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2024: A tough year ahead

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Picture: Luis Tato / AFP / Taken October 12, 2022 – Two elephant calves try to find some browse in a dry land without fresh vegetation during a morning walk at Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy, Samburu, Kenya in October , 2022. Parched lands and dry wells lead to many baby elephants losing their exhausted mothers, or being abandoned or lost. East Africa’s worst drought in forty years has not only put millions of people on the brink of starvation, but it is also threatening its rich biodiversity. For the year 2024, Nostradamus forecast devastating climatic conditions. He predicted that ‘dry earth will grow more parched’ and wrote of ‘very great famine’, the writer says.

By Kim Heller

Some 500 years ago, the notorious French astrologer Michel de Nostradame (Nostradamus) published Les Propheties, which featured 942 predictions about the future. Over 70 percent of these prophecies have come true.

For the year 2024, Nostradamus forecast devastating climatic conditions. He predicted that “dry earth will grow more parched” and wrote of “very great famine”. He also predicted a wave of great floods in some lands. On matters of war and peace, Nostradamus foresaw a major naval confrontation with China in 2024. In his own words, the “Red adversary will become pale with fear”. “Putting the great Ocean in dread.”

This week, USA Today, published 100-year-old predictions about 2024. Historian Mark J Price writes that: “Nearly 100 years ago, a group of visionaries dared to imagine what life would be like in 2024. Some of their prophecies fell woefully short while others proved to be strangely accurate.”

Billionaire William Boyce Thompson predicted that there would be food shortages in 2024. So certain of this prediction, he went on to set up the Institute of Plant Research in New York in 1924. One hundred years ago, a chilling prediction of the horror of war and conflict and the dangers of weaponry in 2024 was made by Professor Leo H Baekeland, president of the American Chemical Society. He wrote: “The largest and best protected cities, irrespective of their size or distance, will be continuously exposed to destruction and mutilation.”

2024 is unlikely to be just any old year. The Guardian’s Simon Tisdall writes about how a record-breaking number of elections in 2024 in countries which represent “more than 40 percent of the world’s population and an outsized chunk of global GDP” will shape “who controls and directs the 21st-century world”. Eighteen countries in Africa will hold national elections in the next twelve months. Across the globe, voters in over 40 countries are set to go to the polls. The much-awaited US election will take place in November.

The Financial Times predicts that in the US election, Trumps campaign against Joe Biden “will be the nastiest presidential election in US history”. Financial Times is predicting a close race with Biden winning by a slim margin and foresees Trump criminally convicted in at least one of his four trials. The Financial Mail predicts that in South Africa, “the African National Congress will miss out on an absolute majority for the first time since Nelson Mandela became president in 1994”. David Pilling of the Financial Times writes: “The party’s image has been eroded by years of corruption, incompetence, and appalling service delivery, epitomised by rolling power cuts. In real per capita terms, the economy has stagnated for 15 years. In 2019, under President Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC vote dipped to 57.5 per cent. This year, it will fall again. If it goes below 50 per cent, as seems distinctly plausible, it will need coalition partners.”

By the end of the year, Donald Trump may well be back in the driver’s seat. As for Cyril Ramaphosa, he could find himself unseated or forced to take on a co-driver, which could take South Africa into unchartered political territory.

My prediction is that 2024 is set to be an immensely challenging year, globally, locally and across the Continent. The devastation of Gaza, Sudan, and Congo, through man-made conflict muted celebrations of the New Year. 2024 has brought little relief to the victims of these lands. The fiery discontent of Mother Nature against persistent environmental ravages worldwide has seen unprecedented global warming and climate instability. This is set to continue, if not exacerbate further in 2024. Food insecurity in ever waning, western dependent African nations is set to increase this year, worsening the desperate and precarious future of the African child.

Wars, famine, poverty, and world inequality are all certain to continue to pattern 2024 with horrific pain strokes of pain and suffering. 2024 is unlikely to be a pretty picture. The New Year is said to bring in cheer and new beginnings. But even the untold joy of over 400 babies born in the wee hours of 2024 in South Africa was somewhat diminished by the high incidence of teenage mothers delivering these newborns. For the young teenage mothers and their young infants, things look bleak in a South Africa caught in the clutch of a social, cultural, and values crisis.

In South Africa, the year is unlikely to offer relief to those caught in a long cycle of economic desperation, financial famine, and socio-cultural dislocation. Eskom is predicting many dark days for 2024. This will continue to dim and eventually snuff out any sparks of economic possibility. Country and individual prosperity will continue to be unpowered. Today most state-owned enterprises are the rotting roadkill of years of poor steering and misdirection by government.

A new CEO is expected at Eskom in the first quarter of the year, but the burden of restoring Eskom to its former glory is unlikely to see the light of day in 2024. With a titanic loss of R1.6 billion recorded in the entity’s latest financials, Transnet is on the skids. Transnet is yet another train wreck of government derailment of state-owned enterprises, public infrastructure, and services.

2024 should be an extraordinarily proud year for the ANC and South Africa as we mark 30 years of democracy. But it is not. Thirty years into democracy, South Africa reels under the brute of daily poverty, joblessness, and landlessness. This week as the ANC celebrated its 112-year anniversary, lavish slices of highly decorated and generously iced cake were leisurely consumed by the party’s leadership. Across many communities in South Africa, a simple slice of bread is a luxury that some cannot afford.

This week, President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “We exist, as the ANC, to serve our people, and our mission remains the betterment of the lives of South Africans. The ANC boldly asserts that we have not wavered from the pursuit of the national democratic revolution.” The President said that the ANC had immersed itself in the hearts and minds of the people.

These statements by the President are testimony not of the ANC’s commitment to its electorate but to how deeply and irreparably disengaged and divorced it is from the very people it purports to serve.

Barney Mthombothi wrote in the Sunday Times this past weekend that: “Amid the suffering inflicted by his government on society, Ramaphosa often speaks as though we’re all having a good time. His demeanour is not that of a man in a hurry to do anything. Too laid back, as though the country isn’t on fire: and too ready to smile, as if mocking those who are having a hard time.”

The thirty-year road to democracy, laid by the ANC, once so promising and paved with good intentions is now a pothole of broken promises and possibilities. On the election trail in 2008, former President of the US, Barack Obama said “we can’t steer ourselves out of this crisis by heading in the same, disastrous direction”. “We can’t change direction with a new driver who wants to follow the old map.” For those fixed on following the same old map, they will not abate or arrest the current political crash and socio-economic collateral damage. If South Africa continues down the same path, it will soon hit a dangerous precipice, fall, and never rise again.

Economist Duma Qgubule has written about how by the end of next year, South Africa will have had 18 years of declining average living standards.

Barney Mthombothi writes, “As we wallow in despair, we need to keep reminding ourselves of one cardinal fact. the ANC didn’t impose itself on us … we’ve kept returning the party to office despite ample evidence of wrongdoing … repeatedly voted our tormentors into power in elections considered free and fair. It is by our own hand that we have inflicted such pain on ourselves. Now is the time to redeem ourselves. Will we grab the chance? Or is that still a bridge too far?”

Even if a new government is put in place this year, the current problems of joblessness, structural poverty, and inequality, flagging and failing public infrastructure and services, are so deeply ingrained that it will take a long time to resolve these serious socio-economic ills.

With little tangible material change expected, even in the best-case electoral scenario, it looks like there will be very little to celebrate in 2024.

Kim Heller is a political analyst and author of ‘No White Lies: Black Politics and White Power in South Africa’.

This article was written exclusively for The African. To republish, see terms and conditions.