South Africa is not emerging from the unprecedented economic shock

Not least of all because we are at the mercy of destructive individuals pretending to be leaders; people who are stubbornly refusing to let go for the greater benefit of the country.
Better leaders won't just appear. They will emerge from the youth of today. Image: Shutterstock

More than a year into the global pandemic and South Africans are suffering: 61 840 lives have been lost (as at July 5) and the positivity rate is higher now than it was during the second wave.

This is what we are currently going through. The third wave of Covid-19 is here. The Beta variant remains defiant, while the Delta variant curtails the progress that has been made against the pandemic.

Gauteng is the epicentre, with daily infections increasing and provincial hospitals almost full. Amid this serious health crisis, somewhere out in the far west of Johannesburg there is brand new hospital that is unused (the AngloGold Ashanti Hospital). Other provinces have seen an increase in hospital admissions.

Have I mentioned the total disaster and slow pace of government’s rollout of the vaccination programme?

But wait, that’s not all.

Electricity supply is as fickle as a feather; there can be load shedding at any time.

And there is nothing anybody, including big business, can do about it. The severely strained power generating capacity of Eskom is killing what’s left of the business that the pandemic has not already wiped out.

South Africa is not emerging from the unprecedented economic shock.

Chilling figures

According to Statistics South Africa’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the first quarter of 2021, under the expanded definition of unemployment, 17.2 million people are jobless, not economically active, and have lost hope of finding a job.

Many others may have kept their jobs but lost significant hours of work. Consequently, they have seen a drastic decline in income at a time when most foodstuff prices have doubled.

Concretely, unemployment continues to rise and among the youth it is a record-breaking 74.7%, according to Stats SA’s expanded definition of unemployment.

Additionally nearly all sectors of the economy are struggling and provinces’ contribution to GDP has dropped, increasing the possibility of further retrenchments.

Poor and low-income people cannot afford food. The pandemic has worsened the situation, and the R350 social relief of distress grant is not sufficient as such poverty is increasing.

The helpfulness of the grant is understated.

Amid all the suffering …

South African families are suffering and we have a political leadership that still thinks stricter lockdown measures are the only way the spread of the pandemic can be curtailed.

A study published in the South African Journal of Economics – Social Assistance Amidst the Covid-19 Epidemic in South Africa: A Policy Assessment (Bhorat, Haroon, Morné Oosthuizen, and Ben Stanwix) – shows that many who are vulnerable because they are not covered by the child support grant are beneficiaries of the R350 grant.

These are individuals who are from low-income households and were proportionally affected by the hard lockdown more negatively than most.

Unfortunately, the yo-yoing between the various lockdown levels means the economy will continue to be deeply depressed and will continue to decline. This means many workers will continue to face uncertainties about working hours, as if the pandemic has not made the precariousness of work apparent enough.

For most South Africans life in the time of the coronavirus means a period of extreme economic uncertainty and inaccessibility of primary health care as public hospitals become full and attentive to the resurgent pandemic. It also a means a time of food insecurity for many, including children who must still go to school.

This is where we are today, and it is important to understand how we got here.

First, and as a long established problem, the priority of politics has been not to take South Africa forward. Politics became a step-up for leaders for personal accumulation. In the service for this ambition, state resources became a way for individuals to confirm power and establish circles that had to be supported by ministerial positions and access to strategic state resources.

Second, there is no mystery as to why South Africa has been brought to this point.

The obvious reasons are:

  • Poor if not stagnated growth, coupled with the recession before the pandemic;
  • The shock of the pandemic that was followed by shutdown and a collapse of economic activity;
  • Failure to curb the pandemic due to the complacency of government; and
  • A cock-up of vaccine procurement and the ensuing vaccination programme.

Third, we are at the mercy of destructive individuals pretending to be leaders.

We are at the mercy of men and women who are stubbornly refusing to let go for the greater benefit of the country.

Unsurprisingly, these leaders are incapable of recognising that they are the problem. The sickness that is plaguing South Africa is political leadership. A glut of clueless politicians and a dearth of leadership.

I continue the above reiteration. So do you. Didactic and preachy, a few of them might say in response.

Better leaders won’t just appear. They will emerge from the youth of today.

And within that demographic – the youth of today – we currently have a 74.7% unemployment problem.

Add hungry bellies and more than a handful of feeble leaders as role models, and the magnitude of the problem becomes clear.

If ever South Africa needed firm and decisive leadership, it is now.



Sort by:
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Top voted

You must be signed in and an Insider Gold subscriber to comment.


Great article and 100% spot on

Nope, not 100% spot on; generally, perhaps. It falls short of really getting into the guts of this kleptocracy. Leading the pack, stealing and threatening and harassing the citizens of this country is SARS, as efficient as any Mafia extortionist racketeer. From SARS, everything cascades into the gaping pockets of our corrupt politicians who are, in addition, greedy recipients of big business’ largesse (backhanders, bribes, finder’s fees). We are not close, by many, many margins from the bottom. The current government will scrape and scrape until the bottom of the barrel is gone and then they will start with the sides. What a bunch of magnificent fools – by which I mean us, the voters and taxpayers.


TO date SARS and the SARB (south african reserve bank – Foreign exchange department) have not addressed any of the outflows from South AFrica due to the Guptas / State Capture. Iqbal Sharmas money still sits in a overseas bank account as i write….

