Agriculture delivers more jobs per rand invested than any other productive sector. If the entire agriculture value chain is considered in South Africa, its contribution to GDP reaches approximately 12%.
There are a number of reasons for this. Unsustainable food production practices have led to soil erosion, biodiversity loss, pollution and climate change. There is also increased competition with other industries, like biofuels, for the use of arable land. Declined access to quality water and the failure to address land redistribution are also contributing factors.
Another major reason that the sector is unable to realise its full potential is the fact that education and training is in need of a very serious overhaul.
This is the core finding of a recently published consensus study I chaired for the Academy of Science of South Africa. The study identified three key areas in need of attention: substantial institutional reform, stimulating innovation in the sector and ending the fragmented way in which education and training in the sector is managed.
There are only a few agricultural secondary schools in the country. At secondary school level, agricultural science as subject is a popular choice. The tertiary sector consists of 12 agricultural colleges that offer specialised training. Ten of the country’s 26 public universities also offer agricultural science degree programmes up to doctoral level.
But the current system of managing education and training is fragmented and in dire need of substantial reform.
For example, responsibility for agricultural education and training is split between research councils and various government departments. On top of this, agricultural colleges are administered at the provincial level and aren’t formally part of the national higher education system.
Postgraduate education, training and research at universities is supported by the Department of Science and Technology through the National Research Foundation. But there’s no formal mechanism to coordinate the work of these various entities.
Recommendations for reform
Reform should be directed towards greater integration, cooperation and accountability.
The panel believes that it’s necessary to establish a National Council for Agricultural Education and Training. Its first responsibility would be to ensure the inclusion and participation of all of the linked departments and other critical stakeholders in the sector. Its work would be to coordinate their various policies and programmes. But, given the current moratorium on establishing statutory bodies, the recommendation is to appoint a Ministerial Committee to oversee this process.
In 2015 the cabinet took a decision to move agricultural colleges from provinces to the national Department of Higher Education and Training. A task team was appointed to investigate the implications of the transfer of authority. But there’s been little progress.
The panel has made a strong recommendation that the task team’s work should be expedited. And that sufficient resources should be allocated to make sure that there is progress.
Attention also needs to be given to institutional capacity and resources.
Exploring land-grant possibilities
The panel has also recommended that South Africa pilot test a land-grant system that links research, education, training and extension. Extension is the application of scientific research and new knowledge through farmer education.
Land-grant systems have been successfully implemented in countries ranging from the US to Brazil and India.
Over the past six decades the US has built 60 land-grant universities. Academics hold appointments with dual responsibilities for teaching, on one hand, and research or extension, on the other. In their capacity as extension officers, academics advise and assist farmers on the ground, with the goal of ensuring sustainable production and rural development. They then bring this experience back to the university. They facilitate the flow of information both ways - bringing new innovative research and technology to farmers, and feeding knowledge about field problems back into the university to inform the research and teaching agenda.
The US has managed to develop one of the most sophisticated agricultural innovation systems in the world using land-grant institutions.
India has also adopted a land-grant system called the State Agricultural University System. It now has a network of 41 institutions that have played a major role in lifting millions out of poverty. The system has also led to crop yield increases of 1.6% a year for 30 years.
Some research entities, provinces and universities have already expressed an interest in taking part in the South African pilot.
The three national government departments involved in agricultural education – higher education and training, science and technology, and agriculture, forestry and fisheries all support the findings of the consensus study. And they’ve made a commitment to ensuring support for the ideas to become policy.
The study has also been recognised by the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture as having the potential to address challenges faced by agricultural education and training across Africa.
Wittingly or unwittingly, South Africa’s Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s medium term budget policy statement places him – and champions of the market economy inside and outside the African National Congress – in a strong position and opens the way for real economic change. Whether the opportunity is taken is, of course, another matter.
