South Africa’s Future: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – SA Scenarios OP-ED

The Brenthurst Foundation and the In Transformation Initiative (ITI) hosted a presentation on research into South Africa’s possible futures, entitled “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Scenarios for South Africa.

The presentations were delivered on 13 December 2022 by Dr Greg Mills, director of The Brenthurst Foundation and Roelf Meyer, director of ITI.

The presenters remarked that on many previous occasions it has been said that ‘South Africa’s future is in the balance’. Unfortunately, this statement seems to be more accurate than ever before.

Dr Mills and Mr Meyer shared their thoughts on scenarios for a future South Africa which included the following remarks:

Our economy is woefully failing to create jobs and the majority of young people have no future in the world of work. Electricity supply is precarious as we endure the worst load shedding we have ever seen.

On top of this, the country’s political leadership is in turmoil. President Cyril Ramaphosa, once believed to be the man to finally lead South Africa out of the darkness of state capture, corruption and economic failure, has struggled to turn things around and now finds himself battling to put the ‘Phala Phala’ scandal in clear perspective.

All of this has created a climate of uncertainty. Where is the country going? Is the economy doomed to failure as Eskom switches off the lights? What will happen if Ramaphosa is charged in court or defeated at the ANC’s conference in December? What will happen if the 2024 election fails to produce an outright winner?

As the ANC prepares to elect its leader for the next five years, the country’s future is precariously in the balance. The ANC decision – to back President Cyril Ramaphosa or his rival Zweli Mkhize – will set the scene for the 2024 election which is likely to bring momentous change to politics.

Our research shows that a coalition government is likely, ushering in a new era of multiparty contestation after three decades of single-party dominance.

Will such a coalition be able to reverse the tide of economic stagnation, corruption and turn the light on? A lot hangs on whether those who favour constitutionalism, and the rule of law are able to suspend hostilities and band together to save South Africa.

In an effort to address these questions, Dr Mills and Mr Meyer, have produced a set of scenarios for the country under the title ‘The Good, The Bad and the Ugly’.

Based on research into the country’s economic position, the positioning of political forces and the attitudes of South African voters, three key events will likely shape South Africa’s future over the next three years:

  1. The decisions taken by the ANC’s conference later this week;
  2. The decisions taken by voters at the 2024 election; and
  3. The decisions taken by political leaders about coalitions as the ANC slides below 50% of the vote.

The four possible outcomes could play out as follows:

The Good

The “Good” scenario sees those who support constitutionalism, the rule of law and reforms aimed at spurring on economic growth — the silent majority of South Africans — putting aside their differences and building a powerful new reform movement at the centre of South African politics. In this scenario, South Africa is proudly a constitutional democracy and seeks to build relations with others who share the same values on the world stage. This approach could be taken by a coalition of opposition parties with or without the ANC or by ANC reformers if they are able to take full control of the party and act decisively.

 The Bad

In this scenario, the ANC’s Radical Economic Transformation (RET) wing wins the internal battle for power, leading to the ANC’s electoral support dropping far below 50% in the 2024 election. This leads to a coalition between the ANC and EFF, who are aligned with the RET faction on policy. The result will be a rapid and precipitous decline in the country’s finances as nationalisation is implemented and the prosecution of party bosses for corruption ceases. Malign external actors such as Russia entrench themselves within the government and the country abandons its Constitution and democratic values. Investors will flee, sending the currency into freefall and causing hyperinflation, leading to economic collapse.

The Ugly

The “Ugly” scenario represents a continuation of the status quo. The ANC remains divided and unable to chart a clear path to reform and the rule of law. The energy crisis continues to accelerate, the economy continues on a path of anaemic economic growth and joblessness continues to rise. Investment continues to underperform, and the government remains wary of the private sector.

A Fistful of Cents

The “Fistful of Cents” scenario is a close relative of the “Ugly” scenario, except that cronyism rises as elite extraction accelerates as the state loses its attempt to rein in corruption and graft. The result is greater inequality and joblessness while the elite thrives by extracting rents, legal and illegal, from a sliding economy.

The full presentation on the scenarios are available at  

The article was compiled by Dr Greg Mills, director of The Brenthurst Foundation and Roelf Meyer, director at In Transformation Initiative.

South Africa’s Future: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – SA Scenarios OP-ED
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