South Africa is going through one of its toughest economic periods in history, with record unemployment, the country slipping into a technical recession, and a weakening currency.
A National Planning Commission report warned of South Africa veering into a downward spiral, with declining investments and low tax revenue leading to even lower investments.
A report by the Centre for Risk Analysis painted an even bleaker picture, which said South Africa is now in the longest downward business cycle since 1945.
This, IRR CEO Frans Cronje said, is extraordinary as other emerging markets are driving the global economy.
Self-inflicted economic woes
What makes South Africa’s economic problems particularly difficult to stomach is the fact that they were created by mismanagement, corruption, and poor leadership by the government.
Under former President Jacob Zuma’s leadership, loyalty towards him and the willingness to further his personal objectives replaced competence and qualifications as the criteria for top positions.
Some of his close allies, like Dudu Myeni and Hlaudi Motsoeneng, were given top positions at state-owned enterprises (SOEs), despite not having the experience or qualifications needed for the job.
Hlaudi Motsoeneng was appointed as the COO of the SABC, despite not having completed matric.
Dudu Myeni, in turn, was appointed to the SAA board and later made chairperson, despite only having a teaching diploma and no airline experience.
It is not surprising that both the SAA and SABC are now facing severe financial problems, with annual losses of R5.67 billion and R622 million, respectively.
The same thing happened across many ministries and SOEs, and South Africa is now facing the consequences of these very poor appointments.
Some hope returns
Despite the huge challenges the country faces, President Cyril Ramaphosa is bringing hope to the South African economy.
He started to clean up institutions like Eskom, SAA, and the SABC, with new boards and new leadership teams.
He also acted decisively when former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene admitted to not being truthful about meeting the Gupta family, and replaced him with the qualified and respected Tito Mboweni.
Ramaphosa seems to genuinely look for the best person for the job within the South African political framework, and focuses on qualifications and experience over narrow self-interest.
Qualifications of SA Presidents
Some people argue that Zuma’s lack of respect for qualifications and poor leadership come from the fact that he did not receive a formal education.
Prince Mashele, CEO of the Forum for Public Dialogue and a political analyst for Nedbank Capital, has been critical of Zuma’s lack of formal education and argued that Zuma was not fit to rule.
Others disagree, arguing that the negativity over Zuma’s lack of academic qualifications are unjustified, and that he is a “leader of the people”.
The image below provides an overview of the qualifications of South African presidents from 1994 to 2018.
BRICS leaders’ qualifications
The graphic below gives an overview of the qualifications of BRICS leaders under Zuma’s presidency, and the current leadership.