Gigaba revealed that the government’s revenue shortfall is two thirds higher than expected, spending is growing, as is the deficit which will not, as promised, stabilise next financial year. And growth projections are down from a poor 1.3% to a negligible 0.7%.
The minister announced no new measures which are likely to turn the situation around and another set of ratings agency downgrades seem inevitable. This is partly because the agencies take their cue from domestic economists and business people, all of whom see a downgrade as inevitable. The only rational response is surely that the economy is in a downward spiral and that the minister cannot or will not do anything about it.
Perhaps. But there is another way of looking at the speech which sees many of these negatives as potential economic game changers.
One reason for seeing an opportunity for change is that the speech provides more than enough grounds to begin two of the tasks which must be confronted if the economy is to turn around in a sustainable way. It provides a powerful lever for everyone who wants to resist patronage projects. And the scale of the problem does send a signal to all economic actors that a sense of crisis – the acknowledgement that the economy must change course if it’s to grow and include more people – is needed and that negotiations to change the economy are essential.
Gigaba’s speech made it clear that the argument that money is simply not available is now an understatement. One casualty might be the nuclear power project on which President Jacob Zuma and his faction seem to have set their hearts. There have been suggestions that Zuma’s primary objective in his most recent cabinet reshuffle was to insert a loyal person into the energy portfolio so that he could make the nuclear deal happen.
Gigaba is now signalling that there is no money for the project and so the reshuffle’s purpose may have been undone.
And the argument for structural change, not mere tweaking, is much stronger now than before the speech. The harsh realities he explicitly set out mean that any finance minister who wanted to shut the door on patronage, begin cleaning up state owned enterprises and kick-starting talks with other key players, such as the private sector, is in a very powerful position. This could open the way for bargaining between all the economic interests on how to grow the economy and open it up to those who are excluded.
It does not mean that Gigaba will take the opportunity. The fact that he kicked the can of change down the road during his speech, proposing no new plans for change – and that he has already granted South African Airways a bailout – seem to show that his apparent desire to please everyone leaves him ill-equipped to take any of the steps suggested here.
But, if we assume – as many people who observe him do – that Gigaba’s chief goal is to advance his political career, the numbers he quoted today suggest that he is unlikely to do that unless he can show that he did something to change the realities he described. It’s possible that the minister knows that these realities won’t change unless he takes some decisive steps.
Stage set for trade-offs?
The speech offers no solutions but it can hardly be accused of ignoring or concealing the problem. On the contrary, Gigaba made a great deal of his refusal to “sugar coat” the problem. Insisting that South Africans must know how bad it is, he added that citizens needed to understand the “challenges” because only then
(will) we … know what to do … as well as what trade-offs must be made in the public interest.
That sounds very much like an attempt to set the stage for some unpopular decisions and for engaging with key economic actors on what trade offs should be made. Clearly, a minister who hopes to please as many people as possible is not going to initiate major changes without very solid backing – the speech may well have been an attempt to get that backing.
So Gigaba could be trying to set the stage for a process in which the awful state of the economy enables him to gain support from key economic actors to introduce the “trades off” he promised.
Of course, the minister may have no plans to use his leverage in this way. But, if so, the speech may have provided an important lever to those who would want him to do so. It clearly was an invitation to private economic interests to engage.
If businesses take Gigaba up on the offer, they may well find themselves in a more powerful position than they imagined, given the state of public finances and of the economy. They certainly have economic reality on their side and, since the minister is not zealously attached to either of the African National Congress factions, he may well be inclined to support them if the alternative seems likely to promise his political ruin.
The speech showed that the economy is in crisis – it needs to change direction if it’s to serve the country’s needs. Whatever the minister decides to do, its effect will depend on how those in society who have an interest in that change choose to react. The stakes are clearly too high for them to fold their hands and wait for the minister to act.
Uuumm .. that’s a toughie. But we really should know so we can drop it into conversation in a casually cool way – I always find listing the 54 African countries by GDP in 2017 makes me pretty popular – and I want to give you too the chance to gain a reputation for exciting repartee.
