South Africa

South Africa in big economic trouble – Ex-President Motlanthe

Kgalema Motlanthe

Former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe issued a stinging indictment of the way the country is being run and warned the ANC may lose its majority in 2024 elections unless it improves its performance.

“We are in big trouble economically, big, big trouble,” Motlanthe said in an interview Saturday in the Drakensberg mountains on the sidelines of a conference hosted by his foundation.

The ANC needs to “interact differently with the electorate, not just by again going to make promises,” but by ensuring people experience real change, if it is to retain power, he said.

Several opinion polls have shown the ANC risks losing the outright majority it’s held since it first took power in the country’s first multiracial elections in 1994, a backlash against high levels of poverty and unemployment, record electricity outages and rampant corruption.

Motlanthe’s criticism of the party is all the more stinging given that he is one of its most-respected veterans, and the head of its electoral commission.

He was appointed caretaker president in September 2008 after the ANC forced Thabo Mbeki to step down, and held the post for seven months until the party’s new leader, Jacob Zuma, took office.

Cyril Ramaphosa, who succeeded Zuma as head of the ANC in December 2017 and as president two months later, is widely expected to seek a second term at the party’s elective conference in two months time.

Repeated party leadership changes are problematic because there is a risk that the government’s approach becomes geared toward the short-term, according to Motlanthe.

“Every five years, the possibility is that you may have a new administration, new faces, and that some of the solutions, which can come to fruition in the next six or eight years” could be abandoned and work starts again from scratch, Motlanthe said.

Other highlights from the interview:

  • The country’s energy crisis is “a major disruptor to productivity and therefore affects the economy very negatively.” More renewable-generation capacity must be brought online, power stations must be properly maintained and the country should exploit its natural gas reserves.
  • “We can actually create a new sector of the economy based on gas. If you say every building’s lighting, heating and cooking is on gas, you create concrete jobs by having people do the piping for reticulation purposes for every building.”
  • Logistics in South Africa are too heavily reliant on roads, which have taken “heavy punishment.”
  • High fuel prices are exacerbating already high inflation, which has eroded living standards and led to strikes.


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