South African Crossroads

South African Crossroads

South Africa reaches a crossroads this weekend as the ruling African National Congress elects a new party leader. This is the person who will lead the ruling ANC into the next presidential election in 2019.


A quarter century from the end of apartheid, this country is in rough shape.

  • More than one-third of South Africans aged 15–35 are unemployed.
  • Unemployment is four times higher for black youth (40 percent) than for white youth (11 percent).
  • Just 30 percent of South African households qualify as “middle income.”
  • The average annual number of violent protests climbed from 21 between 2004 and 2008 to 164 from 2014 to 2016.

Why has this happened? Falling global demand for the gold, platinum, diamonds, and coal the country produces leaves its government with less money to invest in development, exacerbating problems created by the physical legacy of apartheid: the distance between the townships and rural areas where many black South Africans still live, on the one hand, and the schools and jobs that could help them escape poverty on the other. But the ANC must accept blame for corruption and lousy leadership. Jacob Zuma, president since 2009, faces 783 charges of corruption and racketeering.

ANC delegates will vote this weekend. The contenders are Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Ramaphosa is a former trade unionist turned successful businessman. He leads an ANC faction that recognizes the need to balance moves to transfer more of the country’s economy and land into black hands with a consistent effort to maintain investor confidence. Dlamini-Zuma is former chair of the African Union Commission, former health minister, former foreign minister, and Zuma’s former wife. She heads a faction of the ANC that wants to protect its privileges and keep Jacob Zuma out of jail.

Keep in mind that South Africans under 30 are too young to remember apartheid. For them, the ANC is not the party of liberation but the party of power. It’s not the party that brought change; it’s the party that resists change. That’s part of why it’s not clear that either candidate can lead the ANC to victory in 2019, leaving the Democratic Alliance in position to lead the first non-ANC government since the end of apartheid.

The ANC’s credibility and future are on the line this weekend. The vote will be close. By Monday, we should know who won.

That's Bank of America's new target in its Environmental Business Initiative in order to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon, sustainable economy.

Here's how it will drive innovation to address climate change.

On Tuesday, a major US intelligence report said the top threat to America right now is China. A day later, John Kerry, the Biden administration's "climate czar," got on a plane to... China.

Such is the drama of ties between the world's two largest economies these days.

More Show less

Should the Biden administration "reverse course on China" in the hope of establishing a friendlier relationship, as diplomat Kishore Mahbubani argues in a recent Financial Times op-ed? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Michael Hirson take out the Red Pen to explain why it's not that simple.

And today, we are talking about the United States and China. The relationship between the two most powerful nations in the world is the worst it's been since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Pundits and policymakers alike all around the world are trying to figure out how Washington and Beijing can at least stop the bleeding because a reset is nowhere in the cards.

That's the topic of the op-ed that we are looking at today. It's from the Financial Times, written by Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani, and the title summarizes the key argument: "Biden should summon the courage to reverse course on China." Meaning, he should throw out the Trump era approach and open the door to more cooperation and kinder, gentler relations.

More Show less

More than a dozen COVID-19 vaccines have been fully approved or are currently in early use globally, and COVAX, the global initiative started last year by the World Health Organization and other partners, is pushing for equitable access to vaccines for all. But most of the half billion jabs given so far have gone to citizens of wealthy countries, with half going to the US and China alone. What's the problem with so-called vaccine nationalism? Ian Bremmer explains that besides the clear humanitarian concerns, the continued global spread of COVID increases the risk of new mutations and variants that can threaten the entire world, vaccinated or not.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Should wealthy individuals and nations shoulder more of the burden in addressing climate change? Pulitzer Prize-winning climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert argues that Big Tech leaders like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk should shift more of their focus to fighting for our own planet's survival, instead of space exploration. "We're doing as much as we can to make life difficult on planet Earth for ourselves. But there's virtually nothing we could do to make it as difficult as life on Mars, where there's, among other things, no oxygen." Kolbert, the author of Under a White Sky, discusses why it's so crucial for a few rich countries to bear most of the climate burden, since they're also the biggest emitters. Her conversation with Ian Bremmer is featured in the upcoming episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting this Friday, April 16. Check local listings.

In recent days, Northern Ireland has seen some of its worst street violence in over a decade. The anger has subsided a bit this week, but post-Brexit fears leave many uncertain about their future in a deeply divided land with a long history of political violence between Irish republicans and UK unionists.

More Show less

Fighting climate change is about making the planet get less hot. The more quickly countries slow down their carbon emissions, the faster that'll happen. All the more important for the nations that pollute the most — but not all of them are on board. Although the majority, including China, are setting future targets to go Net Zero, India doesn't want to commit (yet) to when to stop burning fossil fuels to spur economic growth. We take a look at when the world's top polluting economies intend to go carbon-neutral, compared with their share of global emissions, of renewable energy as a source of electricity, and percentage of global coal consumption.

Peruvian runoff: Perú's presidential election is going to a runoff in June between two surprise and polarizing contenders, each of whom won less than 20 percent of votes in a highly fragmented first round. Pedro Castillo, a far-left union leader and teacher who benefited from a late surge in the polls, will battle rightwing populist Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the country's imprisoned former strongman. Castillo wants to rewrite the constitution to weaken the political influence of the country's business elite and maybe to allow the state to nationalize parts of the mining sector to pay for social programs for the poor. Fujimori wants to use mining revenues to create jobs by investing in infrastructure and healthcare. The runoff will probably be a national referendum on Fujimori, a divisive figure running for the top job for the third time. No Peruvian president has ever left office without facing corruption charges, but Fujimori already faces several — and she'll avoid jail time if she wins.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal