South Africa: Mind the Gap

In 1913, the so-called Natives Land Act passed huge amounts of South African land from blacks to whites. With the end of apartheid in 1994, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) pledged to return 30 percent of this land to its “previous owners” by 2014. But to maintain investor confidence in the country’s property rights, the government has moved slowly to implement this policy. Best estimates are that, 24 years later, just 10 percent of commercial farmland has been redistributed. Pressure for a dramatic change in policy is on the rise.


As he leads the ANC toward elections next year, President Cyril Ramaphosa has his work cut out for him. The problem extends well beyond land. According to recent data from the World Bank, more than half of South Africa’s population lives below the poverty line. Another 27 percent live at risk of falling into poverty. Just 4 percent are considered wealthy. Just 20 percent of South Africans qualify as middle class. Compare that with 80 percent in Mauritius.

In country after country, in rich states and developing ones, voters have swept aside the political class in favor of outsiders. Ramaphosa, an unelected leader who assumed office after his predecessor’s ouster, will have to find new ways to persuade South Africans, that the ANC, the only ruling party anyone under 30 has ever known, can buck the trend.

It was inevitable that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would make India's elections a referendum on Narendra Modi, and now that the vast majority of 600 million votes cast have been counted, it's clear he made the right call.

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Among the 23 men and women now seeking the Democratic Party's nomination to take on Donald Trump in next year's election, the frontrunner, at least for now, has spent half a century in politics. Former Vice President Joe Biden, first elected to the US Senate in 1972, is the very epitome of the American political establishment.

Yet, the dominant political trend in many democracies today is public rejection of traditional candidates and parties of the center-right and center-left in favor of new movements, voices, and messages. Consider the evidence from some recent elections:

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It's Friday, and Signal readers deserve at least one entirely upbeat news story.

José Obdulio Gaviria, a Colombian senator for the rightwing Democratic Center party, is an outspoken opponent of government attempts to make peace with the FARC rebel group after 50 years of conflict.

On his way into a meeting earlier this week, Gaviria collapsed. It was later reported that he had fainted as a result of low blood pressure probably caused by complications following recent open heart surgery.

A political rival, Senator Julian Gallo, quickly came to his rescue and revived him using resuscitation skills he learned as—irony alert—a FARC guerrilla. CPR applied by Gallo helped Gaviria regain consciousness, before another senator, who is also professional doctor, took over. Gaviria was taken to hospital and appears to have recovered.

Because some things will always be more important than politics.