RAW Book Review – A time travelers guide to South Africa in 2030

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The Real African|| By Dumani Mandela

Scenarios are the enabling component of long range planning and preparation for the future, rather than a prediction of what is to come.

Scenario planning caught on in South Africa in the early 90’s with the Mount Fleur scenarios, who’s scenarios were developed to assist in the negotiations for a free South Africa. A good summary of the scenarios was published by Genron Consulting and also Reos Partners, which summarizes the scenarios in the following manner.

The Mont Fleur team’s scenarios, published in 1992, asked the question: How will the South African transition go and will the country succeed in “taking off”?

Each of the four stories gave a different answer and had a different message. South Africa was in the middle of the contentious and risky transition negotiations. Nobody knew how or even whether they would succeed, or if the country would remain stuck, embattled, and isolated.


As a set, the scenarios provided a provocative road map for this transition.

There were three dark prophecies of futures to avoid: Ostrich, in which the minority white government sticks its head in the sand to try to avoid a negotiated settlement with the black majority; Lame Duck, in which there is a prolonged transition with a constitutionally weakened government that, because it purports to respond to all, satisfies none; and Icarus, in which a constitutionally unconstrained black government comes to power on a wave of popular support and noble intentions, and embarks on a huge and unsustainable public spending program, which crashes the economy.

Then there was one bright vision of a future to work towards: Flight of the Flamingos, in which the transition is successful because all the key building blocks are put in place, with everyone in the society rising slowly and together.

Icarus got the most attention. The leading economists of the left were warning of the dangers of irresponsible economic policies. The two top economists in Mandela’s African National Congress, Trevor Manuel and Tito Mboweni, presented the scenarios to the ANC’s leadership team, including Mandela, Oliver Tambo, and Joe Slovo (chairperson of the South African Communist Party).

At the time, this leadership group was focused primarily on achieving a political, constitutional, governmental, and military transition. Their general view was that the country was rich and that an ANC government could simply redistribute money from rich whites to poor blacks. Their economic thinking, formed during the Cold War and the South African guerrilla war, was tightly held.

Icarus, presented at this meeting by their own top economists, was therefore a direct attack on the party’s orthodoxy. When some participants demurred, it was Slovo, citing his personal experience with failed socialist programs in the Soviet Union and elsewhere, who argued that they needed to take Icarus seriously.

The economic message of Mont Fleur profoundly affected ANC thinking. Mont Fleur helped to shift the economic thinking and action of the ANC and to avert an economic disaster.

At present in 2017 there are numerous scenarios, which are available about South Africa from the Institute of Security Studies and NGO’s such as the Brenthurst Foundation. Frans Cronje in his book A Time travellers guide to South Africa in 2030 offers four new scenarios on South Africa but non which can be spoken about without first speaking about the Mount Fleur Scenarios.

These four scenarios talk about what South Africa will look like in 2030 taking current developments in areas like, education, health, governance and race relations. These four scenarios are; Rise of the right, Tyranny of the Left, the Break Up and Rise of the Rainbow.

In the ‘Rise of the Right’ the state plays a dominant role in society and popular expectations of a better life for all have been met.

  • The ANC united behind a reformist leadership.
  • The cabinet introduces a series of firm reforms to labor market policy, secures property rights, and dispenses with current affirmative action and empowerment policies in favor of an empowerment model centered around growth and development.
  • An immensely impressive and efficient civil service arises.
  • The government quashes any dissent in its tracks.
  • The world experiences a sustained long-term recovery and South Africa is well on its way to growth rates of 5%.

In the ‘Tyranny of the Left’ South Africa is dominated by a powerful repressive state in which expectations are unmet.

  • ANC unites behind a cruel and corrupt leadership.
  • Redistributionist socialist dogma takes the place of growth focused reformist policy.
  • Racial tensions are intentionally ratcheted up against rising levels of violence.
  • An assault is launched against democratic institutions, property rights and critical or dissenting voices.
  • The economy falters between recession and very low rates of growth.

In the ‘Break Up’ the state had withered while popular expectations remain unmet.

  • The ANC squabbles with itself even as the walls of Luthuli House start tumbling down.
  • Policy remains confusing and contradictory.
  • Protesters increase dramatically and take n repugnant racial and ethnic overtones.
  • People start ignoring the government and state.

In the ‘Rise of the Rainbow’ state influence in South Africa is limited and popular expectations have been met.

  • The ANC and the DA comet together around the importance of sensible economic reforms to labor laws, the importance of property rights, and the need for effective empowerment policies.
  • Racial and societal tensions are transitioned into a new mood of unity and common purpose.
  • The global economy recovers and South Africa is well in its way to growth rates of 5%.

Frans Cronje does an excellent job in detailing some of South Africa’s current challenges in the areas of health, governance, housing, and race relations as the backdrop for his scenarios. But somehow I think something is amiss in the intention of nation building in his book and really recommending a way for the government to radically improve policy for all.

Instead he offers scenarios, which are based on unrealistic expectation of the market and its ability for societal correction while at the same time lambasting government’s inability to form and entrench policy. I don’t think any of South Africa’s public intellectual scenario planners have met the ambitions of the Mount Fleur scenarios in terms of creating robust national consensus in their scenarios.

To a certain degree I think Frans Cronje’s scenarios try and address some of the concerns of leadership in South Africa by opposition parties, instead of providing an independent analysis on the state of South Africa and its future. Personally I don’t think any of these scenarios will materialize but rather something in between like a highly centralized democracy will emerge in South Africa with leanings towards the Chinese highly regulated and bureaucratic model similar to Cornje’s “Rise of the Right” scenario.

I truly believe for national scenarios to generate the kind of national consensus that the Mount Fleur scenarios did is by increasing stakeholder engagement beyond the IRR (Institute of Race Relations) which Cronje heads up.  However that being said I think this is an important book for all South Africans to read on some of the current scenarios available for South Africa in the next thirteen years.

If a person has read the Mount Fleur scenarios, this book is a must read for all conscientious South Africans whom are interested in the future of South Africa.

About Dumani Mandela 25 Articles
Dumani Mandela was born in Cofimvaba, Eastern Cape, South Africa and is a graduate of Wits University with a degree in Political Science and International Relations. His background is research, and he worked at Nextwork Consulting and Skandia Insurance Company in Sweden prior to joining his family’s investment company, OSR Holdings, for whom he works as a project manager. Dumani Mandela is a co-author of 'African Soul Talk – When Politics is Not Enough' with Warren Goldstein and participated in research for the book 'Lekgotla: The Art of Leadership Through Dialogue' by Willem de Liefde.

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