What do we know ? Based on the dodgy exchange rates being used in Egypt until November 2016 and in Nigeria/Ethiopia/Angola etc all year – Nigeria was the largest economy in Africa in 2016, followed by Egypt and then SA. All of Africa had a similar GDP to India, but was not as big as California. That goes a long way to explaining relative news coverage.
Source: IMF with a little help from Renaissance Capital
What about 2017 ? “We have a problem here Captain” as Scottie would have said because we just worked out that the IMF is using an average exchange rate for Nigeria of 304/$ for its GDP estimates.
Now I like the IMF resident a lot – but I think this is hard to justify. The I and E fx window rate has averaged 368/$ from 25 April to 11 October. What about Jan-Apr? Do we use the parallel market rate that hit as weak as 520/$ in early 2017, or the Naira rate quoted on Bloomberg which was 313/$ ?
In the graph below, we show both Nigeria using the IMF figure, and Nigeria using a 367/$ average. If you believe the IMF, Nigeria was number 1. If you think 367/$ is more realistic, it was number 2 and SA swept past both Egypt* and Nigeria to take number 1 slot again. Humble South Africans can once again stand tall, arm in arm with President Zuma, a man who has helped ensure per capita GDP in 2017 is not above the lofty heights it achieved in 2007. To be fair to Zuma, Brexit has helped push UK per capita GDP back to below 2006 levels. This must be a deliberate part of the UK charm offensive to rebuild links to the old Empire so that will help make Britain great again. *at least Nigeria has an IMF implied exchange rate, Egypt doesn’t let the IMF publish one, so you are relying on us for that figure
Meanwhile Ethiopia cleverly timed its devaluation until just after the IMF publication so it can lay claim to 8th place .. when the deval probably means it is 9th behind Kenya.
Source: IMF with a lot more interference from RenCap in this one
What about GDP per capita ? Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Ivory Coast are all in roughly the same place – just ahead of Bangladesh – with wealth levels double that of Rwanda or Uganda. Of these, Kenya, Ghana and southern Nigeria are best placed to industrialize in the same way that southern Bangladesh has.
I tested this last chart on twitter and the instant response is … “not Equatorial Guinea”. Fair enough, the average per capita GDP may bear no relation at all to GDP per person once the boss has nabbed all the oil wealth. But the point is, India is mid-way between countries like Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya, and positive themes should be found in a few of them.
Re the Kenyan elections – what we heard at our East Africa conference is that President Kenyatta would probably win a re-run, especially if Odinga boycotted the second round.
Source: IMF, Renaissance Capital, World Bank (for Somalia population)
CONCLUSION: GDP per capita has probably bottomed now in Egypt, Nigeria and a fair few others. The next move should be up again as we enter 2018. Nigeria may have lost out to SA in terms of being the largest economy in Africa in 2017 (let’s see what happens to the ZAR by year-end) but this SA resurgence won’t last for too long. We continue to see Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Ghana and Kenya as among those best placed to industrialize in the coming years.
South African tourism minister warned against the escalating violence between Uber and meter-taxi drivers, saying this affects the tourism industry.
"In addition to the needless destruction of property and threat on human life, the general mood of uncertainty implicit in the violence threatens the stability of the tourism industry on which thousands of jobs are reliant," Tokozile Xasa said in response to the recent attack on Uber operators.
Violence flared up again between Uber and meter-taxi drivers following the burning of two vehicles belonging to Uber drivers in Johannesburg.
Over the past several months, several people have been killed in violence related to the rivalry between meter-taxi and Uber drivers. Uber Sub-Saharan Africa has launched a petition calling on Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi and Police Minister Fikile Mbalula to take action to curb the violence.
The violence between the meter taxicab and Uber operators is injurious to the two since even local passengers would eventually stop patronizing either if the violence continued, Xasa said.
