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South Africans unsure of what to expect in 2020
19 January 2020, 2:18 PM

To many South Africans, it would seem as if 2020 is likely to bring “more of the same” – drought, economic woes and a low growth rate, political uncertainty and squabbling within and between political parties, load shedding and concerns about unemployment. So, it is no surprise that South Africans view the year ahead with trepidation.

However, not everyone feels the same and although working and non-working people are almost unanimous in their views, younger South Africans are more optimistic than older people, and political party allegiance does make a difference to views on the future.

These are the main findings of an Ipsos Pulse of the People™ study conducted at the end of last year, interviewing 3,590 randomly selected South African adults face-to-face in their homes and home languages.

The statement “In general, I feel optimistic about 2020” was put to respondents and they indicated whether they “strongly agree”, “agree”, “neither agree nor disagree”, “disagree” or “strongly disagree”.

According to the findings, almost half (49%) of South Africans, 15 years and older, agree or strongly agree that they view 2020 with optimism. 16% disagree or strongly disagree, but a large proportion – 35% – said they neither agreed nor disagreed – showing a significant level of uncertainty amongst South Africans.

Youth more optimistic

This feeling of uncertainty is echoed by all age groups:

29% of those 15-17 years old, 36% of those 18-24 years old, 35% of those 25-34 years old, 33% of those 35-49 and 36% of those older than 50 have stated their uncertainty.  However, more than 6 in every 10 (61%) of those 15-17 years old indicated that they felt optimistic about 2020.  This contrasts with only 46% of those older than 50 sharing this sentiment.

  Total

%

15-17 years old

%

18-24 years old

%

25-34 years old

%

35-49 years old

%

50+ years old

%

Strongly agree 15 19 16 17 14 12
Agree 34 42 31 32 36 34
Neither agree nor

disagree

27 15 30 28 26 25
Disagree 12 8 12 13 12 13
Strongly disagree 4 2 5 3 5 5
Don’t know 8 14 6 7 7 11

 

Working status does not influence optimism

It is very interesting to look at the findings for those South Africans who work (full-time or part-time) versus the opinions of those who do not work (unemployed, retired, students or stay at home). Against the background of South Africa’s increasing unemployment figures, one would assume that those who have a job should look at the future with more optimism than those who are not employed. However, this is not the case and those who work and those who do not work have largely similar feelings about 2020.

 

In general, I feel optimistic about 2020 Total

%

Working

%

Not working

%

Strongly agree 15 15 15
Agree 34 35 33
Neither agree nor disagree 27 27 26
Disagree 12 13 12
Strongly disagree 4 4 5
Don’t know 8 6 9

 

Even when looking in detail at the sub-groups of those South Africans who work full-time versus those who are unemployed (and mostly looking for work), we find that feelings about 2020 are similar.

In general, I feel optimistic about 2020 Total

%

Working full-time

%

Unemployed %
Strongly agree 15 15 15
Agree 34 35 33
Neither agree nor disagree 27 27 26
Disagree 12 13 12
Strongly disagree 4 4 5
Don’t know 8 6 9

 

Political party of choice influences optimism

The political party an individual would choose to vote for (if eligible to vote) has an influence on feelings of optimism about the year ahead.  Although the differences are not vast, ANC supporters are the most optimistic at 55%, followed by EFF supporters at 51%, IFP supporters at 50% and DA supporters at 45%. (Taking those who “agree” and “strongly agree” together.)

 

In general, I feel optimistic about 2020 Total

%

ANC

%

EFF

%

IFP

%

DA

%

Strongly agree 15 17 20 21 12
Agree 34 38 31 29 33
Neither agree nor disagree 27 27 27 20 27
Disagree 12 10 14 18 14
Strongly disagree 4 3 6 7 6
Don’t know 8 5 2 5 2

 

Global Predictions 2020

The “Pulse of the People” study was conducted only in South Africa, but around the same time Ipsos also undertook a study in 28 countries around the world, probing about feelings of optimism and “predictions” for 2020.  This study called “Global Advisor Predictions 2020™” looked at world affairs, issues of society and culture, technology, and comparisons between 2019 and 2020.

This study was undertaken online.

Global Predictions: most likely to occur in 2020 (Opinions from 33 markets)

  • 77% of people globally think that temperatures will increase
  • People are unsure about Donald Trump’s chances of being re-elected as US President – 36% think it is likely, 39% unlikely
  • 35% of people think it is likely that major stock markets around the world will crash in 2020
  • A third (32%) of people globally think a major terrorist attack will happen in their country in 2020
  • Just under a third (30%) expect that a major natural disaster will impact people in their area
  • AND 15% think that aliens will visit the Earth!

ising temperatures and a poor economy in 2020

Four in five online South African adults (80%) felt it was likely that global temperatures would increase in 2020, as do much of the world:  77% of people in the 33 countries polled thought average global temperatures would increase in 2020. Citizens of Saudi Arabia (54%) are not as convinced about temperature increases as the rest of the world. (Rising temperatures were also a key prediction for 2019. At the end of 2018, 78% of people around the world believed average global temperatures would increase in 2019.)

