Justice Malala reflects on the impact of geopolitical tensions on SA’s existing challenges
14 Oct, 2022

Justice Malala addresses the ‘instability within and without’ as he reflects on the impact of geopolitical tensions on South Africa’s existing challenges

Justice Malala – political commentator, newspaper columnist and best-selling author

The turbulence of South Africa’s socioeconomic climate cannot be divorced from the instability of the geopolitical landscape. The world is in transition. Liberal democracy itself is on trial, and South Africa like every other country, is on the crest of the wave.

These are the sentiments of renowned political commentator and award-winning author, Justice Malala, who returned for another webinar hosted by PSG to discuss the future of politics across local and global stages. The conversation is part of the Think Big series and is aimed at garnering insights from prominent public figures and experts on some of the country’s most pressing issues.

No wonder, says Malala, that the current state of global politics is being referred to as a “polycrisis,” or a state in which crises within several major global systems converge and undermine the stability and welfare of humanity.

Malala asserts that this reality can be seen globally in examples such as the war in Ukraine – an outward manifestation of Russia questioning its status within the current global architecture. Tensions between China and the West are another reflection of rising global tensions.

South Africa is being swept up by this seismic shift. Almost three decades after the country’s first democratic election, realities such as state capture and long-standing monopolies of power have called into question the notion of a post-1994 liberal democracy.

Touching on the July 2021 riots, Malala questions whether we have truly grasped the fact that we are in trouble as a country. He expressed disagreement with former South African president, Kgalema Motlanthe who – in a previous Think Big webinar – asserted that the ANC has heard the alarm and comprehended the need for a complete renewal of leadership.

For Malala, the fact that in July, 354 people were killed, 161 shopping malls were ravaged and the country incurred millions of rands worth of damage is not being recognised as the warning sign that it represents. As he suggests, “over the next few years, given the instability of the national climate, the chances of implosion are high. Record-high unemployment, rising inequality, political machinations and divisions at the core of the ANC are tinder awaiting the strike of a match.

“We need to be careful and watchful as a nation. The failure of intelligence that preceded the July unrest should not be allowed to reoccur. Our leaders would do well to heed the words of Thabo Mbeki, who drew a parallel between the South African scenario and the tumultuous events of the Arab Spring,” says Malala.

These important events are however part of a bigger picture in which South Africa faces both instability within and without. At this pivotal juncture in our history, the hearts and minds of voters are caught between the apparent collapse of coalition politics and the future of the ANC.

While the ANC’s upcoming electoral conference in December continues to capture much media and public attention, Malala also has a keen eye set on developments abroad and the state of South Africa’s international relations.

The past years have seen a significant influx of global players reaching out to South Africa and testing its alignments and allegiances. In September, President Cyril Ramaphosa was given a rare tour of the White House by American President Joe Biden. More recently, it was announced that Ramaphosa will be the first state visit for King Charles III since his ascension to the throne.

For Malala, these developments are illustrative of a “pull on South African interests from east and west,” as the world’s powers embark on a process of regrouping along new geopolitical lines. Now is the time for “South Africa to get its priorities in order,” Malala argues.

As he concludes: “It is imperative for our leaders to be clear about what aligns with our strategy for growth as a nation and what our needs are. If we are not cool, calm and clear about our relations with other countries and what that means for the future of the country, we risk stunting much-needed economic growth and exacerbating central issues such as young unemployment and social inequality. In the next few years, we need to redefine our place in the world. Things are moving fast. Now, we need to find our true north and move quickly and resolutely in that direction.”




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