ANALYSIS

Cyril Ramaphosa’s 1,111 days in power – what has he done?

By Ferial Haffajee 10 February 2021

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his State of the Nation Address on 13 February 2020. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

On Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa steps up to the podium to deliver his fifth State of the Nation Address. On 4 March, he will have been in office for 1,111 days. In these three years, what has he achieved?

Ferial Haffajee

Since 2018, Daily Maverick has tracked President Cyril Ramaphosa’s progress on 24 key themes he set out in his first State of the Nation Address. And more than 1,000 days later, the graphic shows that he has not made significant progress.

As a former business leader, Ramaphosa staked his game on economic transformation and job creation, repeatedly promising to deal with inefficient energy supply as well as bottlenecks like the stalled Mining Charter and the failure to auction spectrum on which data can travel more quickly and more cheaply. 

Ramaphosa has failed to oversee the fix on Eskom, which is still load shedding, adding to the mayhem that Covid-19 has wrought on the economy. He also promised a better social wage (good transport, housing close to work, etc) and that no person would go to bed hungry. But with a desultory social cluster in his Cabinet, he has not achieved these vital goals. 

According to crime statistics, South Africans are more unsafe than ever before in democratic South Africa, making a mockery of the president’s pledge that violent crime would be halved in his term. Where Ramaphosa does deserve kudos is in the way that he has tackled gender-based violence as a war on women. But he can only claim victory when the numbers come down, and there isn’t evidence of that yet. 

Most leaders, other than perhaps New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, have suffered under the weight of Covid-19, which has caused health, economic and social crises in countries in almost equal measure. Ramaphosa is no different. His plans for a National Health Insurance, and to double the number of tourists landing in SA by, for example, establishing a “world-class e-visa regime” have been stalled by the virus. It’s a moot point to consider whether he would have been able to pull South Africa from its junk investment-grade rating if Covid had not made landfall here in March 2020. You can’t say.

Our graphic shows that Ramaphosa has been good at ensuring that South Africa’s response to the coronavirus and the Covid-19 pandemic has been measured. It has been scientist-led (unlike those of, for example, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro or the UK’s Boris Johnson), and the quick action to put the country into lockdown was the right thing to do. There has been some social relief, but probably not enough. 

The hundreds of thousands of arrests by the police and defence force mean that South Africa suffered one of the most violent jackboot lockdowns. The other failure has been to adopt a more agile vaccine strategy. The reason for that is because the coffers were bare when South Africa needed to place early orders. 

Ramaphosa’s first 100 days in office saw significant reform of institutions such as Eskom, Transnet, the SA Revenue Service, the National Treasury, the Public Investment Corporation, the Special Investigating Unit and the Hawks. 

The criminal justice cluster is enjoying an Indian summer of prosecutions, with political bigwigs charged with corruption by an invigorated National Prosecuting Authority. But the reform effort has stalled at key points such as Eskom when measured at 1,111 days of the president being in office. 

While the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), Shamila Batohi, is earning her spurs with regular charges against the most corrupt individuals of the State Capture era, she is far from putting anybody into orange overalls.

Ramaphosa’s method is to secure buy-in and broad consensus before he moves on anything. It has worked for him in the past, and he still relies on the method. But with the political fightback against him gathering steam, he will face significant headwinds if he tries to run for a second term as ANC president. The party is due to have an elective conference in 2022 and a national general council later in 2021 – it’s not clear if both will proceed, but there is a growing lobby to ensure they do.

If so, Ramaphosa is going to have to walk over coals to stay in office. One way to do so is to show a record of doing what he says he will do, but our tracking shows he does not do so at a pace that could secure his place in the ANC and history. 

The third graphic in our series takes the pulse of Ramaphosa’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Action Plan he launched in October 2020.

It is called an “action plan”, and there has been some progress, as indicated. Still, on the big-ticket items like energy security, expanded mining, stabilising Eskom and moving quickly on high-growth sectors, there is no tangible progress. After 119 days and with significant power, Ramaphosa should have more to show. He is likely to focus on his presidential employment stimulus, which has already secured 400,000 work opportunities for young people, but it’s a public works project. 

And, while Ramaphosa has staked his success on a R1-trillion presidential infrastructure plan, so did his predecessor, Jacob Zuma. DM

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All Comments 27

  • Become completely ensnared in the absolute corrupt filth that is the anc. It should be two separate parties, but it just cannot. To the detriment of every South African who is not part of, or connected to, the political elite.

  • Well, on the positive side, he has nominated the Cuban Brigade for the Nobel Peace Prize and the country is close to having Russian and Chinese vaccines. Throw in a dose of Venezuelan economic meltdown and Zimbabwean chaos and hey the ANC creates the perfect storm.

  • Why should anyone even question the lack of progress? This is after all the anc we are talking about. There has been zero real progress for the last 27 years. (Even less than before 1994?)

  • Nothing, he’s just been a Trojan Horse for the ANC, lots of investigations but as Richard Quest CNN said NO ONE in jail repeat NO ONE!!!

