Life is fast and furious in South Africa. Although the Indlulamithi Scenarios were launched only four months ago, significant developments in the intervening period have – predictably – cast the project in a somewhat altered light. Since our last edition of Highlights, we have seen the Jobs and Investment Summits come and go, the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the revelations on the heist of VBS Mutual Bank.

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The intersection between the Jobs and Investment Summits and the Indlulamithi project is plain to see. Reenergising investment by local and international investors and performance in relation to job creation play a major role in all three scenarios. Perhaps more importantly, these summits represent social compacting in action, and the possibility of driving a social compact off the back of the scenarios has been considered by Indlulamithi.

Is the climate ripe for this?

The summits may hold some clues.

  • Four main constituencies were represented at the Job Summit: government, the private sector, trade unions and community organisations. Does the resulting declaration reflect the investment of all partners? There was agreement on various approaches and interventions. But the “big issue” consensus was quite thin, centring on a quasi-commitment to saving existing jobs as well creating new jobs. How easy is it to find common ground?
  • Who is speaking for the unemployed and where is the evidence of their voice?
  • The Investment Summit has prioritised a number of economic sectors: agriculture, agro-processing, mining and manufacturing, transport, ICT, tourism, BPO, film, energy, water and venture capital.

Codesa was unquestionably the high tide mark for social compacting processes in South Africa. It was driven by an intense sense of crisis and historic opportunity. Without doubt, the stakes have not been higher since the early 1990s. But the current strength of compacting partners and their connection to the grassroots is nowhere near the level of the 1990s.

Indlulamithi’s first of 25 variables speaks to the divergent degree to which low- vs high-skilled labour will be absorbed in the economy. Investment Summit’s sector-based approach suggests we are getting more granular in terms of identifying the opportunities and matching the resources to achieve inclusive economic growth and positively affect job creation.

The IPCC report – scientifically dry and impossibly difficult for ordinary mortals – was yet another wake-up call, warning that time really is running out to bring global warming under control. It estimated that, if nations of the world continue on their present course, the globe will hit the warming limit of 1.5°C set in the Paris Agreement sometime between 2030 and 2052.

South Africa – which is in the top 20 emitters of carbon dioxide – is warming at twice the rate of the global average and has already exceeded the 1.5°C mark, Prof Bob Scholes of the Global Change Institute at Wits University told the Saturday Star.

In the same article, Indlulamithi Leadership Group member Tasneem Essop (who also serves on the National Planning Commission and is Director of the Energy Democracy Initiative) said the ICGG report meant that South Africa “would have to be more ambitious in our actions to cut emissions and invest much more in building climate resilience”.

How does this challenge modify our thinking about the scenarios we have debated and crafted?

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Finally, we are all pondering the implications of the looting to the point of utter destruction of the VBS Bank. The report of forensic investigator Terry Motau paints a web of collusion involving business, politically connect individuals, elected local leaders and officials in local government and other public entities. It has also raised important questions about the adequacy of regulatory oversight of the banking sector. Is the morally corroded world of the Gwara Gwara nation a distant possibility or a present nightmare? Have our scenarios accorded sufficient weight to the resuscitation of institutional capacity and moral leadership?