"In this context, it is self-evident that the operators are cutting off their noses to spite the faces," she said. For any domestic or international tourist, the sense of security is as important as the ordinary citizen, said the minister.
"However, both the meter taxicab and Uber operators need to bear in mind the fact that whereas as citizens, our relationship with South Africa is not one of choice, tourists can elect to visit one place and not another and one country instead of another," Xasa said.
She urged the two transport operators urgently to engage in dialogue, the better to find lasting solutions to their disagreements. "No one's life must continue to be placed in danger because two operators are in disagreement with one another. This must stop!" she said.
South African President Jacob Zuma sacked a vocal critic from his cabinet on Tuesday, a move expected to further deepen tensions as an elective conference to the ruling ANC draws near.
In his second reshuffle this year, Zuma dropped Higher Education minister Blade Nzimande, a member of the South African Communist Party, which is a key political ally of the ruling ANC. Zuma also moved State Security Minister David Mahlobo to the energy portfolio, the president’s office announced, reviving debate over controversial and costly plans for nuclear energy.
Nzimande has in recent months been incessantly vocal in calling for Zuma to go.
“The ANC is being stolen in broad daylight,” Nzimande told an anti-graft strike last month which urged Zuma to quit over a series of corruption scandals. The SACP and the country’s largest trade union, COSATU, are long-term political allies with Zuma’s African National Congress (ANC) party.
Both the SACP and COSATU have endorsed Cyril Ramaphosa as the ANC’s new president. Zuma is backing his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to succeed him. The ANC is due to elect Zuma’s successor as party leader in December, ahead of general elections in 2019.
South Africa’s lacklustre growth has been driven by an underperforming education system, a swollen public sector, and a lack of strategic flexibility within South Africa’s private sector.
Addressing these issues will lead to stronger economic growth, increasing wealth equality, and a more stable social and political environment for South Africa.
These goals cannot all be reached in the short-term, and require both the private and public sectors to contribute to them if they are to be achieved at all. If they are reached, they will be to the benefit of all South Africans, and in the meantime, the journey towards them will change a pessimistic national outlook and reignite the hope of a brighter South African future.
The first issue facing South African growth is the education system, which is struggling to deliver the quality of graduates that is required to build a multi-faceted economy. South Africa ranked 75th out of 76 countries in the 2015 OECD education league tables, 27% of students who have attended school for six years cannot read (compared to 4% in Tanzania), and only 37% of children starting school go on to pass the matriculation exam. As well as failing to deliver a literate workforce, the South African education system perpetuates a system of racial inequality, with black students ten times less likely than white students to do well enough to study a subject like engineering.
While there has been a modest improvement in the standard and equality of the education system since the end of apartheid, these statistics illustrate the challenges that remain. Economies are largely driven by the intellectual capital of their workforces, and this is increasingly true in a world that is becoming more automated and specialized. If South Africa cannot improve its education system, it will struggle to drive and maintain long-term growth.
The second issue, a bloated government, impacts all sectors and is endemic to developing nations. It is an affliction that is often the result of a government that tries to reduce unemployment and improve public opinion by hiring large numbers of people. When this happens, leadership stagnates, bureaucracy increases, and skills cannot be brought to bear where they are most needed. Public employment in South Africa has grown rapidly over the years, averaging more than 6 times the growth of employment in the economy as a whole from 2008 to 2014, and must be slimmed down to facilitate a flow of talented people into the private sector and drive economic growth.
In conjunction with re-evaluating the size of its public sector, South Africa must reduce the bureaucratic impediments to doing business. It is too difficult to set up new businesses, hire employees (especially international transfers), and grow once a business is established.This stifles entrepreneurialism and innovation, makes South Africa a less attractive target for international investment, and limits the private sector’s ability to grow. Simplifying the complex process of operating a business in South Africa is a necessary step to enabling the private sector to expand as it needs to.
