EDITORIAL: Good budget or bad, together we can do more

Malusi Gigaba (right) (David Harrison)

Malusi Gigaba (right) (David Harrison)

Malusi Gigaba should be given a role in Generations or the like — something with a part for a stylish smoothie. He certainly is a good actor, performing this year’s budget with conviction, even if he wasn’t really very instrumental in shaping its content; he did what his chief scriptwriters mapped out for him and did it well.

Whether it’s a good budget or a bad budget is still under debate, as the various pieces in this week’s Mail & Guardian demonstrate. Is it good or bad for the poor? Is it good or bad for business? Can the government, this time round, really do what it urgently needs to do, which is to crank the economy up a notch, help to create jobs and maintain a social security net yet also please investors whose funds are needed if any of the other aims are to be achieved?

Of course, the government can’t fix the economy on its own, and there is hope even, on the right of the spectrum of economic beliefs, that Cyril Ramaphosa is more likely, as president, to be able to build the kinds of bridges with business that will get everyone working together for the well-being of all. “Together, we can do more,” the ANC used to say at election time, but since those elections there has been no clear sign of exactly what we will do more of — unless it was more looting of state resources. Certainly, there was little togetherness.

The budget also lands in the middle of the glow radiating from the figure of Ramaphosa, a glow that still seems to be spreading outwards, whether he is at the podium in Parliament or taking a bit of exercise with some citizens (excellent photo op). The rapturous reception accorded to his maiden State of the Nation address (Sona), like the ANC’s own joyful welcome of its president in Parliament, has changed the tone of South African politics. The Sona was delivered presidentially, and with passion.

If Ramaphosa is able to continue in this vein and, if he can pull together the many plans afoot to correct the kinds of abuses we saw on Jacob Zuma’s watch, he will need some of that passion reflected back at him by the people of South Africa — and not just citizens repeating his “Send me” call, but his ministers, his deputy ministers, the directors general and all the public servants trying to keep the ship of state afloat.

For these are not necessarily new promises Ramaphosa is making; most have been in the ANC hymnbook for a good while. The more recent additions to that hymnbook, including the redistribution of land without compensation and free tertiary education, are ideas Zuma stole from the Economic Freedom Fighters (who stole the first from the Pan Africanist Congress), and Ramaphosa will now have to finesse them into government policy. It won’t be easy, but we hope and trust he has the skill to do it.

If he can keep the public and his party on his side and maintain the sense of forward motion and hope he has conjured up, he could do it, too.

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