South Africa


2022: And now, for some really tough times

2022: And now, for some really tough times

While we finally slammed the door shut on 2021, it is 2022 that will really make us wake up in the middle of the night – screaming.

The conventional wisdom, repeated so many times that many truly believe it, is that South Africa always walks all the way to the edge, only to pull back to the safety of reason and a common future.

I certainly wish it was true. Still, as they say in financial ads disclaimers, past performance does not guarantee future success. Considering the depth of our problems, we certainly can’t afford to leave things to fate, again.

2021, aka 2020 ver 2.0, was a brutal year for South Africans. People are still hungry, and angry. Institutions of our democratic state are crumbling right in front of our eyes, their authority eroded through incompetence, corruption and infighting. As a country, we are still wrestling with State Capture gangs, most of them known as the RET faction of the ANC. They are a true systemic risk to democratic South Africa’s continued existence and the greatest threat in 2022.

Most of us expected that this group, after the #GuptaLeaks and Zondo Commission exposed the depth and depravity of their crimes against South African people, would just run away with their Gupta masters or be quiet somewhere, hoping that the axe will not find them.

We were wrong. They not only came back, but they also did it with a vengeance.

Their provocateurs infested the information streams with lies and false flag attacks, assisted, and sometimes guided, by the crooked media owners, “journalists” and other public “servants”. In 2021, they amplified their campaign against the most dangerous to them: their political opponents, anti-corruption fighters and the remaining functioning news media.

And that all was just a warm-up for 2022. As we ended the god-forsaken 2021, our break from chaos was short and painful. It will not be just another year – it will be a year when this country’s democracy will come under severe pressure. It will be the year of the decision about the direction the ANC will take, and the whole country with it. This time, one of the main choices on the menu will be South Africa as a failed state.

The RET faction is entering the race for ANC supremacy with the strongest motivation of them all – it must win, otherwise many of them will end up in jail, together with their little media helpers.

Right now, the names of Ace Magashule and Lindiwe Sisulu are being mentioned the most in the race for the ANC presidency. The Zumas, Duduzane and Jacob, are also being mentioned on the periphery, though that is more of wishful thinking.

Duduzane, apart from being an intellectual lightweight, doesn’t have the requisite ANC NEC experience, and Jacob has this tiny little issue of medical parole, which has now been deemed illegal by the High Court. Paul Mashatile, David Mabuza and Zweli Mkhize also have strong aspirations.

The strongest, and obvious, challenger for the ANC throne is Magashule, who’s got that niggly problem, the Free State asbestos scandal. He will do his best to get rid of that sword over his head, but there are likely to be more cases against him in 2022.

In the very possible event of Ace not managing to shake off the legal stuff, right now the insiders punt that Sisulu will front the RET challenge to Cyril Ramaphosa. It is, however, clear that Ace would still wield considerable power behind the scenes.

It is always fascinating to get into the depths of the ANC’s different factions’ policy positions. Most energy at conferences gets spent on the leadership fights; the policy debates, especially if they didn’t involve signature land or mines expropriation without compensation positions, consume less and less space. One can bet that the National Development Plan was not read by almost anyone before it was adopted at the 2012 Mangaung conference.

When I saw Jacob Zuma address the ANC and South Africa in Mangaung in 2012, I could not get the image of a mafia godfather addressing a mafia conference in Las Vegas out of my head, boasting how good his leadership was for the organisation’s business. It was just four months after Marikana.

There is no doubt that throughout all these 21st century years, the one really important issue when assessing the ANC leader’s tenure was never spoken in public, but was always well known: how good is this person for our business?

A Rough Guide to saving South Africa

Right now, thousands of ANC branch delegates are considering the very same question. The question is advanced by the RET faction, and their answer is: not good, not good at all. Or as an ANC-backed businessman recently said: “We’re funding the party and he [Ramaphosa] is sending us to Zondo.”

Obviously, that can’t be said loudly, so – lo and behold – they got a gift from Julius Malema, who let the DA candidates win mayoral chains in most of Gauteng’s metros. That is a much better platform for dethroning Ramaphosa: his “failure” in the local elections and the danger of him “losing” national elections in 2024. Imprecise and perhaps unfair, but it is still a powerful message they can blare, day in and day out.

Admittedly, there is a lot that can happen before the very same branch delegates gather for the 2022 conference, and the Zondo commission report is bound to be damning for the entire RET faction – they know what they did the last decade. There could be a flurry of investigative and NPA activity, but it is bound to be slow and it will take years to finalise the prosecutions, should there be any. More than anything, the Zondo report will, in all likelihood, turn the year into a manic race between the legal system and the likely majority of the ANC leadership layer, which will see it as an existential threat. They will spend every ounce of their energy to stop it.

In 2007, Zuma & Co. decided to get rid of the Scorpions as a way of lightening the pressure. In 2022, the lines are not dissimilar: they want to get rid of Ramaphosa, replace him in February 2023 as SA President, and then immediately replace everyone who can be dangerous to their interests.

That is the plan right now. After Zuma was elected in 2007, South Africa had a collective hiccup, but then just shrugged and went on with its life. In 2022, we will not be able to afford it. 

We’re not a strong economy with no debt hanging over our heads anymore. We’re teetering on the edge of an abyss, a country in conflict with itself, after years of corruption, incompetence and a pandemic. The fact that, right now, even as it is still early it appears that the RET forces have an edge in the 2022 votes fight, is not entirely surprising. Ramaphosa was indeed bad for their business. 

One thing is clear, though: bringing the RET forces back into ANC power for more corruption and incompetence will also turn South Africa into a failed state. 