The third issue facing South Africa lies within the private sector itself, which has not adapted to the new opportunities. Businesses must capture the new markets; pricing for consumers with less disposable income, offering differentiated services to the growing urban middle-class, and expanding into other African markets, which offer a significant opportunity.
With the South African economy recently coming out of a recession, consumers are struggling to maintain their standard of living at a time when they have less disposable income to maintain it with. By adjusting pricing and product and service attributes, companies can capitalize on these opportunities but many South African businesses have been slow to do so.
But first and foremost, South African companies need to get their mojo back. All too often I meet defeatism when the opportunities look bright. Cash flow is often strong and capabilities within companies are stronger than ever. Releasing this energy is what is needed.
South Africa has much in its favour. Its geographical positioning, inherent strengths, and international reputation mean that it can reassert its status as a leading emerging economy. There is no reason that it cannot match the growth of countries like Poland, Colombia, and Egypt, and should be targeting minimum GDP growth of 3% per year to 2025. Tackling problems systematically and aligning public and private growth efforts will drive the country towards this goal.
The keys will be improving education, reducing the size of the public sector, and increasing private sector flexibility to seize growth within the rapidly changing African landscape.
South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal has dismissed President Jacob Zuma’s and the National Prosecuting Authority’s appeal against an earlier decision by the North Gauteng High Court that a decision to dismiss 783 charges against Zuma in 2009 was irrational. Then, Zuma had claimed that the charges against him were part of a political conspiracy to prevent him from becoming president. But the North Gauteng High Court, in a case brought by the opposition Democratic Alliance, ruled last April that the charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering against Zuma should be reinstated. The Conversation Africa’s Politics and Society Editor Thabo Leshilo spoke to constitutional expert law Pierre de Vos about the latest decision.
What are the implications of the judgment?
The judgment means that the original decision by the North Gauteng High Court to charge President Zuma stands and – in the absence of another legal move – the National Prosecuting Authority is legally obliged to implement it.
This means Zuma will be prosecuted unless Shaun Abrahams, the national director of public prosecutions, decides again to drop the charges (but on different legal grounds). The judgment also contains scathing criticism of the National Prosecuting Authority and its senior leadership.
It raises questions about the integrity of senior National Prosecuting Authority leaders and of the independence and impartiality of the prosecutions body. The judgment also notes that it was illegal for Zuma’s legal team to obtain and share the intercepted communications – the so called spy tapes – which raises questions about why no one (including Zuma’s lawyer, Roger Hulley) was ever charged for breach of the law.
What happens now?
Zuma’s lawyers will probably make another submission to Abrahams to argue that the charges must be dropped. This may include arguments that too much time has passed since the alleged crimes were committed or that new evidence has come to light that raises questions on whether the NPA has a winnable case against the President.
The Appeals Court left open whether Abrahams has the legal power to review a decision by the National Director of Public Prosecutions or not. If Abrahams does have this power, and if he again drops the charges, it will probably be the end of the matter.
If the charges are not dropped, the NPA will proceed with the prosecution, at which point Zuma’s lawyers will almost certainly approach the court to ask for a permanent stay of prosecution. It is not practically possible for Zuma to appeal to the Constitutional Court as his lawyers already conceded before the Supreme Court of Appeal that the decision to drop the charges was invalid.
What are Zuma’s options?
As the Supreme Court of Appeal points out in its judgment, Zuma and his lawyers have done everything in their power to prevent a situation where the president would have his day in court and would have to answer to the charges levelled against him.
This is why the president and his lawyers will continue to try to stop the prosecution by submitting new arguments to the National Prosecuting Authority on why the charges should be dropped. And, if that does not work, to try and convince the court that his prosecution must be stopped permanently because for some or other reason he could not receive a fair trial.
Can a sitting president be put on trial? Does South Africa have a precedent for it?