  • I wouldn’t say Ramaphosa is incompetent more ineffectual. He is powerless to bring the ANC into the 21st century. This once heroic organization has become a millstone around the necks of every organization and individual in South Africa. Unless it is cleansed ruthlessly of the filth and corruption endemic within it there is very little hope for South Africa. The reality is that many of the powerful people in government have a vested interest in keeping the population at the lowest possible level of competence. Although mainly for financial greed some of it is a ridiculous paternalistic (or maternalistic) attitude of we know best, such an easy way to maintain power and control. Of course Covid will unfortunately assist them, after all apartheid it becoming something historical to the younger generation so luckily for them they have a new bogeyman called a Pandemic on which to blame all the misery for the majority of our population. Ironically it is also providing the corrupt with yet another session in the trough. Multi party states rarely function efficiently. Realistically the chances of a strong popular opposing party emerging in my lifetime, or even my children’s is unlikely. We are stuck with a one party state, a dangerous concept. The only thing that can save us is true and timeous accountability by all the elected officials and government employees. No more endless commissions, court cases, endless suspensions on full pay, and sideways promotions. Punish the wrongdoers by stripping them of their power and assets, and let justice be speedy.

  • Makes for very depressing reading when you list it all. When will he realise that, until he gets the Ace/Zuma/Gupta/EFF corrupt cabal off his back and out of the ANC, he will, indeed can, achieve, nothing. Come on Squirrel, stop dithering, evading, avoiding – and act!!

  • All ingenious – but overall you have to give him a tick for being a decent sort.

    He has all the requisite charm and authenticity, and yes, gives the impression that he is tough-enough to do the job when it comes down to it. His diplomacy ranks him above many other presidents and prime ministers around the world. There is no contest compared to previous presidential offerings, though he is hamstrung by a rigid party structure rendering him unable to deal with much of the inherited dysfunctional people and systems.

    His style renders him slower to act than he should be, but he is a unifier, and in this country nothing can be more important.

    Even if some of those terribly tough stretch targets have not been met.

    • Many in South Africa respect Cyril Ramaphosa and one admires his desire to bring unity to the ANC but he is sufficiently astute to realise by now that he can not achieve this. The ‘bad’ ANC will destroy him. The only hope for him and for South Africa is to precipitate the inevitable split in the ANC and form a coalition government with like minded parties who are anticorruption. He will need all his wily cunning to bring this about.

  • And just when we thought nobody could be worse than Jacob we end up with this idiot that can’t make any decision in case he tramps on some ANC toes or some crony is upset that his pockets aren’t filling up quickly enough. And the worst of it is the he is probably the best that the ANC can offer.

  • I he were a corporate CEO, he would have been fired. Then again, corporates would have moved much faster and would have ensured the country was run at a profit…….

  • Whilst I’m critical that Cyril hasn’t been decisive enough in just going for it – the whole nation barring a couple of idiots – are behind him. I think he intrinsically is a decent individual who wants to take the country forward. He is hamstrung by a diabolical party that the anc has become and a virtually non-existent capable state, knee-capped by mammoth corruption, impunity and ineptitude through cadre deployment, cronyism etc. Who else have we got in the anc, given that the masses keep on voting for them regardless? SA is at the crossroads now and we HAVE to go for broke! The alternative is a criminal, failed and predatory state like Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Cuba etc. – anc favourites!

  • Cyril Ramaphosa was Nelson Mandela’s favoured successor. But the ANC decided it had to have an ‘exile’ for the second President – and look what happened then, with Thabo Mbeki’s Aids denial and failure to roll out antiretrovirals.
    Now we have Ramaphosa as President, but he is hamstrung by 50% of the ANC membership and leadership not wanting anything done to punish Zuma and his cronies. He isn’t part of the problem, he is desperately trying to find a solution that the ANC will allow him to pursue. Be reasonable folks!

    • Well funnily enough he is part of the problem. What did he do as VP? Absolutely nothing. Granted he would have been kicked out of the mob if he had stood up against the ANC gangsters but by saying nothing he became part of the mafia that the ANC has become. He made his bed and now he must lie in it. What to expect this evening? No load shedding at least but otherwise the same drivel as before.

  • Excellent article. Answer to the question…not much. Will listen to his State of Nation address tonight, if he does not put me to sleep again with that monotone voice of him. Lets see if he is prepared to admit his and his government (including his ANC colleagues who likes to rule from the outside, like Jessie Duarte, Ace Magashule, ANC women’s league, ANC youth league, etc.) failures to govern, and stop making empty promises. He has lost a lot of supporters from outside and inside the ANC since his election as president of both ANC and the country, and it is time he stand up and be counted. Otherwise he is bound for the scrap yard and his farm in Limpopo in two years time.

  • It looks like Ramaphosa’s first loyalty is to the ANC and its unity; blatant criminality gets handed over to the sidelined ANC integrity commission which has no power instead of rapid and vigorous criminal prosecution by the NPA or similar. The Zondo commission has cost almost 1bn (>R800m oct 2020) and not a single orange suit. The ANC can’t fix itself and certainly not while it is in power and naive of many of usu to think it could.
    The ONLY answer in a democracy is to vote for someone else.
    The question that remains is “how long and how much work from the less gullible elements fo civil society to persuade the majority of the electorate to vote for someone else?
    OR
    Will we get to becoming a failed and or defaulting state first?

  • Talk talk talk. Ramaphosa accepted the vice premiership from Zuma- it was hardly a great episode . He was given Eskom which also has not been an edifying achievement. He might be less corrupt and greedy than some of his fellow ANC comrades, but he still puts party unity above the country

  • Made some definite priority statements:
    “BEE ( Black Elite Enrichment) stays”
    “ANC (Authorised Nepotism and Corruption ) stays to “strengthen the State”
    “The R350 social grant to continue” forever ? to compensate for further job losses caused by official minimum wages, unions, and central bargaining.
    “presidential employment stimulus, of 400,000 work opportunities” for young people, but it’s a public works (or election gambit) project paid by taxpayers for no benefit to the economic recovery

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