Can we count on the ANC branch delegates to understand that? Happy 2022, everyone. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Smudger Smiff says:

    Batten down the hatches Branko. We are near doomed – there are simply not enough [any?] leaders of integrity in the ANC to see off the RET faction, as you have implied.
    Time to face reality and make a plan. Please, do you have one to recommend?

  • Coen Gous says:

    Branco, for once I do not totally agree with you, despite a good, credible article. Ramaphosa is the only one in the ANC with a reasonable reputation and popularity amongst ANC voters. Unless opposition political parties really stuffs it up, the election of RET individuals at the next ANC elective conference come December will most certainly spell the end of the ANC at the next national election in 2024. But then again, opposition parties are so weak at the moment that voters might just stay away altogether from voting at all, in which case South Africa will indeed become a failed state.

  • Hiram C Potts says:

    The fact that we’re even discussing the possibility that a bunch of hoodlums, given the destruction they’ve inflicted on SA, can manoeuvre their way back into power, is alone indicative of the fact that we’re a failed state.

    The ANC is SA’s biggest enemy & danger, end of story.
    Our only hope is that the outcome of the last municipal elections will be repeated in the national elections. Otherwise I’m afraid it’s game over.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Remember how in the largest (not greatest!) democracy in the world, a spineless and ethically challenged Congress, after almost 6 decades in power, got replaced by a warmongering Hindutva party with a criminal head, declared persona non-grata by none other than that ethically compromised US, until his election as president ? What we get in the absence of ethical leadership is never a foregone conclusion !

    • Rg Bolleurs says:

      Great comment.

  • Just Me says:

    Happy 2022. There are no credible leaders in the ANC and the ANC has discredited itself so much that it cannot be taken more than a political party that is a crime against humanity, not just South Africans.
    And, no. We cannot we count on the ANC branch delegates to understand this?

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    Great article Branko. One thing I would like to know…. With the ANC/EFF being so bad for South African national well-being why does DM continue to trash (or just plain ignore) the democratic opposition? When last did the DM produce an article on the actual policies of the DA? The attacks have ALWAYS been some tiny item such as Helen Zille’s innocuous tweet, never on the Manifesto. Compare those individuals to any ANC politician, who would YOU vote for Branko?

    • Johan Buys says:


      The DA might have brilliant policies on foreign affairs and economic development and whatever.

      But those policies are pointless as the DA in its current (white) form will NEVER be the majority party. That is, unless almost nobody else votes. Zille squandered a great opportunity the DA had to change that.

      • Paddy Ross says:

        When will South Africa get over its obsession of how much melanin somebody has in the outermost one millimetre of their skin. One of the DA policies that is blindingly obvious is that an appointment to a position should be filled by the person with the best aptitude to fulfil the functions of that position irrespective of the colour of their skin. Is that really such a ‘way out’ policy?

        • Johan Buys says:

          Sorry Paddy but my experience in a DA town is that the DA is exactly as guilty of parachuting in cadres from the party list regardless of their total ineptitude. The Western Cape has the same problem at provincial level. There should have been no water crisis if the head of water was a professional instead of a politician.

          Local government was never polluted by national policy and politics. We need councils to lose the thousands of very expensive councillors and focus on competent technocrats that deliver services.

      • Keith Scott says:

        The DA has shown that it can provide clean and functional local and provincial governments. Surely that’s what most of us want and what the ANC cannot provide.

    • rodbraude says:

      Here here, agreed Glyn! Maybe the DM could formulate an insight of some reasonable depth into what the DP/alliance could do to turn SA around, and help South Africans in general to see that the time for complaining about and vilifying our incumbent thugs and thieves has long gone. We know that the ANC is rotten to the core and its collection of proverbial rabbits to pull out of the hat has all but become extinct, so we should be looking at what an opposition party or alliance can offer instead, and focus our efforts on helping this alternative to gain direction and strength.

  • Charles Parr says:

    CR is taking the country down because he simply does not have the guts and the political strength to deal with his enemies within the ANC. The bulk of the people that are referred to as RET have committed crimes against the state and should be locked away in a place of safety but instead nothing happens. The entire criminal justice system continues to progress at a snail’s pace and be totally ineffective leaving criminals free to continue committing crimes against the state and the people of SA. CR has one attempt to strengthen the criminal justice system and the was the formation of Hermione Cronje’s unit but then he didn’t fund it and so now that is something else that is just in limbo. CR, if you really don’t have the strength of character to lead then understand that FO stands for Let’s Go.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      What is truly frightening, is how many people of at least some character and integrity in the ANC, have simply ‘stepped aside’ instead of confronting the corruption that has engulfed it ! But then one needs to understand than even persons like the Arch who did so from the margins, was regarded as irrelevant by those with a naked lust for power ! I guess the esteem that the world placed on us during the Madiba era has now evaporated … and has been enveloped by the toxic gasses in the atmosphere of climate change . Maybe it is the inevitable ‘swing of the pendulum’ of human history !

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    I am not sure if this somber analysis predicting a ‘failed state’ includes a ‘military takeover/coup’… which not just in Africa … but in various parts of the globe, has become the flavour of the era we are entering ? No doubt the nations who manufacture and supply these arms … smile all the way to the bank !

  • Sandra Goldberg says:

    I see the results of the 2021 municipal elections as a ray of hope- if the coalition governments put in place in the big metros can govern wisely and provide the services so desperately needed, and the ANC continues in its poor governance nationally , then there is hope that the ANC will fall below 50 per cent in the 2024 elections, and national coalitions come into play

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