In addition, more than three-quarters of online South Africans (77%) also felt it was likely that there would be large-scale public unrest such as protests or riots in South Africa in 2020 to protest the way the country is being run.  This is twenty-one percentage points above the global average of 56%. Only Colombia (82%), Chile (82%) and France (79%) were stronger than South Africa in predicting unrest in their countries for 2020.

 

Limited faith in the economy going into 2020

Globally, around half of people (52%) believe the economy will improve this year, while a comparable 56% of online South Africans share this opinion.

81% believe 2019 was a bad year for South Africa, compared to 65% worldwide who believe this about their own country in 2019.  Two-thirds (68%) of South Africans are also of the opinion that 2019 was a bad year for them and their families. On the contrary, 85% of online South Africans look forward to 2020 to be a better year than 2019 for them personally. (This is in contrast to feelings about the prospects for the country in general, expressed in the Pulse of the People™ study.)

Online South Africans’ top predictions for 2020

  1. “I will make some personal resolutions to do some specific things for myself and others in 2020” (88% likely)
  2. “I am optimistic that 2020 will be a better year for me than it was in 2019” (85% likely)
  3. “People around the world will spend more time online than watching TV” (83% likely)
  4. “Average global temperatures will increase” (80% likely)
  5. “There will be large-scale public unrest (such as protests or riots) in South Africa” (77% likely)

Unlikely outcomes for online South Africans for 2020

  1. “Aliens will visit the earth” (74% unlikely)
  2. “I will feel lonely most of the time” (63% unlikely)
  3. “Self-driving cars will become a usual sight on the streets of my town/city” (61% unlikely)
  4. “I will use social media less” (60% unlikely)
  5. “A major terrorist attack will be carried out in South Africa” (56% unlikely)

 

Gender equality might be written into our constitution, but it is clear that we still have a long way to go to achieve this ideal:  opinions are sharply divided on whether women will be paid the same as men for the same work in 2020 (48% likely versus 47% unlikely)

It seems as if most South Africans have doubts about the country’s chances on the world’s sports fields: only 52% believe that we will win more medals in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo than four years ago in Rio de Janeiro!

Shares set fresh records, lifted by US housing data
18 January 2020, 1:42 PM

Key world equity indexes scaled new highs on Friday, boosted by a surge in US housing starts to levels last seen in 2006, while the greenback rose to a one-week high against the euro on expectations of solid economic growth.

Optimism over corporate earnings and indications of resilience in China’s economy also lifted equities and pushed government debt yields higher.

US housing starts jumped 16.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.608 million units in December, a 13-year high that suggested the industry has recovered and can now help further the longest US economic expansion.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.41% to a record close. It was the benchmark index’s fifth straight day of new highs, and the biggest weekly percentage gain since September.

The resurgent US economy, backed by an accommodative Federal Reserve, is bringing investors off the sidelines back into the market, said Brent Schutte, chief investment strategist at Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Co in Milwaukee. An improving economy also is reducing the fear of being the last person to invest before a recession, he said.

“Those people are now coming back into the market because recession fears are diminishing,” he said. “When you look out there and you have a 10-year Treasury at 1.8% and you have the economy turning around, where are you going to put your money?”

European shares touched a record high, as the broad pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.96%.

The three main indexes on Wall Street also hit intra-day and closing highs, while posting their biggest weekly gains since August.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 50.46 points, or 0.17%, to 29,348.1. The S&P 500 gained 12.81 points, or 0.39%, to 3,329.62, and the Nasdaq Composite added 31.81 points, or 0.34%, to 9,388.94.

The S&P/TSX composite index in Canada closed at a new high, while emerging market stocks rose 0.54%.

China stocks rose as investors cheered further signs of resilience in the Chinese economy and the signing of the China-US trade deal.

China’s economy grew 6% in the fourth quarter, which reinforced signs of improving business confidence, though anemic domestic demand and the trade war slowed the growth rate to 6.1% in 2019, the slowest in 29 years.

Both the blue-chip CSI300 index and the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.1%.

The safe-haven Japanese yen weakened.

The dollar index rose 0.31%, with the euro down 0.4% to $1.1091. The yen strengthened 0.01% versus the greenback at 110.16 per dollar.

Oil prices edged higher on concerns that slower growth in China could dent fuel demand.

Brent crude futures rose 23 cents to settle at $64.85 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures settled up 2 cents at $58.54 a barrel.

