News in South Africa 17th January:

1. Social unrest warning:

South Africa is becoming increasingly fragile as it loses key social cohesion functions, risking increased violence, dissatisfaction and social unrest.

Social unrest warning
Photo by Maurício Mascaro

This is the view of Wits governance expert Professor Alex van den Heever, who told SABC News that South Africa is showing an increase in fragility. 

His comments come in light of the World Economic Forum identifying state fragility as one of the top five risks to South Africa in 2024.

Van den Heever explained state fragility as a country that is starting to lose key social cohesion functions in its society. This can cause a society to unravel and increase violence, unrest, and dissatisfaction. 

“It is absolutely important to protect social cohesion, but for that to happen, you need a functional government,” Van den Heever said. 

“You need a government that, when they’re going to spend on infrastructure, ensure that the money actually ends up in infrastructure and not in somebody’s pocket, which is what’s happening in South Africa.” 

He stressed that the country must develop and allocate expenditure to stabilise its urban settings and housing. 

“We have to get that to work, and if our government can’t function, those things fail,” he said. 

“That results in social segmentation and a decline in social cohesion, leading to general dissatisfaction that people have in their society.” 

“That’s where you start to see an increase in social unrest and fragility, demonstrated by increases in systemic violence.”

Van den Heever’s warning echoes water scientist Dr Anthony Turton, who has previously said that South Africa’s ongoing water shortages will result in social unrest as they risk destabilising the country’s economy, which cannot function without an adequate water supply. 

Turton said the water shortages experienced in many of the country’s regions are a national crisis that will have severe economic consequences. 

He explained that South Africa has enough water to comfortably supply the population and businesses. However, the water supply is being mismanaged, resulting in shortages in some parts of the country. 

“If we manage our water wisely, we certainly have enough to grow our economy and population. The problem is that we are not managing it wisely,” Turton said. 

An estimated 50% of the water from bulk water suppliers in South Africa does not reach the end consumer due to leakages, theft, and failing infrastructure. 

“It is not a water scarcity issue. It is an institutional failure issue,” Turton said.

2. Interest rates higher for longer:

South African Central Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago ruled out cutting interest rates while inflation remains persistent.

“Our real rates are not particularly high, and inflation has come down – it’s within target – but it is not quite where we would like to see it,” Kganyago said Tuesday in an interview on Bloomberg TV on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“And if we are to make any policy adjustments, we would have to see that inflation has declined to our anchor, which is 4.5%.”

The South African Reserve Bank has held its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a 14-year-high of 8.25% since May 2023 and is expected to do so again when it meets next week.

While inflation moderated toward the end of last year, the Reserve Bank has repeatedly said it is not convinced that price pressures are slowing to the midpoint of its 3% to 6% target band in a sustainable manner.

Inflation eased to 5.5% in November from 5.9% the prior month, primarily due to a sharp decline in fuel prices, although pressure in other categories such as food remain elevated.

December inflation data will be released on Jan. 24, one day before Kganyago announces the rate decision of the monetary policy committee.

3. Difficult budget next month:

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana warned that next month’s budget will be a “difficult one” as the nation’s ability to service its growing debt remains a challenge.

Godongwana will table the annual budget in late February, when he will announce more details on the National Treasury’s plans to arrest ballooning debt, he told Johannesburg-based broadcaster Newzroom Afrika on Monday.

“Right now we have got a challenge because our growth levels are insufficient to be able to cope with higher levels of debt,” he said.

“I will have more on this in the February budget next month. I can tell you now, we are operating in a fairly constrained fiscal space so the message we are likely to put across in February is going to be a difficult one,” added the minister.

In his mid-term budget in November, Godongwana stressed the need to stabilise public finances and accelerate growth as the Treasury warned off a higher debt trajectory over the next two years.

Ongoing power cuts and a logistics crisis continue to constrain economic growth in Africa’s most industrialised economy.

Next month’s budget will come before South Africa’s general election that’s expected to take place by August, and in which the ruling African National Congress will fight to hold on to the national majority it’s had since coming to power three decades ago.

4. Citizens expect SA to worsen further:

After a tough 2023 for many, a new survey has revealed what everyday South Africans expect will get worse in 2024 – including corruption, the economy, employment, load shedding, water supply, safety, and crime, among other things.

In 2023, South Africans faced a challenging year marked by economic turmoil, political tensions, and ongoing electricity struggles.

The country grappled with soaring unemployment rates, exacerbated by global economic downturns and domestic issues. The political landscape witnessed heightened tensions and debates, while energy shortages further added to the nation’s woes.

