South Africa faces toughest test since transition


South Africa faces what some believe is its toughest economic period since it made the transition to democracy in 1994, The Financial Times reports:

Some of mineral-rich South Africa’s woes are attributed to the global situation but others are put down to domestic factors, with some deemed to have been self-induced. Africa’s most industrialized nation is still licking its wounds from the extraordinary events of last month which saw Mr Zuma chop and change his finance minister three times in five days: a damaging saga that triggered one of the worst crises of the democratic era.

The timing could not have been worse, with economists predicting greater gloom in 2016 amid fears of more job losses in the mining and manufacturing sectors, which contribute about 20 per cent of GDP. At the ballot box, the ANC is set to face its biggest challenge yet in municipal elections this year, as frustrations mount over high unemployment, poverty and yawning inequalities.

“It’s the most important year for governance for the ANC since 1994. It’s going to have an impact on the party and the nation, on Zuma and his legacy and whether he sees out his term or not,” says Lawson Naidoo, a former ANC activist who heads the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution. “How the ANC manages the low point it is at is going to be critical.”

Despite the country’s challenges, the strength of key institutions, as well as the judiciary, the media and civil society have been seen as important bulwarks against political mismanagement, the FT adds.

“South Africa’s democratic institutions are battered,” The Economist recently noted. “But as long as the courts can uphold the law there is hope that other arms of government can regain their vigor under a new and (with luck) more democratically minded president.”

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