Yet, SARS / SARB want to go after Crypto currency owners… People who have shifted money legally away from SOuth AFrica because its Rand is unstable and its future Growth prospects look bleak.

@SARS/SARB – Please get your act together. Seems like your leadership is poor and if you trying to go after low hanging fruit, you wasting your time! How do you lot slip R50 Billion through your fingers while under the Gupta regime? Surely your leadership saw this and ignored the outflows … same with the Banks … they should have reported it to the SARB and yet the SARB did nothing!

In a democracy where the voting majority does not own property, there is a direct correlation between the unemployment rate and the risk for hyperinflation of the currency. Unemployed voters have the power to elect representatives who promise to redistribute the property of the poor “wealthy elite” for the benefit of the unemployed masses. ANC policies destroy jobs and will never create jobs. This implies, that as time goes by, and the unemployment stats for the youth now becomes the stats for the general population, the chances for hyperinflation will fluctuate between 75% to 80%.

We’ve got about 5 years I think….or I hope rather.

One thing’s for sure: as you extrapolate youth unemployment, the addition of new school leavers every year, the increasing debt service costs, annual double digit increases in municipal services, and the failure to contain the public wage bill, it all ends in collapse.

Unfortunately the anc is doing nothing to reverse these trends, as if anyone could.

So, how long before there is a breaking point… 5 years sounds like a fair guess

agree, I can’t see things getting better.

What you have is a bunch of “stalwarts (key word warts) and know surnames practicing how to run a country. These on the job trainee’s thumb suck ideas that fail whilst looting the fiscus. In college that would be S.A. 101

Every politician whose attention is taken up by the political factional infighting is guilty of not working to resolve these issues and thereby of exacerbating the destruction and demise of the country.

And yet the people will vote for the corrupt again. Keep them ignorant, promise what u cant deliver ,blame apartheid and encourage the benefits of the ‘struggle’.

Great article! Difficult times still ahead for this fragile economy. Over indebted government and failing municipalities adding fuel to the fire. The Political persons in power (cannot be called leaders) are incompetent and only interested in self enrichment. They are destroying the economy and people’s lives, while they live in luxury and couldn’t care less about the person on the street.

Spot on. It is all the about the political elite and the movement of power and money from the one faction to the other. Rest of us are just in the way. Watch out, odour of revolution.

Don’t accuse the ‘leaders’.
Accuse the voters for voting them in and keeping them there!

Precisely Bert, the Author also has to ask the question that if this Government was of a different “demographic”, how long would they have lasted in power with this type of performance?

Totally agree.

We can add Municipalities that are used by the political elite for cadre deployment as payment for loyalty. These thieves are then used to fleece the taxpayers and steal the money. Money that should have been spent in the real economy creating jobs for all those unemployed referred too.

Then the whole of Africa has descended on SA in their millions taking jobs and benefits away from all these unemployed.

Then the worst is we have become a state run by violent criminals protected by the police. Armed thugs are protected by police to do just what they want. This is the new norm!!!

People now rather join the violent criminal gangs protected by the police and state instead of voting these thugs out.

Good luck!! Nothing will change. Too late.

The ANC old guard does not have the energy to rebuild the country –

they have grown fat and complacent on their artificial BEE millions.

When talking unemployment the mainstream economists keep referring to formal, second world jobs, which is clearly untenable in our situation.

A much bigger focus should be on informal sector jobs and opportunities.

This has nothing to do with bad leadership. The majority of South Africans chose these types of leaders, repeatedly.
They have done this since the beginning of time. Hence not much was going on here 3000 years back and not much is gonna be going on here in 100 years from now either.

While mentioning “Demographics”, a certain demographic need to ask themselves if they are really and truly ready for, and to accept, a democratic culture!? As it stands the majority of the rest of Africa, who have had independence for way longer than SA, still cannot get democracy right, and their progress is being severely hampered because of tribal cultures and a complete misunderstanding of the term “Freedom”! The support of JZ, Ace, etc, is a perfect example of this!

Without this cognisance of one’s self, the Leaders who are expected to come out of the youth are going to be no different to today’s leaders, Africa is proof of that!

Democracy is a total failure in Africa.

It’s reversion to the mean from here on out for South Africa.

Until our people grow up in every sense of the word, there is no hope.

Democracy is not an African concept. It is a western intrusion, a cancer on Africa. It allows and fosters the complete corruption of Africa.

Does anyone here still this hard lockdown was a good idea?

Voters want different things. Is there a country in Africa that we should emulate? They all seem to have a different form of governance to what I’d like to see.
We need strong institutions and a voting public that wants meritocracy. Sadly we have neither, pretty much no law and order at all.

Naah…everything is hunkey-dorey. Just read every quarterly statement/commentary by our large asset managers–Old Mutual, Allan Gray, Coronation, Prudential, et al, and see how bullish they are. Pity it’s not THEIR money going down to tubes….

I don’t think its correct to blame the voters. There are two classes of voters. Those that are recipients of state largesse and who are essentially parasitic in effect. The second class are those that pay taxes and contribute economically to the state.

The parasitic voter could not care less about the fraud, theft and corruption as long as they get their fair share. They are the majority of voters.

The other group is such a small percentage of the vote that their voice is barely heard.

All a recipe for disaster!

End of comments.



Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Moneyweb newsletters

Instrument Details  

You do not have any portfolios, please create one here.
You do not have an alert portfolio, please create one here.

Follow us:

Search Articles:
Click a Company: