/ 7 September 2018

President needs to provide a turnaround strategy now

Six months into his presidency
Six months into his presidency, Ramaphosa and his comrades in the ANC and government have failed to provide a turnaround strategy. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)


The election of Cyril Ramaphosa as ANC president last December, and of the country this year, came as a relief to many, marking the end of a decade of kleptocracy under Jacob Zuma.

Ramaphosa’s “thuma mina” speech brought hope to many despondent citizens. When he pressured Zuma to appoint the commission of inquiry into state capture, he demonstrated commitment to fighting corruption.

He was applauded for appointing commissions of inquiry into improprieties at state-owned fund manager the Public Investment Corporation and the South African Revenue Service.He appointed credible leaders to struggling state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

But Ramaphosa’s administration has been unable to find concrete solutions to grow the economy and to reduce unemployment. This week, ANC head of transformation Enoch Godongwana placed the blame for the economic mess on Zuma’s administration.

But Ramaphosa cannot be absolved completely because he was deputy president during Zuma’s reign — even though he had little room to manoeuvre.

Six months into his presidency, Ramaphosa and his comrades in the ANC and government have failed to provide a turnaround strategy.

This week the Cabinet said the government had committed to overhauling the visa system to support tourism, finalise mining legislation and to further stabilise the financially distressed SOEs.

“The upcoming job and investment summits, as well as the proposed government stimulus package, will provide details on reforms to drive growth …A revised fiscal framework will be presented in the medium-term budget policy statement,” Thursday’s Cabinet statement read. But no details were given.

Ramaphosa has secured investment commitments from Saudi Arabia and China as part of his ambitious plan to attract $100-billion in investment. But this will remain meaningless to many South Africans unless it translates into jobs.

Ramaphosa is trying to be every­thing to everyone — hence his inability to provide a decisive policy direction.

He has kept some incompetent ministers from the Zuma administration — such as Bathabile Dlamini and Nomvula Mokonyane — to manage fallout in the deeply divided ANC ahead of next year’s general elections.

What complicates matters is Ramaphosa does not enjoy overwhelming support in the party’s national executive committee.

His opponents in the ANC are putting pressure on him to implement party resolutions such as land expropriation without compensation. He and his supporters were initially reluctant to do so, arguing that the Constitution in its current form allows for expropriation without compensation.

The Ramaphosa group has been at pains to explain that this would be done with care to avoid undermining the economy, agriculture production and food security.But they will have to work harder to convince foreign investors that the calls for such land expropriation will not result in illegal land grabs similar to those that occurred in Zimbabwe in the early 2000s.