The year 2019 began pretty much as it will end. It started with the installation of a far-right, racist, homophobic populist leader in Brazil and the rantings of an unstable president in the US — and it will most probably end with the world on a more uncertain footing than it is now.

Political ructions across the globe and in SA mean that our world will behave much as the rand did this past week: “Flash” crashes and recoveries, hope and despair, greater wealth for the few and deeper poverty for the many while economic and political uncertainty sets in.

In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro was inaugurated on New Year’s Day after he was elected to the presidency on a far-right ticket promising radical change. He has not wasted time. In his first few hours in office he targeted Brazil’s indigenous groups, descendants of African slaves, and the LGBT community with executive orders that curtailed their access to land and limited their rights. He fired 300 civil servants he considered to be enemies and started loosening the law to give police in Rio the right to “shoot to kill”. In the US, President Donald Trump’s first tweet of the year continued his combative, divisive style. Retired army general Stanley McChrystal, the former top commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan, was asked in an interview on December 30 whether he would work for Trump. He said he would not, calling Trump “shady” and “immoral”. Trump responded in a tweet: “‘General’ McChrystal got fired like a dog by Obama. Last assignment a total bust. Known for...

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