Most euro zone bond yields were flat, with Germany’s 10-year yield falling to -0.25%, below two-week highs around -0.17%.

Benchmark 10-year notes last fell 5/32 in price to push their yield up to 1.825%.

Longer-term yields may have risen because of Thursday’s announcement the US Treasury will begin issuing a new 20-year bond in coming months as it seeks to plug budget deficits expected to top $1 trillion annually.

US gold futures settled up 0.6% at $1,560.30 an ounce.

Floods, road closures in Australia as storms lash some bushfire-hit regions
18 January 2020, 9:50 AM

Parts of Australia’s east coast were hit by severe storms on Saturday, dousing some of the bushfires that have devastated the region for months but causing road closures and flash flooding.

Fears of smoke from the fires disrupting the Australian Open tennis receded in Melbourne, where the main tournament was due to start on Monday.

Despite the heavy rain, authorities were still battling nearly 100 blazes – part of the bushfires that have killed 29 people since September, destroyed more than 2 500 homes and scorched an area nearly one-third the size of Germany.

Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, three of the states most hit by drought and bushfires, are now dealing with rain bucketing down in several areas.

Major highways were closed in Queensland on Saturday, with the state getting some of the heaviest rain Australia has seen for months, while power was cut in parts of New South Wales after a stormy night.

“Heavy, intense rainfall has eased, but showers and thunderstorms still possible through the weekend,” the Bureau of Meteorology in Queensland said on Twitter on Saturday.

“Take care on the roads – if it’s flooded, forget it.”

Parts of Queensland’s south saw triple the monthly rainfall overnight. No major damage has been reported, although some residential areas were flooded and many of the state’s parks and tourist attractions were closed.

New South Wales fire services welcomed the rain, which they said on Twitter would help to control the 75 fires burning in the state, of which 25 are yet to be contained. But, they also said that some firegrounds have not seen any rain yet.

More benign storms were forecast for Victoria over the weekend, which has been hit this week already by severe storms and unhealthy smoke from the bushfires.

Skies were clear in Melbourne, however, for the final round of qualifying for the Australian Open, the year’s first Grand Slam, and Victoria’s Environmental Protection rated the air quality as “good”, after an earlier forecast of unhealthy air for the weekend.

There were still more than a dozen fires burning in Victoria on Saturday, with firefighters battling to contain a big blaze in the state’s mountain region, fifteen times the size of Manhattan.

Victoria’s emergency service also issued an evacuation warning due to a bushfire on Saturday for French Island, the state’s largest coastal island with a small population of just above 100 people.

Rafael Nadal
Nadal surprised to still be on top of the game
18 January 2020, 9:31 AM

Australian Open top seed Rafa Nadal entered his third decade as a professional ranked No. 1 in the world and the 33-year-old Spaniard says he is surprised to be at the summit of the men’s game given his long and varied history of injuries.

Enjoying a rare period of full fitness, Nadal is bidding for his second title in his 15th appearance at Melbourne Park, as well as the added carrot of matching Roger Federer’s all-time record of 20 Grand Slam titles.

In the 11 years since his 2009 triumph in Melbourne, Nadal has battled back from a litany of serious injuries, defying predictions that his taxing, all-action game might cut his career short.

He now has a chance to hold three out of the four Grand Slam titles after winning the French and U.S. Opens last year.

“Well, I can’t say I have been lucky with injuries, because I have not,” he told reporters at Melbourne Park on Saturday.

“But there is no secret. There is only passion, about love for the game, and about being able to stay positive in the tough moments.

“It’s true that I went through some tough situations during all my career. But I was able to always, with probably the positive attitude and with the right people around, to find a way to keep going.

“(It’s) something that is difficult to imagine for me because of my style of game, as a lot of people said, my career should be little bit shorter.

“But here we are. (I’m) happy for that. Even for me is a big surprise to be where I am at my age.”

Nadal, the only player to claim the world number one spot in three decades, plays unseeded Bolivian Hugo Dellien in the first round on Tuesday and has a reasonably kind draw.

There is a potential fourth round match-up against 16th seed Karen Khachanov or local firebrand Nick Kyrgios, who has won three of his seven Tour matches against the Spaniard.

The pair have never been friends, with Nadal accusing him of “lacking respect for the public, the opponent and himself” after being beaten by the Australian at the Mexican Open last year.

Kyrgios in turn labelled Nadal “super salty” and a bad loser.

Nadal shrugged when asked about Kyrgios’s chances at his home Grand Slam.

“Everybody knows who is Kyrgios. Everybody knows how big is his talent, how good he is when he wants to play at his best, when he’s able to play at his best.

“His chances are always there.”

