After thirty years of promising ‘a better life for all,’ ANC rule has entrenched rampant poverty and world-topping youth unemployment. If, as the lead partner in a national coalition government, the party continues to govern badly, it will prompt a hectic backlash.

For centuries, long-lived grandparents have witnessed some of their offspring becoming much better at managing resources than the others. When the best managers run a society’s organisations, everyone gains.

Such broad benefits are amplified in free-market economies, but then, successful investors, executives and managers are likely to benefit far more generously than most. This creates tradeoffs which are difficult to counterbalance politically even in communities where everyone is related.

If the ANC doesn’t pivot its policies and practices, it will provoke severe blowback long before the 2029 elections. Yet its culture emphasises party loyalty while blending disdain for efficiency, competitiveness and merit with a deep sense of entitlement. As the electoral pull of its liberation credentials weakens, the party relies more on a shrinking patronage network.

South Africa’s demographic diversity has mixed with geological abundance to provoke centuries of political and economic inequities. More recently, our geographic isolation, as highlighted by being the country most geographically distant from a top-five economy, has been further exacerbated by anti-Western policies.

Greatly constrained

Rather than emphasising merit, productivity and competitiveness, the ANC prioritises redistribution and localisation which forces our companies to focus on exporting commodities or target domestic and regional markets which are greatly constrained by tight purchasing capacity.

The ANC’s emphasis on redistribution initially spurred, but could not sustain, black middle class growth. Such gains are being reversed while prospects for the next generation continue to contract. This constitutes a fierce assault on personal dignity which is exacerbated by the ANC’s patronising messaging. Reprisals are being held in abeyance by the ANC electioneering fanning misplaced hopes.

As localisation and stagnation have become mutually reinforcing, a majority of South Africa’s black school leavers are now rendered economically superfluous. Growing indignation among the millions of twentysomethings whose prospects are dwindling will unleash the most toxic emotion, betrayal. The expiration date for blaming apartheid is near.

Permanently marginalised

As employers will prefer to hire older workers with experience or recent school leavers, the majority of our school leavers who don’t soon find formal employment probably never will. Each year hundreds of thousands of young South African adults join the many millions who are only slightly older yet already permanently marginalised. Today’s election platforms evidence much support for sub-subsistence income grants thus indirectly confirming broad acceptance of ultra-elevated youth unemployment.

The 1990s unleashed abrupt transitions both in South Africa and globally. Dozens of lower income countries learned to sustain high growth while steadily expanding employment through carving out niches in the global economy.

The managers of our economic policies used racial inequality to justify rejection of such integration in favour of localisation and redistribution. Ending apartheid ended sanctions but it did not lead to South Africa achieving sufficient global integration to become a vibrant 21st century economy.

Few South African workers add value to exports − with the highly distorted automotive sector being the exception. Nor has our extreme income inequality been tackled − though it is now less defined by race. Income inequality has become as extreme among blacks as between blacks and whites. This limited achievement has come at the unaffordable cost of permanently marginalising most young blacks.

As humans are highly adaptable, effective leaders prioritise motivation. Conversely, would-be workers in South Africa eventually accept their wretched fate while those who are hired are protected by economically destructive labour regulations. All the while, sub-subsistence grants are demotivating in the extreme as they mock dignity.

Global integration

China’s extraordinary economic growth came through adapting while motivating. The country which is home to the longest wall embraced global integration despite extreme ideological and language barriers. India, notwithstanding its caste-system traditions, is now following a similar path. The politics of race continues to stoke South Africa’s isolationism.

If, as recent polls have suggested, the ANC receives just over 40% of the vote, it will have to form a national coalition with a top three opposition party. As the ANC won’t be part of a provincial coalition government in the Western Cape and it risks being sidelined in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal as well, the party will be highly motivated to join coalition governments in the two most populous provinces.

If the ANC creates a national coalition government with either the EFF or MK, South Africa’s already grim economic trajectory will worsen. Funding grants for the poor and unemployed will become increasingly difficult while the price of essentials, like food and electricity, will climb steadily higher.

The ANC won’t be able to stem its declining urban middle class support as, under all plausible scenarios, the party’s capacity to sustain direct patronage will be contracting. Nor will a national coalition reliant on rural support be able to convincingly blame rising hunger on the IMF or Western colonialists.


The best-case outcome is that the ANC realises it needs to form a coalition government with the DA nationally and in Gauteng. The alternatives carry the risk of the majority of South Africa’s born-free black adults, who are facing permanent marginalisation, realising that the ANC has squandered the last thing they had to lose, their dignity.

The ANC’s greatest motivation for seeking to work with the DA is fear. If their leaders were familiar with the combination of circumstances that typically trigger large-scale urban upheaval, they would be very fearful.

[Image: Mystic Art Design from Pixabay]

The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR.

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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, and follow him on Twitter @shawnhagedorn