Will South Africa follow the high or low road after 2019?

The winners of an ideological contest between two rival ANC factions will determine South Africa’s future, according to a new book by Jakkie Cilliers.

Fate of the Nation models three scenarios for SA’s future as the country approaches a decisive political turning point.

Cilliers says choices made at the ANC’s December 2017 National Conference will impact the 2019 national and provincial elections and shape SA for the next decade.

Fate of the Nation uses the International Futures forecasting system and data from local and international sources to explore SA’s future. An updated population forecast suggests the country’s population will increase to 64,5 million by 2034, significantly higher than previous estimates for the National Development Plan.

Each of the scenarios is presented in terms of their economic and political impact as well as the likely impact on energy (nuclear or not), fracking, crime and violence, employment, inequality and SA’s international reputation.

A final chapter, ‘Towards meaningful radical economic transformation’, sets out a comprehensive policy framework for a prosperous future.

Fate of the Nation includes likely national election outcomes for each of the three major political parties – the ANC, Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) – for the 2019, 2024 and 2029 elections, as well as projections about the size of the economy and future income levels.

In the most likely scenario, called ‘Bafana Bafana’ after SA’s under-performing national soccer team, a compromise slate of ANC traditionalists and reformers leads the party into the 2019 elections, which sees its electoral support dipping to 53%, with improved prospects for the DA and EFF.

SA experiences average annual growth of 2.3% to 2034 and the economy is by then almost 50% larger than 2016.

In the worst-case scenario, ‘a nation divided’, the traditionalist faction seizes control of the ANC, the party splits in 2018, and it requires a coalition to govern after 2019.

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SA still grows, but much more slowly. Factional politics and policy zigzagging open the door to greater populism. Voters eventually punish the ANC and its EFF alliance partner at the polls, and it takes time for SA to recover from populist policies.

SA’s considerable potential sees the economy grow even under this low road scenario, averaging 1.5% to 2034, but the economy is by then only around 30% larger than today. An opposition alliance could govern SA from as early as 2024, Cilliers says.

The most optimistic scenario, ‘Mandela magic’, sees the ANC reformist faction prevailing, with SA pursuing a clear economic and developmental vision.

SA decides against new nuclear energy as it embarks upon gas imports and shale gas fracking in the Karoo. It takes years to recover from the disaster of the Zuma years but the economy grows at an average of 3.3% to 2034.

The tripartite alliance eventually collapses but a reinvigorated ANC is able to retain its electoral majority to 2029, based on pro-employment policies that facilitate stability and allows for sustained economic growth.

The larger economy under ‘Mandela magic’ allows government to collect R4 175 billion more tax in the period to 2034 from an economy that, is then more than 80% larger than in 2016.

In all scenarios, growth remains well below the 5.4% target in the National Development Plan.

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