A year is a long time in politics, and 2016 marked a number of watershed moments in South Africa’s democratic history. Political risk has steadily mounted in a year that has been characterised by numerous corruption scandals, ministerial reshuffles, political infighting, fears of a credit rating downgrade, widespread student protests, a decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court, and municipal elections, which led to the worst result in the history of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
In December 2016 AKE undertook a research trip to South Africa to evaluate political risk in the country and assess the outlook for 2017. This report summarises findings from interviews with journalists, politicians, businessmen, academics and an international credit ratings agency. Overall, the report demonstrates that many of the trends evident in what was a tumultuous 2016 are set to continue as longstanding issues reach their resolution, all in the shadow of the December 2017 ANC National Conference where a successor to President Jacob Zuma will be chosen and a path forward will be forged. There is therefore a case for caution as well as optimism as 2017 progresses.