South Africa’s sitting president can be charged. There is no provision in the country’s constitution – or in ordinary legislation – that stands in the way of this happening.
The South African parliament could pass a law that changes this and protects a sitting president from criminal liability. But this wouldn’t get very far as such a law would be unconstitutional. It would be breach of the Rule of Law as developed by the South African Constitutional Court and it would also be in breach of section 9(1) of the Constitution which states that:
Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.
No sitting president has ever been charged with a criminal offence in South Africa. President Nelson Mandela was required to testify in a civil (as opposed to a criminal) case, after which the Constitutional Court imposed limits on when a sitting president would be required to testify in a civil case.
It would be unprecedented for a sitting president to face criminal charges and be prosecuted.
Johannesburg has emerged as the most popular destination city in Africa in 2016, followed by Cape Town, according to the annual Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index.
Johannesburg welcomed 4.57 million international overnight visitors in 2016 – an impressive 24 percent increase on the previous year’s 3.69 million visitors. Cape Town rose from third place in 2015 to become the second most popular African destination city in 2016 with 1.52 million visitors. Lagos (1.04 million), Casablanca (961 694), and Cairo (820 959) rounded out the top five African cities, while Durban remained in sixth place, attracting 758 057 international overnight visitors.
Johannesburg also topped the rankings in Africa in terms of international visitor expenditure, with travellers spending US$2.56 billion in 2016. Shopping accounted for the largest percentage of visitor spend, followed by accommodation and dining out.
“The City of Gold has shown the highest year-on-year growth in visitor numbers of all the African cities ranked in the 2016 index, illustrating that its mix of shopping, iconic attractions and tourism offerings is clearly hitting the mark with international travellers,” says Anton van der Merwe, Head of Market Development at Mastercard, South Africa. “Significantly, Jo’burg also reported a four percent increase in international expenditure from 2015 – much greater than South Africa’s GDP growth of 0.3 percent in 2016. This indicates that Johannesburg is well positioned to be an engine of broad economic growth for the country.”
The Mastercard Index of Global Destination Cities ranks the world’s top 132 destination cities in terms of visitor volume and spend for the 2016 calendar year. It also provides insight on the fastest growing destination cities, and a deeper understanding of why people travel and how they spend around the world. The 13 African cities ranked in the Index are Johannesburg, Cape Town, Lagos, Casablanca, Cairo, Durban, Accra, Dakar, Entebbe, Tunis, Nairobi, Maputo and Beira.
Some 78 percent of Johannesburg’s international overnight visitors in 2016 travelled from the Middle East Africa region. Mozambique was the number one country that sends visitors to Johannesburg, accounting for 1.02 million visitors or 22 percent of the total. The rest of the top five origin countries were Zimbabwe (841 000), Lesotho (493 000), Botswana (315 000) and Swaziland (215 000).
According to the City of Johannesburg, the Index rating affirms Johannesburg’s position as the major economic and cultural hub in Africa.
“Travel and tourism are increasingly important pillars of Johannesburg’s economy, with growth in this sector creating jobs and prosperity for our residents,” says City of Johannesburg Executive Mayor Councillor Herman Mashaba. “Johannesburg’s malls, restaurants, trade conferences and expos, and sporting and cultural events add up to a compelling tourism package that continues to attract international visitors – both from neighbouring African countries and abroad.”
Cape Town rises up the ranks
Cape Town and Durban are ranked number two and eighth in terms of expenditure in Africa, with international visitors spending US$1.2 billion and US$314 million respectively.
The Mother City attracted a larger proportion of long-haul visitors than Jo’burg, with travellers coming from the United Kingdom (335 000), United States (218 000), Germany (217 000) and the Netherlands (96 000). Cape Town’s highest number of African visitors came from Namibia (144 000). Durban’s top three countries of origin were Swaziland (295 000), Lesotho (52 000) and Zimbabwe (49 000).
