Picture: Supplied – Residents from Rondevlei and Harmony Village in Mitchells Plain say they have no more ‘krag’ (energy) to fight Eskom or the City of Cape Town, after being left in the dark for up to 10 hours a day. By now, it is clear that even the change in leadership at Eskom – be it the Board or the CEO – produces no positive results in finding a solution, the writer says.
By Bheki Mngomezulu
With the year 2022 behind us, the focus is now on the year 2023. Everything that we could not achieve in 2022 is now water under the bridge. The least we can do as a people is to plan for next year. In so doing, we cannot forget to reflect on the gains and failures we made in 2022. While the political context is always important given that politics determines all that we do, the socio-economic situation in the country is always at the core of our survival.
The reality of the matter is that it would be both foolhardy and disingenuous to plan for 2023 without considering the broader context. Most of what happened in 2022 will surely spill over to the year 2023. In this piece, I will enumerate a few of those events which have the potential to shape the year ahead.
First on the list is the Eskom menace. The intermittent power cuts – commonly referred to as load shedding will continue to ruin everybody’s socio-economic life in 2023. The reality is that neither government nor the leadership at Eskom have a solution to this problem. It has been fifteen years already with no stable power supply and yet no solution has been found.
At one point, the promise was that once the two plants in Medupi (Limpopo) and Kusile (Mpumalanga) were completed, the country would be out of the woods. The reality is that with these plants having been completed, the situation has become even worse!
By now, it is clear that even the change in leadership at Eskom – be it the Board or the CEO produces no positive results. Recently, it was announced that Andre Marinus De Ruyter has resigned as Eskom’s CEO. Although he has been asked to remain in office until March 2023 while the process to get the new CEO is activated, I am pessimistic that anything positive will happen between January and March 2023.
When Ramaphosa ascended to the presidency in 2018, he promised the nation what he called “The New Dawn”. Almost five years down the line, the New Dawn is yet to come. In fact, the opposite is true. Before he took over, there was no Stage 6 of load shedding. If thus far the President has failed to provide a solution to this crisis, what magic would make him change things around in 2023? This means that the socio-economic situation in South Africa in the year 2023 will either remain the same or deteriorate.
Linked to the Eskom issue is the country’s economic situation. For a country to have a thriving economy, both the political and economic situation should be stable. With unreliable power supply, job creation is negatively affected. Although there has been a glimmer of hope that some new jobs have been created in the third quarter of the year, the reality is that those jobs are far less than what the country needs. Therefore, the unemployment rate will continue to be one of the key challenges for the country in 2023.
Another related offshoot is foreign investment. No country in the world can survive by solely looking inward. Countries either need investors or markets for their products. In South Africa, we have hosted several investment summits. Politicians boast about the success of these summits and are able to provide statistics to buttress their assertions. While this is good on paper, the reality is that until the general public sees something concrete on the ground, such figures mean nothing to them. In a nutshell, slow economic growth in the country will continue to pose a serious challenge to the majority of South Africans.
Endogenous and exogenous causal factors have seen South Africa experiencing energy challenges. The constant increase in petrol and diesel prices will still constitute one of the socio-economic challenges in the country in 2023. Excuses in this regard have been the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Given the fact that the Russian invasion in Ukraine is far from over, we can expect more petrol and diesel prices increases in 2023. Whenever these increases are implemented, their ramifications are felt in all spheres of life. Food prices (including basic foods), clothing prices, material prices and everything else goes up. This happens at the time when salaries remain stagnant at best or are reduced at worse.
In the realm of politics, certain events will have an impact on the country’s socio-economic situation. The lingering Phala Phala matter will continue to divert attention from bread and butter issues. President Ramaphosa may have survived possible impeachment with the defence of his comrades but this does not mean that the incident will automatically go away. As the country comes closer to the 2024 general election, internal and external challenges to the President will continue. It all boils down to morality. In other words, despite surviving the impeachment process, is the President morally strong to lead the ANC to the 2024 general election?
Linked to the point above will be the impact of the results of the 2022 ANC election results. As preparations for this election took place, there were a number of individuals and branches who were disgruntled. Some even took the ANC to court. Depending on whether delegates found one another at the December 2022 conference, the results might spill over to 2023. If there is instability in the ANC, this translates into instability in the country since the ANC is currently the governing party.
Lastly, the manner in which the international community perceives South Africa will have an impact in the country’s socio-economic life. If rating agencies rate South Africa negatively as has been the case in the past, the country will struggle to borrow money. If successful, the interest will be higher. Investors will stay away and job creation will suffer.
Therefore, unless something drastic happens, South Africa’s socio-economic situation will deteriorate in 2023!
Prof Bheki Mngomezulu is Professor of Political Science and Deputy Dean of Research at the University of the Western Cape.