Cyril Ramaphosa, a skilled negotiator who played a major role in the crafting of South Africa’s Constitution, is pushing hard to return SA back to its glory days under Nelson Mandela. There is a window of opportunity here that will not stay open forever and the country must pull together to take advantage of it. By MILLS SOKO.
Pravin Gordhan, former finance minister currently in charge of the public
And in light of last month’s decision by credit rating agency, Moody’s, not to downgrade SA, it is looking like his words were on point. The country can breathe a sigh of relief after Moody’s decided to maintain the country’s sovereign rating at Baa3, one notch above junk status, with a stable outlook. It cited, among other reasons for the decision to keep SA at investment grade, the change in the political leadership and the recovery of the country’s institutions.
A downgrade would have been devastating for SA as it would have meant all three major
The Moody’s decision does suggest that SA under Ramaphosa is on the right track, but the country still has a long way to go to undo the damage caused by Jacob Zuma.
Ramaphosa took over the leadership of the party in December following a tightly contested race. He then went on to occupy the country’s highest office in February after the party’s leadership effectively forced the scandal-plagued Zuma to resign.
Since then there has been fresh optimism across the country (the so-called “Ramaphoria”) that under Ramaphosa’s leadership SA can realise its full potential and address its many challenges including corruption, ailing state institutions, weak economic growth, unemployment and inequality.
According to Moody’s the new administration faces equally significant opportunities and challenges.
“Steady progress in meeting the objectives set out in the President’s recent state of the nation address will be needed if the recovery in confidence that will be essential for the country’s economic and fiscal prospects is to be sustained,” the agency said.
A new leader’s performance is generally assessed after 100 days in office. Ramaphosa has been in the Union Buildings for almost two months
Within weeks of coming into
Observers also say that under Ramaphosa there has been a sense of urgency in tackling corruption and prosecuting those involved in state capture including Zuma’s close friends, the Gupta’s. Under Zuma’s leadership, corruption became endemic with the auditor-general finding that billions of Rand were stolen or wasted each year.
Now, the tide is turning. Twelve months ago Pravin Gordhan was about to be arrested on spurious charges and the Guptas suspected to be running everything. Charges against Zuma have now been reinstated.
Zuma’s first appearance in court to face charges of corruption was on 6 April after the previously reluctant National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) reinstated corruption charges against him which stem from the arms deal scandal. The NPA is one of the many institutions that need to be overhauled and staffed with competent leaders who are willing to prosecute without fear or favour. Going forward, the Ramaphosa administration will need to ensure that the NPA is independent, and rebuild the integrity of the criminal prosecution system that has been perceived to be protecting those involved in graft allegations.
Meanwhile, Ramaphosa has set his eyes on dealing with the crisis at another crucial institution, the South African Revenue Service. He recently suspended Tom Moyane as the head of the institution after he was implicated in maladministration at the organisation, which has struggled to meet revenue targets in recent times.
Analysts like Daniel Silke, Raenette Taljaard, a former commissioner of the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa and
What is needed are clear policies to boost growth and to diversify the economy with an emphasis on entrepreneurship and the manufacturing sector, which is less prone to negative price shocks.
At the same time, the ANC government has to take steps to reduce soaring inequality and high unemployment in the country which, if not addressed could fester and ultimately sabotage Ramphosa’s efforts.
Ramaphosa will have to find a new way to “do growth differently” and the land question is at the heart of this. As
There are, of course, concerns
In delivering on this promise, he needs to guard against racially divisive rhetoric as the country heads toward elections in 2019. These divisions are being highlighted in the heated and often unconstructive way South African society has reacted to the discussions about land reform and concomitant changes to the Constitution.
This is not an easy path for anyone. Fortunately, Ramaphosa, a skilled negotiator who played a major role in the crafting of SA’s new Constitution, seems up for the task and is pushing hard to return SA back to its glory days under Nelson Mandela. On the road ahead he will need the support and commitment of all sectors of society – including business, civil society and academia. There is a window of opportunity to get this country back on track and we should take every advantage of this. Such an opportunity might not come again. DM
Mills Soko is director of the UCT Graduate School of Business
Photo: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks outside Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s home in Soweto, Johannesburg, 02 April 2018.
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