17 September, 2018
Elections offer possible "green flag", says Chantelle Ilbury
South Africa is at a
strategic moment, facing the prospect of
either a failed state or a more stable
society. Much hinges on the outcome of
general election next year.
retention of the presidency would be a
"green flag" indicating the likelihood of
improvements, as his "pragmatic approach
could take South Africa back into the
premier league of nations."
These are some of
the insights from a Dolphin Bay Brief
interview with scenario strategist
Chantell Ilbury. Chantell is the business
partner of Clem Sunter and co-author, with
Clem, of the book ‘The Mind of a Fox',
which launched the pair to international
renown for predicting, shortly before the
9/11 attacks on New York, a major
terrorist strike on an American city.
They have written
two more books together and, since 2001,
have used their method of incorporating
scenarios into strategic thinking for tens
of thousands of people around the world,
influencing many of the world's leaders
regarding how they should approach the
future. Chantell also lectures on strategy
and scenario planning for several top
is a long-term gain and, at the moment,
getting only short-term decisions
A second green flag
for South Africa is that we still have
pockets of excellence, notably our
judicial system, whose independence is
closely watched by investors, says
Chantell. A third green flag is the
prospect for economic growth and job
creation in sectors such as renewable
energy, should policy be encouraging and
Nevertheless, as we
know, several "red flags" are waving hard.
The most obvious is tension around land
which, if not carefully managed, could
lead towards a failed state,
recent statement on amending the
Constitution to specify the provisions for
expropriation without compensation is
leading "almost to a land-grab scenario",
and some news reports, including the BBC,
are comparing Ramaphosa to Robert Mugabe,
saying we are on the road to an economic
collapse like that experienced by
"The difference is
that the white Zimbabwean farmers were
relatively compliant and did leave the
land," says Chantell. "South Africa's
farmers wouldn't be as compliant. So, from
Clem's and my perspective, there could be
a huge level of civil unrest if land grabs
become the norm.
statement didn't talk against land grabs,
so expectations [of land grabs] are high."
statement didn't talk against land
grabs, so expectations [of land grabs]
Land reform is a
given in South Africa, and it is not only
the poor and landless who are emotive
about land. There is a real tension about
it from all perspectives, says Chantell.
In a recent meeting she attended with
black professionals, they were passionate
about the issue. "What is wrong with no
compensation? I would like a piece of land
to go farming," one said.
At the same time,
there have been many knee-jerk reactions
from commentators assuming a worst-case
scenario will take place, which "add fuel
to the fire".
Chantell has worked
on scenario strategies with companies in
the forestry and timber industries.
"Forestry is a long-term gain and, at the
moment, getting only short-term
decisions," she says. "There is stagnation
in the sector due to policy uncertainty."
From a global
perspective, the pulp and paper industries
are declining, but cellulose production is
on the increase, as is biofuel, offering
opportunities. The weak Rand places the
local industry in a good position for
"We are at an
interesting space globally," she said.
Land reform is a key
issue for these sectors, as we know, and
could well have large repercussions,
including a change of industry players in
terms of "who owns the land and who does
The violence of the
land protests and frequency of grabs
indicate that they are not prompted purely
by frustrations of the poor and landless,
but to some degree by third-parties,
possibly for the political end of
destabilising the ANC in the lead-up to
Africa regulated to junk status will
have the full potential for a failed
Such protests have
happened in many sectors, including on
construction sites, where the protestors
wanted a piece of the pie and were
subsequently giving out contracts. "So,
across several areas, there does seem to
be a third party driving it.
"We all know that
things can't stay as they are, even the
mega-farmers know it, but nobody knows the
best solution yet. What we need is policy
certainty addressing what the options are,
and what we need to do, and explaining
this rather than allowing the various
players to take the issue in all
"In fact, I would
say we need a land CODESA, with all the
players around the table, to look at the
expropriation without compensation will be
carefully managed, provided Ramaphosa gets
in and has the power to do what he needs
The poor quality of
education in South Africa and rising
unemployment, especially among youth, are
two more urgent red flags, Chantell says.
"We are very close to a tipping point
regarding youth unemployment, and youth
will be a catalyst in the elections next
agency is carefully observing the health
of our state-owned enterprises, SARS, and
the judicial system. Deterioration in any
of these institutions could lead the
agency to relegate South Africa to junk
status, and "once this happens, we have
the full potential for a failed state."
"China is putting
money into Eskom, but this is a short-term
measure. We're sitting on the edge there.
"However, let's not
take a doom-and-gloom approach, and assume
we can't do anything," Chantell says.
"This is a highly strategic period, and we
will see how things pan out for South
Africa after the election. There is hope.
We could still have a best-case scenario
in a relatively short period of time.
"On a corporate
level, companies have to be very strategic
and nuanced at this time, to be
"And they can be."
Source: Dolphin Bay Chemicals