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Global update

Africa’s powerhouse on the brink

An anti-government protest in Durban last month. Darren Stewart/Gallo/Getty

South Africa is falling apart, say Ben Farmer and Peta Thornycroft in The Sunday Telegraph. In recent months, the country has been enduring power cuts of up to 10 hours a day. Big businesses are having to shell out tens of millions on diesel generators; small firms unable to afford back-up power are going bust. Ordinary South Africans often cannot cook their dinner, or have to “do their homework by lamplight”. Unemployment is at around 33%. This crisis is the culmination of decades of mismanagement and corruption at state-owned energy giant Eskom. When the company’s most recent chief executive, André de Ruyter, tried to clean things up, he was allegedly “poisoned with cyanide in an unsuccessful assassination”. He has fled the country.

All of this could lead to a “political earthquake”. For years, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) has “appeared unassailable”. But with frustration growing over the party’s failure to address the energy shortages – along with rising crime, endemic corruption and the lack of jobs – analysts think next year’s general election will be the first the ANC “cannot win outright”. That would force it to form a coalition with its rivals – uncharted territory since the end of Apartheid 30 years ago. It’s true that Africa’s most industrialised nation has long managed to “defy predictions of its imminent collapse”. But it’s entering an “uncertain new era”.