Skip to main content

Change: I am inevitable - Scenarios for new government

12 June 2024

Image credit: GCIS

Setting or un-setting the scene

As the famous football analyst Fabrizio Romano likes to say, “Here we go”. South Africa finally has a General Election result that sees the party of President’s Mandela and Mbeki deep under, not only at 45%, but barely hung onto 40%. Only a few predicted it. And kudos needs to go to individuals like Dr Frans Cronje who forecasted to this eventuality.

On one hand we should be happy to see that poor performance and arrogance by a government occurs and may this serve to be a message for any government formed in the coming weeks. However, it would seem this punishment was meant not just for the African National Congress (ANC), but other traditional opposition parties in the form of the Democratic Alliance (DA), Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Freedom Front Plus and partially the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) who though not being able to govern KwaZulu-Natal outright have experienced some commendable growth and others, owing to the major winner of this election, uMkhonto weSizwe (MK party).

Millions or billions were spent on shinny manifestos, loads of kilometres were put onto party vehicles, dancers and singers were used, meals handed out, and the services of polished consultants used only to arrive at this moment - where we seem to still be living in the era of President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma. The essence of which could be captured a quote by the protagonist Thanos from the Endgame (great movie): “Dread it. Run from it. Destiny arrives all the same. And now it's here. Or should I say, I am”. However, it is important to remember destiny is not written but made by leadership, so this article wants to explore through scenario setting and application what might July 2024 hold for us citizens.

Tools of analysis and Contexualisation

Perhaps a good way to consider what just occurred is to apply the famous Chinese Communist Party (CCP) maxim first attributed to Chen Yun at the State Council of the Central People's Government in 1950, but more famously associated with Deng Xiaoping, namely we need to “cross the river by feeling for the stones”. In this regard and trying to make sense of what might befall us post the composition of the eighth administration, I want to feel the river by putting forward some possible, probable, likely and truly unthinkable set of scenarios for us to consider. However, before doing this is it important to set the scene of what the South African and global context looks like for the incoming new government, through employing a limited environmental scanning exercise.

  1. Political: without being exhaustive, there are five major trends shaping the local and global political environment. Firstly, South African citizens lack enthusiasm regarding the political offering, as seen by the poor turnout of 58%. Secondly, proliferation of new parties and the immediate impact of the MK party clearly illustrates a desire for change or simply the destruction of the traditional political actors. Thirdly, in the international front, the Global North powers (United States of America, United Kingdom, European Union) are also undergoing various forms of political and societal schisms, which sees them becoming less hegemonic in their relationships with Global South States. Fourthly, the Global South is not monolithic and desires to choose its own path towards some form of development, which might be friendly with the East (Republic of India) or more circumspect (Peoples Republic of China). Fifthly, depending on one’s persuasion politically now is a great period to experiment with various forms of political systems, owing to the absence of reigning hegemonic powers.
  2. Economic: with regards to the economy four major trends need to be considered for the new government. Firstly, the unemployment challenge has always been a problem, but cannot keep being ignored owing to the dwindling State’s financial resources and the sustainability of a continued comprehensive social security offering. Citizens rightfully covet jobs and not over reliance on the State. Secondly, the type of skills available in South Africa demand mass industrialisation in a context where multinational companies from the Global North are either choosing friendlier or strategic States (Mexico, Vietnam). Therefore, the new government does not have to be overly friendly with the Global North but does need to be strategic and responsible in having an actual working relationship. Thirdly, there is due consideration about having the best and quickest forms of infrastructure for allowing not only goods in and out of South Africa but take advantage of Southern Africa’s landlocked States. Fourthly, economic regionalisation will be key in the coming decades. In other words, South African State-Owned Entities and private sector need to be more operational in the region to allow for economic development. South Africa as a State only has 60 million citizens and the economic downturn over the decade has lessened its purchasing power, but if Southern Africa could be revived through a combination of SoEs and private sector investments a potential market of 350 million people could yield some new dividends of economic development.
  3. Social: two key variables stick out; the education sector requires massive overhauling. It makes no sense having world class pre-university institutions (private schools) and sound universities for the few and the majority are left out. The answer is not redistributing this excellence but finding a means to replicate and expanding to the majority. Secondly, regional inequality is a curse that needs undoing. Townships and rural areas are potential new hotbeds of innovations and residential property boom. The next government needs to preoccupy itself with unlocking this potential. The biggest threat here is leaving both these social sectors alone and then watching a new cohort of messiahs use them as bases for launching justified revolutions. 
  4. Technological: there needs to be a proper assessment of how much technology will eat into any new economic development plans and policies, and how realistic its benefits will be for a State and region like south Africa.
  5. Environmental: the big debate of the day centres around the Just Energy Transition (JET) and what this means. While there can be no denying the move towards JET is inevitable, the big debate and reality for a State like South Africa is how to manage it without ignoring the current economic realities. The State has knowable fossil fuels, and it would be folly to simply throw them out of the planning mix for uncompetitive and unrealistic Global North loans.
  6. Legal: the elections have illustrated that new thinking is needed about the Constitution’s overly liberal values as it relates to illegal migrations, interference in people’s private lives and the like. There is a need to consider how to reimagine the post-1994 Constitution, as voters have shown by propping up parties like the Patriotic Alliance, ActionSA, ACDP and the like.

