While politicians are bombarding South African voters with their election messages, it is generally accepted that the future of the country will be determined more by what happens after the election than the actual result.
These developments will be closely watched by the South African fruit industry, as well as investors around the world. How this pans out, will have a profound effect on the country.
New president Cyril Ramaphosa has over the past year raised the hopes of South Africans that at last something will be done about the corruption which has brought the country to the verge of collapse. Such is his support that his rating of acceptance within his own party has risen above 70 per cent and generally he has inspired South Africans, including those in the fruit sector. This in itself will give further rise to hopes that he will act firmly to weed out corruption and put high ethical and morally inspired people in his cabinet.
It is assumed that the ANC will again win the election – and Ramaphosa, who took over from the disgraced Jacob Zuma, will become a properly elected president of the country.
However, the real situation he has to deal with is the fact that the top structures of the ANC are reported to be rife with corruption too. Amongst themselves, they are engaged in a life and death struggle for control of the party and therefore the country. Certain top officials are in the middle of the corruption charges, and observers say it will depend on the outcome of the power struggle whether the country will enter a period of more stability, or waddle along in a state of increasing instability.
The stakes are extremely high. Much is riding on Ramaphosa emerging from the election in a position strong enough to deal decisively with the corrupt members of his party.
To a degree this situation may cost the ANC dearly at the ballot box with large parts of the country reporting voter apathy. High unemployment, a declining currency, fuel prices that are the highest in the history of the country, an electricity supply network in a state of collapse, a formerly proud airline which is bankrupt, a disabled tax collecting agency and generally a population saying enough is enough! You can have your pick of the strong reasons why the once proud Rainbow Nation is on the edge of despair.
Just how much this will affect the outcome of the election we do not know – the South African voting public is a strange one. One thing is certain – as is probably the case in the UK, politicians are not flavour of the month.
Many observers say the ‘Ramaphosa’ factor may well swing things for the ANC. In the agriculture sector there is also a pragmatic view that the president has had a positive influence on the country since replacing the much maligned Jacob Zuma. However, it is clear that failure by the new government after 8 May to deal decisively with the economy and the allegations of corruption in the highest levels of his leadership base will be disastrous.
One eye will also be kept on how he is going to deal with the land issue and factions of society which promote the idea of land grabs, similar to what has happened north of South Africa’s borders.
Most people accept that the land issue needs to be addressed. The interaction between the agricultural sector and the new government will be crucial to ensure that this happens.
It is little wonder that all South Africans feel that the country is genuinely at a crossroads. It can either rise to fulfil the promises that South Africans voted for in 1994, or it can enter a downward spiral which could destroy a once thriving country.
Fruit growers are generally a positive bunch. Although there will be lots of mumblings around the braai fires and many a ‘I told you it would come to this’, the entrepreneurs of the industry have met many challenges in the past. Whatever the outcome, they will approach this in a calm manner – and one bets they will continue to help lead the country to a better future.