Trump adds legal heavyweights Starr, Dershowitz to impeachment team
18 January 2020, 6:27 AM

President Donald Trump turned to some legal heavyweights to help defend him in his Senate impeachment trial with the addition on Friday of former independent counsel Ken Starr, who paved the way for former President Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment, and prominent lawyer Alan Dershowitz.

The team defending the Republican president will be led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump private attorney Jay Sekulow, the White House said.

Trump adviser and former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi and former independent counsel Robert Ray will also be on the team, according to the source familiar with the team’s composition.

The White House also said Jane Raskin, one of Trump’s private lawyers, and Eric Herschmann, another former independent counsel, would be on the president’s legal team.

The trial in the Republican-led Senate formally got underway on Thursday, though it will start in earnest on Tuesday with opening statements. The trial will determine whether Trump is removed from office.

The Democratic-led House of Representatives voted on Dec. 18 to impeach Trump on two charges arising from his dealings with Ukraine – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – after an investigation that centered on his request that Ukraine investigate political rival Joe Biden, the president’s possible Democratic opponent in the Nov. 3 election.

The Senate is expected to acquit him, as none of its 53 Republicans has voiced support for removing him, a step that requires a two-thirds majority. Trump has denied wrongdoing and has called the impeachment process a sham.

Starr is a former federal judge who held a senior Justice Department post under Republican President George H.W. Bush. Starr’s voluminous investigative report on Clinton’s sexual affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky served as the basis for his impeachment in the House on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. The Senate in 1999 acquitted Clinton, a Democrat. Starr had recommended impeachment on 11 grounds.

In 2016, Starr was ousted as president of Baylor University, a private Baptist institution in Texas, after an investigation by an outside law firm determined that university leaders had mishandled accusations of sexual assault by football players. Critics of Starr at the time accused him of turning a blind eye to sexual violence on his campus after pursuing Clinton for a sexual relationship.

Both Starr and Dershowitz also served as lawyers for financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who was found dead in his New York jail cell last year where he was being held on new sex trafficking charges.

In 1999, Trump made unflattering comments about Starr, saying in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show after Clinton’s acquittal: “I think Ken Starr’s a lunatic.” In a 1999 interview with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, Trump said, “Starr’s a freak. I bet he’s got something in his closet.”

‘DREAM TEAM’

Dershowitz has been a well-known figure in U.S. legal circles for decades. He was a long-time Harvard Law School professor and was part of the so-called “Dream Team” of lawyers who won a 1995 acquittal of former National Football League star and actor O.J. Simpson on charges of murdering his wife and a friend of hers. Dershowitz’s past clients also have included boxer Mike Tyson and televangelist Jim Bakker.

Both Starr and Dershowitz were defenders of Trump in media interviews during the impeachment process. Sources working with the Trump legal team said the president wanted Dershowitz because of his background as a constitutional scholar.

A statement provided by Dershowitz from Trump’s legal team said he will present oral arguments at the trial to address the constitutional arguments against impeachment and removal from office.

“While Professor Dershowitz is non-partisan when it comes to the constitution – he opposed the impeachment of President Bill Clinton and voted for Hillary Clinton – he believes the issues at stake go to the heart of our enduring Constitution,” the statement said.

Ray succeeded Starr as independent counsel during the Clinton investigation. On the day before Clinton left office, Ray announced that he would not criminally prosecute him in connection with perjury and obstruction.

One person who was not added to the team that will defend Trump at the trial is his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who played a key role in the Ukraine matter.

Democrat Adam Schiff heads a team of seven House members who will serve as prosecutors. Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is a former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles.

Still to be determined is whether the Senate will allow witness testimony and new evidence or whether senators will decide the case as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has suggested using only the material amassed by House investigators.

Trump involved the national collegiate champion Louisiana State University football team in the impeachment drama during its celebratory visit to the White House.

“A lot of presidents, some good, some not so good,” Trump told the team. “But you’ve got a good one now, even though they’re trying to impeach the son of a bitch. Can you believe that?” Citing themes he has raised in his bid to win re-election on Nov. 3, Trump then touted the economy and the U.S. military, adding, “We took out those terrorists like your football team would have taken out those terrorists, right?”

A pivotal event in the Ukraine matter was Trump’s firing of Marie Yovanovitch last year as U.S. ambassador in Kiev, a move encouraged by Giuliani, who was pressing Ukraine to investigate Biden.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo broke his silence on Friday on documents released this week that suggested that Lev Parnas, a Giuliani associate, was involved in monitoring Yovanovitch’s movements before Trump removed her, raising questions about her security.

“We will do everything we need to do to evaluate whether there was something that took place there,” Pompeo, who refused to cooperate in the House impeachment inquiry, told conservative radio host Tony Katz.

“I suspect that much of what’s been reported will ultimately prove wrong, but our obligation, my obligation as secretary of state, is to make sure that we evaluate, investigate,” Pompeo said.

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