The African National Congress (ANC) and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s 2024 presidential campaign are facing significant challenges as South Africa grapples with pressing issues of unemployment and load shedding. These issues have the potential to harm not only the ANC’s chances of retaining power on a national level, but also in the populous provinces of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, where the party is at risk of losing support to the opposition.
Economist Dawie Roodt warns that the country’s unemployment rate is likely to soar if load shedding continues under a “weak government”, potentially reaching as high as 40% by 2030 according to PwC South Africa’s Africa Economic Outlook report. Roodt stresses that fixing the economy is crucial to solving the unemployment crisis, and that as unemployment rates rise, poverty will also increase. He attributes the crisis to politics rather than the economy, stating that “the weak government is the biggest obstacle to economic growth.”
The skills gap in South Africa is also a contributing factor to the unemployment crisis, as many young people lack access to higher education. This forces them to find alternative means to circumvent unemployment such as entrepreneurship, but these entrepreneurs also need the necessary skills to run successful businesses.
The psychological effects of unemployment on the youth must also be taken into consideration. Fatima Seedat, development manager at the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), states that unemployment can have negative effects on the mental health of unemployed individuals, leading to feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress. Activist writer Lunga Mahlangu suggests that South Africa can learn from how America responded to the Great Depression, where lawmakers passed legislation in favor of employment and empowerment.
If the ANC fails to address these issues, they may face voter apathy, protest, and rejection at the ballot, particularly in the populous provinces of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. The Democratic Alliance (DA) may also have an opportunity to expand its support base by courting poor black voters, potentially leading to the ANC losing power in 2024. It’s important to note that the ANC and Ramaphosa’s campaign need to focus on finding long-term solutions and not just quick fix that would only benefit a short period, this includes investing in education and training, promoting entrepreneurship, and attracting foreign investment to stimulate economic growth and create jobs.
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