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A belated welcome to 2017 and everything of the best to all SEIFSA News readers and their respective families, and to all stakeholders in the metals and engineering sector.

We – all of you reading this issue of our magazine – have survived 2016, which was probably the most difficult year economically in our democratic era. Surviving the year shows that we are sufficiently resilient as companies and individuals. Having done so, we should be more than ready to stabilize and fly in 2017 and beyond.

By all accounts, 2017 is certainly expected to be a much better year than its predecessor. If our political mandarins were to refrain just long enough from shooting themselves in the feet, as is their wont, our hitherto stuttering economy should do considerably better this year. An expert analysis by our Economics and Commercial Division shows that the economy should grow by 1.2% this year and by 1.8% in 2018,  against the backdrop of improved commodity prices. The metals and engineering sector is expected to grow by 1.4% as a function of improving global and domestic growth.

As we all know, though, the economy is intricately intertwined with our politics. This means that the degree to which the aforementioned forecast is realized will be impacted upon by the conduct of our political leaders. Another factor will be the degree to which we will enjoy labour stability in the different sectors of the economy, starting with our own. Collectively, both factors may yet again be significant constraints on the economy, as they have been in the past.

Regrettably, over the past few years our political leaders have proved to be unequalled when it comes to scoring spectacular own goals. That has been our lot as a country over the past few years. Sadly, nothing in the horizon suggests that we may be spared the kind of folly to which we have now become both accustomed and increasingly inured.

If anything, every indication suggests that politically 2017 will be an even more volatile year. This is because the governing party, the African National Congress (ANC), will hold its 54th national conference in Gauteng on 16-20 December 2017, during which a new leadership will be elected. Regrettably, in the run-up to every ANC conference, much focus within the ANC is on jockeying for positions, with members of different factions in the organization expending much – if not all – of their time on positioning themselves for elections to the National Executive Committee (NEC).

In the run-up to provincial and national ANC elections in the past decade, we have seen important decisions in Government deferred or put on hold if they were perceived to have the potential to hurt somebody’s political fortunes, with those perceived to be likely to improve somebody’s political fortunes being actively championed. For the same reason, other initiatives have been opposed or resisted because they would make an individual or faction within the organization look good ahead of the conference.

Leaders and members of the ANC will be very internally focused this year. That much has already been evident since the beginning of the year. The degree of internal divisions in the organisation is unprecedented. Not only do individuals and groups rally behind and support certain candidates for election into the top six and the NEC of the ANC, but, for the first time ever, now members of the self-same organisation go out of their ways actively to impugn the character of those to whom they are opposed or who belong to factions different from their own.

For instance, those in favour of the continuation of the status quo have embarked on a scurrilous campaign to tar and feather especially Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, among others. They have even resorted to manufacturing lies and sundry propaganda against them and spread these to the media through whispering campaigns.

This is totally unprecedented. I have never known such a divisive election campaign in the ANC before.

At the time of writing, it appears as though there are some dynamics of a not-dissimilar but low-profile nature at play within the official opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA). The sudden resignation of Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille as DA leader in the Western Cape looks and sounds very suspicious, despite protests to the contrary from De Lille herself.

Given the various controversies in which he has been mired, President Jacob Zuma’s standing as Head of State has been seriously undermined to the extent that he can no longer address either House of Parliament without attendant drama. With his appeals against the re-instatement of the 700-plus charges against him and the Public Protector’s damning findings against him in the State of Capture report due to be finalized this year, President Zuma is likely to have an even tougher time in 2017 than he did last year.

Any controversy in which President Zuma finds himself mired will damage the candidature of his former wife, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, for the ANC presidency because, rightly or wrongly, she is seen as his proxy. Whether or not she is, indeed, his proxy, what we know for a fact is that she is his preferred successor.

So, while all indications are that 2017 will be a better year for our economy, much depends on the quality of political leadership that we will see this year. Unfortunately, that is something over which we have no control.  However, we can – and should – keep our heads down and focus on that which is in our direct control.

 

Kaizer M. Nyatsumba

Chief Executive Officer

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