Despite resilient efforts by communities, the convergence of these factors created a harsh environment for South African households, testing their resilience and prompting a collective bleak outlook for the new year ahead.

This less-than-optimistic outlook was highlighted in a new survey by prominent South African online research company infoQuest, which interviewed thousands of South Africans across all demographic groups.

The main findings are listed below:

Political outlook:

As South Africans await a definite national election date, their outlook on the political situation in 2024 is far from favourable.

The state of the country’s leadership and the health of democracy is expected to worsen in 2024. Three in four South Africans expect corruption to worsen, while only 16% believe or are hopeful that the state of corruption will improve.

Notably, older individuals’ expectations are more negative than younger people’s.

Sourced from BusinessTech

The economy and employment:

Expectations about South Africa’s economic health and job security are also not optimistic. 2023 was a challenging year for the South African economy, with expectations for the annual growth rate set between negative and marginally positive at best.

While unemployment has improved marginally, it is still over 30% and will only improve with positive economic growth. During 2023, 17% of South Africans reported losing their jobs, with those in the lower-income groups most affected.

More than half of South Africans are certain or fearful that the economy and job security will get worse in 2024.

Sourced from BusinessTech

Load shedding and water supply:

Reports throughout 2023 showed that there was almost double the number of load-shedding hours in 2023 than in 2022 and that Eskom initiated higher levels of load shedding in 2023 than in the previous year.

While alternative energy projects involving solar and wind are underway, it will take time to witness any benefits from these projects. In the meantime, South Africans are bracing themselves, with 65% believing that the situation will deteriorate in 2024.

People in many parts of the country have also experienced water interruptions during 2023, mainly due to poorly maintained infrastructure, which needs to be repaired and maintained.

43% of South Africans expect this situation to worsen during 2024.

Sourced from BusinessTech

Safety, security, and crime:

The survey also highlighted that the incidence of violent crime in South Africa remains a problem.

Accurate crime statistics are hard to come by, but in 2023, one in three South Africans reported being a victim of crime where something valuable was taken from them.

This was the case across all income groups. In terms of crime, which resulted in physical harm, this occurred for 11% of individuals in 2023, and it appears that South Africans do not expect the crime situation to improve this year.

In fact, 61% expect it to worsen. People also do not have much faith in law enforcement by the police, with 51% believing that it will get worse this year.

Sourced from BusinessTech

5. 2024 school year chaos:

The school year, which kicks off today, is set to have a rocky start. Some Gauteng parents have long been queuing outside district offices for the placement of their children (21,000 still not placed, according to EWN).

Many KwaZulu-Natal pupils are expected to not receive any learning materials

Meanwhile, the Western Cape is scrambling to process hundreds of “new and extremely late” applications.

New laws for schools:

The National Council of Province’s Select Committee on Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture has extended the deadline for public comments on the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill.

The deadline has been moved from Friday, 19 January 2024 at 16h00 to Wednesday, 31 January 2024, at 16h00.

Various stakeholders requested that there be an extension so that they can make supplementary inputs to their submissions. The committee Chairperson, Elleck Nchabeleng, said that the committee needed to be flexible as the submission period coincided with the December holidays.

The Bill aims to address several issues affecting the sector, including:

  • Undocumented learners
  • Inclusion of sign language
  • Clarification of corporal punishment
  • Enhance HODs’ and MECs’ oversight role in admission and language policies
  • Improve governance at schools
  • Merger of schools
  • Searching of learners for drugs
  • Making grade R compulsory
  • Aligning homeschooling and public schooling
  • Setting provisions that are not provided for in the legislation


The BELA Bill has already faced widespread criticism from opposition political parties and civic groups, especially regarding the new language and admission policies.

The new policy states that a school governing body (SGB) must submit the language policy of any public school and any amendment thereof to the Head of Department for approval.

Critics have argued that the government has ignored thousands of comments opposing the new provisions.

Arguments against the government having the final say on language and admission policies centre on the notion of power being taken away from SGBs and communities to decide what is best for their children and transferring it to politicians.

Trade Union Solidarity said that the new laws threaten African and mother tongue education, with the union threatening legal action against the laws.

The DA also said that it would take the Bill on legal review, arguing that the 5% of Afrikaans schools are being scapegoated for the government’s failure to provide quality education to children regardless of their race, religion, language or location.

Comments on the Bill can be submitted to Committee Secretary Noluthando Skaka via email: 

Despite the complaints that thousands of comments on the language policy were ignored, the Department of Basic Education dropped the clause which allowed South African schools to sell alcohol after hours following opposition during public hearings.

All information sourced from articles posted by: DailyInvestor, BusinessTech, Moneyweb, and EWN.

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