. Zuma refuses to resign, pharaoh-style –– forcing the ANC to impeach him alongside the opposition parties. One of the top six ANC leaders quits in solidarity with Zuma, after the NEC decides to recall him.

Comment: This moment will give the umpteenth opportunity for the ANC to be rid of Zuma. Will they rise to the occasion? My prediction is more prevarication, before a final decision can be made by a divided NEC.

April

A lot of April Fool's jokes about Zuma's sudden resignation will do the rounds –– but will any of it materialise so soon? Don't set yourself up for another disappointment. April Fool's is all it will become.

South Africa celebrates 24 years of democracy with unemployment figures spiking to a staggering 30 percent, and negative growth in the economy at a shocking growth rate of minus five percent –– following yet another credit downgrade due to plummeting business confidence in the country and a terrible market reaction to the budget delivered by the finance minister in February.

Zuma speaks at one more event to celebrate 24 years of democracy, while the ANC awaits his resignation.

Wikus de Wet/ Beeld/ Getty Images
Minister of Finances Malusi Gigaba and President Jacob Zuma on August 17, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The opening of the Africa Regional Centre for the New Development Bank is held in Sandon. (Photo by Gallo Images / Beeld / Wikus de Wet)

Comment: The relationship with business will improve significantly under Ramaphosa, and this quarter may well see a dramatic improvement in business confidence –– which has been at an all-time low recently. This will be a good place to build, but the political decisions that send a proper signal to the world about dealing with corruption will be three seminal events: the recall or resignation of Zuma, the appointment of a credible NDPP, and the appointment of a judge to oversee the state-capture inquiry.

May

Cosatu decides to leave the alliance following the bloodbath at the ANC conference –– and the SACP makes a firm commitment to go it alone in the 2019 election if their SG [secretary-general, Blade Nzimande,] is not returned to Cabinet. The ANC refuses to budge, and the alliance is formally dissolved.

Comment: 2017 has shown that the alliance has run its course. Just as it happened after Polokwane, there was a sense of false hope –– that the election of a new leader would change the fortunes of the alliance. This is possible still –– and maybe one need not be too pessimistic. Ramaphosa can fix this –– once he is in charge of the patronage network. In other words, will he have the courage to reward the SACP and Cosatu with the Cabinet positions that Zuma sought to reverse? Will he rehire Blade?

Mandela never thought he would be president one day. But his oft-repeated dream was always to see Ramaphosa succeed him.

June

Zuma finally resigns a day before the impeachment vote –– to secure his benefits as a former head of state. Baleka Mbete becomes acting president as infighting in the ANC delays the discussion over who takes over as head of state.

Comment: All are agreed that it's not a matter of whether -- but a matter of when -- Zuma will go. I predict it won't be a quick fix –– this could take up to six months, with his supporters looking for the best deal as possible –– perhaps linking his exit to the pending prosecution. Civil society wants Zuma gone, but there is no appetite for an immunity-from-prosecution deal. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

July

Mandela 100 celebrations reach a crescendo, with Zuma barred from addressing the main events –– the family preferring Mbeki and Motlanthe to address the celebrations jointly.

Obama visits South Africa to crown the moment: the first black U.S. president memorialising SA's first black president. Ramaphosa is inaugurated as president on Mandela's birthday.

Sowetan via Getty Images
African National Congress (ANC) President Cyril Ramaphosa gestures during the partys 106th birthday celebrations at the City Hall on January 08, 2018 in East London, South Africa. The partys new elected president said the ANC is back with a bang and we will be dealing with those stealing public money. He also preached unity. (Photo by Masi Losi/Sowetan/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Comment: It is okay to dream. Mandela never thought he would be president one day. But his oft-repeated dream was always to see Ramaphosa succeed him. Maybe it will come to pass in the month of his 100th birthday.

August

In celebration of Women's Day, NDZ is appointed deputy president of SA by Ramaphosa to appease the women's league.

The ministry of women also gets a reshuffle, as Shabangu is fired following a spike in femicides in SA. In a dramatic Cabinet reshuffle, all the Gupta ministers are fired by Rampahosa.

Julius Malema and Mmusi Maimane are offered cabinet posts in a government of national unity -- they reject the gesture "out of respect for the Marikana victims", as the Marikana ghost continues to haunt Ramaphosa.

Comment: The women's league is said to be pushing for the elevation of NDZ to the role of deputy president of the country. This would be an effortless way for CR to unite the ANC –– or at least pacify his enemies. He is said to be buckling under this pressure, with the danger of this arrangement upsetting the markets. The key will be what kind of power and responsibility NDZ would have, and whether she would subject herself to CR's lead, to send coherent messages to the market?

This year provides the opportunity to make sense of the coat of arms slogan Unity in Diversity! Xi e Xara Xe.

September

The Khoi have their demands met after a 1-million-man march in support of their cause on Heritage Day. The minister of arts and culture launches a pauper's fund for South African artists.

Comment: The recent march of the Khoi people to the Union Buildings was an embarrassment to the ANC government. This year provides the opportunity to make sense of the coat of arms slogan: "Unity in Diversity! – Xi e Xara Xe".

October

Makhosi Khosa's new party, the UDM and Cope merge after the resignation of IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, UDM's Bantu Holomisa and COPE's Terror Lekota from their long-held posts. A new party led by an unknown leader is born, ready to challenge the ANC for power and break the opposition monopoly held by the EFF and DA in South African politics.

AFP/Getty Images
South African opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), South African ruling party African National Congress (ANC) and South African main opposition party Democratic Alliance (DA) members and supporters rally in protest outside the Middelburg Magistrate Court on November 16, 2016 during the first hearing of two white men accused of assault charges after an online video emerged showing them pushing a black man into a coffin and threatening to burn him alive. Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Martins Jackson, both 28, were remanded in custody after their lawyer decided not to apply for bail. The men face charges of kidnapping and assaulting 27-year-old Victor Mlotshwa over an incident that occurred in August at a farm near the town of Middelburg in the eastern province of Mpumalanga. / AFP / MUJAHID SAFODIEN (Photo credit should read MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Comment: This will be the year of political realignment ahead of the 2019 poll. It is no longer obvious how the 2019 elections will pan out, and the election of Ramaphosa has thrown a spanner in the works. The opposition will have to go back to the drawing board, as it will no longer be the smooth sailing that they were expecting under an NDZ presidency.

November

The ANC recalls Mduduzi Manana from Parliament as part of the 16 days of activism against violence against women and children –– and dissolves the ministry of women.

The ANC in Free State and KZN finally hold their elective conferences, with Manyoni and Mcunu emerging victorious as leaders of these provinces.

The ANC will be hard-pressed to take action against rogues in their midst given the public outrage over violence against women. It is worse that Mduduzi has made it into the ANC's NEC. The integrity commission will have to act against him to send a strong message that his kind of conduct will not be tolerated.

No matter how you look at it, it's going to be an interesting political year; and half of the events ahead cannot be predicted – as we have seen last year.

December

Seven ministers disclose their HIV status as part of the World Aids Day commemorations, and Ramaphosa resigns from SANAC [the South African National Aids Council] as chair and hands the reins over to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Comment: One of the distinguishing features of this administration was its abandonment of the denialism over Aids that characterised the Mbeki era. The situation regarding infections, unfortunately, has not improved.

No matter how you look at it, it's going to be an interesting political year; and half of the events ahead cannot be predicted –– as we have seen last year.

Who could have predicted that Brian Molefe would change his story about his departure from Eskom and join Parliament and return to Eskom and join the army?

Wishing you a prosperous 2018. We will use this article as checklist next year this time!

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