The world’s top destination cities
Bangkok remained the top-ranked destination city by international overnight visitor arrivals with 19.4 million visitors in 2016, followed by London (19.06 million), Paris (15.45 million), Dubai (14.87 million) and Singapore (13.11 million).
From a spending perspective, Dubai tops the ranks with the highest international overnight visitor spend, amounting to US$28.50 billion in 2016. New York (US$17.02 billion), London (US$16.09 billion), Singapore (US$15.69 billion) and Bangkok (US$14.8 billion) round out the top five.
“We are seeing more people than ever visiting cities for business or leisure. At the same time, we know that people expect their experiences when traveling to be both seamless and personal,” says van der Merwe. “The call to action is clear. Cities that apply technology to simplify services and connect people with their passion points can become true destination cities and realize the benefits of increased visitors and greater spending.”
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma must face charges of corruption, fraud, racketeering and money laundering, the Supreme Court of Appeal has ruled. It agreed with a lower court ruling last year that prosecutors could bring back 783 counts of corruption relating to a 1999 arms deal.
The charges had been set aside eight years ago, enabling Mr Zuma to become president. The president has always maintained his innocence.
The president now expected South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to consider representations from his legal team before making a decision about whether to prosecute him, it added.
The charges relate to Mr Zuma's relationship with a businessman, Shabir Shaik, who was tried and found guilty in 2005 of soliciting bribes from a French arms company "for the benefit of Zuma". Mr Zuma and other government officials have been accused of taking kickbacks from the purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and other arms.
Charges were first brought against Mr Zuma in 2005 but dropped by prosecutors in 2009. Last year, the High Court in the capital, Pretoria, ruled in a case brought by the opposition Democratic Alliance that he should face the charges. Mr Zuma went on to lodge a challenge with the Supreme Court of Appeal.
It is the corruption case that will not go away. President Zuma has battled for years to avoid going on trial for 783 counts of corruption, linked to a politically charged bribery scandal that stretches back to the 1990s.
The case against him was dropped in controversial circumstances in 2009, when the security services produced recordings of phone conversations that apparently show there was "political meddling" by prosecutors.
Weeks later, Mr Zuma became president of the country.
But the so-called "spy tapes" have never been made public, and opposition parties have fought in the courts to have the corruption charges reinstated. After this appeals court ruling, that could now happen - in theory.
In practice, many believe South Africa's NPA is unlikely to proceed, at least not without further delays. Mr Zuma's presidential term ends in 2019, when he will not be eligible to stand in another election having already served two terms in office.
His eventful presidency has seen him survive eight votes of no-confidence, making him the most colourful and controversial president South Africa has had since white-minority rule ended in 1994.
This is a lot of money by any standards. As a percentage of gross geographic product, South African cities devote about twice as much money to transport as other developing countries, and as much as four times more than some regions of the world.
The country should by now be celebrating the success of this investment. But sustaining the systems, especially the BRT systems, is proving to be difficult.
Even high ranking government officials have expressed doubts about the way things are going. The MEC for transport in Gauteng province, Ismail Vadi, recently asked whether government was getting value for money from the BRT systems. His concerns have been echoed by Joe Maswanganyi, the national minister of transport.
Those are exaggerations. But there are serious problems with the BRT.
Fixing them must focus on reducing costs and growing income. Running costs should automatically decline as the system matures. But to raise revenue levels, BRT must become better integrated with housing and other transport services so that more people use them and help pay for them. In particular, the BRT should work with minibus-taxis to help widen the net of BRT usage. The country needs better planning and funding to make this happen.
BRT systems represent a significant improvement compared to traditional metro transport systems. They use dedicated lanes and stations, modern buses, and smartcard payment systems to speed up public transport and give passengers a better quality service.
This comes at a price. BRT ticket prices are typically higher than Metrorail but are set to be competitive with the minibus-taxi offering.
