The wild ride will continue in 2018
THIS year will be remembered as one of factionalism in the ANC, a fragile economy exacerbated by political manipulation, yet untested state capture allegations and a wake-up call that all is not sound in the holier-than-thou private sector.
The ANC’s 54th conference ended, yet to many that it happened at all was an achievement in a year when the opposition and many in the ANC wanted President Jacob Zuma out before his term was over.
It was not his role, intense contestation over top posts, factionalism or anything else that nearly brought the conference to blows, but the question of the expropriation of land without compensation.
Cyril Ramaphosa was elected ANC president with a top six that includes comrades from his slate and rival Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma’s slate. It is not without irony that the conference passed resolutions closer to his rival’s policies than his “new deal”, setting the scene for a year of more intense politics.
This was a year where much that divided civil society remained unresolved. State capture took centre stage but the emphasis on one family was unpalatable to many who saw it as myopic and not taking into account the influence of monopoly capital on government contracts.
After the firing of Pravin Gordhan as finance minister, the Gupta family was forced to exit or plan the exit from most of its businesses. Despite broad support, however, the commission of inquiry into state capture remains tied up in the courts.
Despite wiping more than R16.5bn off government pension schemes, much of the media has pussyfooted around the biggest private sector scandal when CEO Markus Jooste suddenly resigned from Steinhoff due to “accounting irregularities”.
Speculating on the role and future of the South African Reserve Bank and the debate about what is considered to be the unfettered power of the banking sector created more heat than light and will continue into 2018 and probably into 2019.
In homes and on the streets, it was clear that the authorities have not yet been able to fix crime and trending hashtags like #MenAreTrash, after the murder of Karabo Mokoena and #MeToo, in which women including singer Jennifer Ferguson detailed their sexual assaults, brought the violence in our society into sharp relief.
This was a year of living dangerously close to the edge and the debacle over social grants brought us within a whisker of a disaster. An 11th-hour deal brokered by the Constitutional Court obliging Cash Paymaster Services to continue payments for another year while sassa, the Department of Social Development, Minister Bathabile Dlamini, Black Sash and others grappled with how to pay the approximately 17 million grants. In December, with just months to go before this extended solution comes to an end, a solution seems to be at hand but the efficacy of this new deal will once again go down to the wire. There could be little comfort in knowing that South Africa was not the only country in the eye of a storm. Zimbabwe did the unexpected and ditched Robert Mugabe and his overly ambitious wife Grace. Across the ocean, US President Donald Trump clung onto his Twitter habit to shock his nation and at times the world.
As we look back with wonder at 2017 there is a sobering reminder that most of these issues remain unresolved ... 2018 is sure to start with a bang.
HUMAN POWER: Children ride a manually-operated Ferris wheel in a slum in Mumbai, India.