When considering South Africa’s motivations for accusing Israel of genocide at the International Court of Justice, we should contemplate the electoral implications of ANC policies permanently marginalising most of our young adults. Have ANC leaders concluded that their hold on power will not survive legitimate elections in 2029? Does this explain their aligning themselves with countries opposed to democratic principles?

Hamas and ANC decisions indicate that neither is troubled by the plight of their people. Hamas vows to repeat attacks on Israel ‘again and again’. The ANC’s answer to an obscene level of entrenched youth unemployment is sub-subsistence income grants – despite declining fiscal capacity. Neither party pursues workable paths to reverse the miseries their policies have long provoked. Both organisations focus on staying in power at all costs.

Advancing the well-being of innocent Gazans requires a ceasefire tied to a plan for a lasting peace and a path for Gazans to pursue broad prosperity. Assisting Hamas to regroup and rearm won’t benefit Gazans. 

A lasting peace which the region’s pro-peace leaders would materially support should be urgently pursued. Meanwhile, most Arab leaders are reported to be starkly anti-Hamas while few of them have demonstrated real concern for Palestinian causes. As the challenges are so extreme, the terrible suffering in Gaza must inspire solutions not accusations.

Constructively challenging

Constructively challenging Israel’s response is different in kind from ignoring solution requirements while insisting on an immediate ceasefire. Those who call for an immediate ceasefire in the absence of a credible plan are siding with Hamas. They should clearly state that this is their position while seeking to justify it.  

To distract from their domestic woes, leaders across the Arab world have long stoked hatred of Israel. They have attributed their people’s meagre progress to Israel and the West, as the ANC attributes the dire prospects of most of today’s young black South Africans to apartheid. 

Progress in the region toward diversifying away from commodity exports had been clustered in only a few places like Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Then, after the 9/11 attacks of 2001, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries began backing away from directing domestic discontent toward Israel. A decade later, the Arab Spring triggered further fresh thinking among some of the region’s leaders. Whereas South Africa’s localisation policies block global integration and job creation, some Middle Eastern countries have been making encouraging progress.

Ruling elites

Commodity wealth encourages political patronage and this stunts development in both monarchies and democracies. Resource wealth rewards ruling elites who are threatened by the notion of a large middle class not reliant on the debilitating benevolence of government leaders.

Economists term this the “resource curse”, as such political disincentives to development are amplified by the overvaluing of commodity exporters’ currencies undermining the competitiveness of other sectors. This happened when North Sea oil and gas production spiked in the 1970s leading to the similar term “Dutch disease”.

Creating a large middle class requires that most workers are skilled at adding value to goods or services sold to affluent consumers. High-poverty countries can no longer achieve this independently, as it would take them generations to develop their own deep consumer market, while today’s rapid rate of disruptive innovations make isolationist indulgences unworkable. Instead, they should carve out niches to compound productivity and incomes. 

The ANC’s localisation and labour policies have produced spectacularly destructive results, as they are hostile to both increasing productivity and to accessing sufficient purchasing power to achieve healthy employment. Our ruling party seeks to offset the damage caused by its opposition to global integration by selling finished products to neighbouring countries.

Yet the effects of neighbouring countries integrating with SA are, on balance, often negative for them, as their economies are also constrained by insufficient domestic purchasing capacity. 


The ANC’s regional engagement includes much beggar-thy-neighbour predation. Conversely, lower-income countries developing niches within supply chains serving high purchasing power countries can sustain high growth for many decades. Future-focused Arab leaders appreciate that Israel is well positioned to help that region expand in sectors where its companies and workers can become globally integrated. South Africa should have been this region’s global gateway, but the ANC has rejected this role in favour of its anti-Western biases and alignments.

Commodity exporting benefits ruling elites, whereas global integration is today’s development up-escalator – as assembly lines were a century ago. China buying resources from South Africa does little to increase our productivity or employment. It rather feeds the patronage system which entrenches rampant poverty and unemployment. All the while, China adds value to iPhones destined for affluent markets, thus showcasing a formidable growth model.


Our youth unemployment metrics significantly understate this ticking time bomb. As the ANC shows no interest in abandoning policies that induce poverty and unemployment, some key outcomes can be confidently forecast. 

In a generally healthy economy with moderate unemployment, those who have remained unemployed several years after leaving school can still find a path to significant life-time productivity. However, once prolonged youth unemployment becomes the norm, harshly destructive political and economic vicious cycles become mutually reinforcing. South Africa is careening down this road and gathering pace.

In a moderately healthy economy, most of those who have remained unemployed until their mid- to late twenties still have options, and most will become at least moderately productive. As conventionally measured, our youth unemployment is an extreme global anomaly. More tellingly, for over a decade, most of each year’s school leavers have slid towards becoming life-time liabilities. This sliding is set to continue.

Resource-endowed countries in the Middle East travelled similar paths, but an increasing number, in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, began seeking to diversify their resource-dependent economies through global integration. Notable exceptions include Iran and Syria. 

According to the United Nations, the Syrian civil war has resulted in over 350 000 deaths and millions of people being displaced as refugees. Hamas is widely believed to rely on Iran for funding and military support. Such domestically ruinous governments have, like the ANC, sought to remain in power through mixing patronage, bigotry and ruthlessness.


The big picture is that human societies have always organised themselves to advance their prospects for survival, while decision-making mostly reflected might-makes-right. Might was often fueled by ruthlessness, but civilisations gradually promoted moral principles via religious beliefs and traditions. More recently, democratic and rules-based institutions were created at the national and even global level. 

Ruthlessness has not, however, been purged. The current leaders of Russia, Iran, China, and South Africa will sacrifice multitudes of lives and life-prospects to maintain their authority while aggrandising their public personas.

Many people applaud themselves for criticising Israel’s aggressive pursuit of Hamas without feeling any need to consider troublesome terms like “workable solutions” or “trade-offs”. Only three or four generations ago, survival pressures were sufficient to temper such reckless indulging. Today, particularly among affluent young western adults, the instinct to judge has been hectically overdeveloped. 

South Africa’s history and trajectory make it an odd litigant to charge Israel with genocide while serving as an apologist for Russian atrocities. As what could be our last legitimate elections approach, the ANC aligns itself with ruthless regimes while damaging the prospects of most ordinary South Africans.

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For 20 years, Shawn Hagedorn has been regularly writing articles in leading SA publications, focusing primarily on economic development. For over two years, he wrote a biweekly column titled “Myths and Misunderstandings” without ever lacking subject material. Visit shawn-hagedorn.com/, and follow him on Twitter @shawnhagedorn