South Africa’s BRT systems are currently transporting more than 120,000 passengers (one-way trips) every day. Surveys show that passengers generally prefer the comfort and speed of BRT to other modes like minibus-taxis. So, based on passenger numbers alone, BRT is not a failure.
But the BRT systems in the country’s main cities, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Tshwane, are performing worse financially than was expected.
Between 2005 and 2016, a total of about R35.7 billion was allocated for the planning, design and construction of integrated public transport networks countrywide. Costs are pushed up by national government’s commitment to bring minibus-taxi operators into the system in such a way that they are no worse off than before.
This was partly driven by political pressure from taxi organisations, and partly to help bring an upgraded taxi industry into the formal transport network.
Despite these extra costs, South Africa’s spending on BRT systems is, per kilometre of busway, on par with many systems in Latin America and Asia. This suggests that the country has not overspent on infrastructure.
The problem is that fewer people than forecast are using the systems. Fare revenues are lower than expected.
Take Rea Vaya, the BRT in the main economic hub of Johannesburg, as an example. Demand grew by about 6% a year on average in the five years to 2016.
In 2016 Rea Vaya catered for about 50 000 passenger trips a day. This equates to about 1 100 daily boardings per kilometre of busway, but it’s far less than the average of 8 000 for comparable systems in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The productivity of each bus is low. Travel distances are long because of apartheid spatial planning and low densities. Seat turnover along the route is low and most passengers use the buses at peak times. The result is that Johannesburg and Cape Town have had to subsidise their BRT systems much more than planned.
Subsidy expectations came from using some Latin American cities, which operate with zero subsidy, as a benchmark. Planners expected fare revenues to cover direct operating costs. For Rea Vaya, the direct cost recovery ratio is only about 30% and for Cape Town’s MyCiTi just over 40%.
Subsidies in itself is not the problem. Subsidies for public transport are widely accepted as a way of making cities work better and protecting the environment.
The issue is that South Africa’s BRT subsidies are too high and haven’t produced the desired results. One senses from the minister’s comments that government’s appetite for subsidising what are seen as underperforming systems is waning. Unless the entire public transport system makes a better impact, the programme is likely to stall.
Cities have relatively little room for growing revenues by raising fares. Recent research has shown that BRT demand in the Gauteng cities of Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and Tshwane is very sensitive to fares. Higher fares would also exclude the poorest passengers, which would not help to make the transport system more equitable.
The solution is to improve passenger numbers by bringing BRT closer to where people live, work and play. South African cities have lower population densities than cities in Latin America. The demand for transport in South Africa is lower per square kilometre.
One way to bring people and BRT closer together is to develop housing along transport routes. This is already happening to a limited extent in Johannesburg’s Corridors of Freedom initiative. Mixed land use should also improve the productivity of buses and infrastructure.
Precincts served by BRT should also be made easier for pedestrians to use and more attractive to investors.
Bringing quality public transport within reach of more people requires more than just BRT. Recent studies show that existing and potential BRT users in Johannesburg value frequent, easily accessible transport and low fares more than short travel times. They want short walks to public transport. In other words, they want what minibus-taxis are already providing.
Bringing upgraded minibus-taxis into the formal network could greatly expand the number of people benefiting from investment in public transport.
South Africa should be putting more energy into integrating BRTs better with other public transport systems, including municipal buses, minibus-taxis and e-hail services like Uber. It should be working towards common cashless fare systems and easy transfers. Extending the special BRT corridors could follow at a slower pace.
Lastly, cities will have to find ways to raise additional revenues for public transport. These might include charging for the use and parking of cars in congested areas, or partnering with property developers to help build transport interchanges as commercial ventures. Pulling this off will require a wider conversation around whether South Africa wants the benefits of better public transport, and how it will pay for that.
The expansion and operation of bus rapid transit systems in South African municipalities can’t continue as it is. Government may withdraw its financial support unless cities can do three things: reduce costs, increase revenues and make the system work for more people.