The above environmental scanning exercise, assisted one in forming the bases for the below five scenarios. It’s important to note scenarios are not prediction, but rather tools for trying to peer into what might (different) tomorrows look like as all the political parties chase the magical number of 201 seats to form a new parliament.

  • Scenario 1: Capital Inclined Coalition (Seat count ANC:159, DA:87= 246)

This shotgun marriage born not out of love, but rather economic interest of the political and business elite in both parties gets announced with some fanfare. The initial months are rocky as the current President Cyril Ramaphosa is demanded as staying to consummate this relationship. The major policy issues that both parties desire isn’t necessarily addressed, but rather they coalesce around the machinery of government and efficiency. With regards to wins for both parties, the DA gets some more policy wiggle room with regards to expansion of schedule powers for provincial governments, regarding transport and security. The more capital leaning members of the ANC see the inclusion of the DA as a means of getting rid of more ‘radical’ elements within the party and even are willing to sacrifice the COSATU and the SACP as alliance partners. Gauteng also becomes a loose coalition but an experimental one.

  • Scenario 2: The King is dead, Long live king (ANC:159, MK:58=217)

President Zuma’s MK party accepts and crafts a loose alliance with the causality or offering being the resignation of President Ramaphosa by the ANC. This paves a way for either Deputy-President Paul Mashatile or a compromise candidate to come to the fore to work with the MK party. The MK party though views this alliance as a makeshift and loose configuration hence they go into provincial coalition in KwaZulu-Natal with the IFP to ensure they have some level of insurance over the ANC. In the proceeding weeks both parties go on the charm offensive locally and internationally to the private sector to assure them that no radical and unsettling policies will be rolled out. One of the key priorities for them is to fix the poor and pathetic state of the KZN economy focusing on ports and rails, they aim to resolve the problem with the Zulu Royal house and look to frame their policy offerings around rural and township South Africa. Gauteng also comes into play with one other party.

  • Scenario 3: The Polokwane Moment 2.0 (ANC:159, MK:58, EFF:39=256)

In this scenario President Ramaphosa is allowed to stay on as a demand from the EFF and ANC, but the MK courts a reluctant IFP to go into a provincial coalition to have some political-insurance. However, this coalition demand President Ramaphosa keep the private sector online as they look to present a bevy of heavy hitting policies that might have the effect of challenging the superiority of the markets. Numerous Western States openly or privately send through their displeasure, but the BRICS+ grouping sees this as an opportunity to ramp up investments into South Africa. Eventually this scenario sees this grouping eager to want to address serious policy blockages and problems in order to woo the Western economies back and aim to be seen as working for the South African’s that rejected all three party’s majority rule. Gauteng becomes a makeweight for appeasing the EFF, with an MEC position in Finance.

  • Scenario 4: Flipping The Script (DA:87, MK, 58, EFF:39, IFP:17, FF+: 6, ActionSA:6=213)

In the unlikely event the voters and supporters of all opposition parties send a message to their respective parties that they demand a post-ANC government in the immediate, all the above parties and others come together for a grand coalition that aims to muscle out the ANC and negate its 159 seats. This grand coalition much like many of the Gauteng municipalities that had coalitions post the 2016 Local Government Elections aim to do nothing more than to ensure the ANC loses total power, and they allow themselves to be led by a non-politician to suppress their natural urges to want to be the main women or man. What they offer in the immediate is addressing two key things, namely corruption cases of the past and economic rejuvenation. 

  • Scenario 5: New Wine Skin (ANC:159, DA:87, IFP:17, FF+:6=269)

In this arrangement all three and then four parties with the FF+ joining later tentatively agree to allow for the ANC to keep the position of President of the Republic in the form of President Ramaphosa. However, the Deputy President position is given to the DA’s John Steenhuisen. Other key cabinet positions are given to the IFP, FF+, with the proviso being one of the three opposition parties most likely the DA given the position of the Ministry of Finance. Over time this formation post 2029 becomes a block by itself heading into elections. This has echoes with what former President De Klerk.


The presented scenarios here might be wholly incorrect and not workable, but at least it does allow for you the reader to consider the different permutations that might play themselves out. I personally have not favoured one but simply want to see which one is closer to the reality we will get post June 2024.



Elections 2024