Opinionista Wayne Duvenage 3 January 2018

Ramaphosa’s swift and meaningful action can change everything for South Africa

As we enter 2018, profuse speculation and scenario planning abounds. The questions on many a mind is how and when will CR apply the necessary and meaningful action? Will Zuma’s recall take place and if so, when? Who else? There are some hurdles he needs to surmount before the meaningful corrective action plans can unfold, but CR doesn’t have the luxury of time.

Picture the scene: a vehicle (let’s call it South Africa) has been running at full pace for a number of years, overloaded and missing many a vital service. The hard worked engine had been robbed of a number of parts and is sputtering on the brink of collapse. Its fuel tank is running dry. A newly appointed Chief Mechanic (let’s call him CR) stands over the engine compartment, ready for action, having fully diagnosed that the problem is far bigger than a minor service or a mere oil and filter change can fix. This is a serious matter and calls for an engine overhaul, due to the near-certainty of imminent engine failure. Broken components also require replacing, if this vehicle is to achieve the peak performance it is capable of.

For CR, the assessment of which parts are broken has largely been done. The main ‘Zumashaft’ has sheered and the once high performance oil which kept the parts lubricated and productive, has now turned to thick sludge, corrupting most moving elements within. The need for a deep flush is obvious. Fortunately the new parts are close at hand and the new Chief Mechanic at the helm requires a few additional tools, which he now has the power and authority to order, whilst also employing the best assistants in town to get the job done.

There is no need to reflect further on the decline of the state’s engine room during Zuma’s tenure. Even his die-hard (and partially blinded) assistants and cohorts cannot deny his hand in the sub-standard, and sometimes tragically bad, output from most Government departments and the state’s business entities, due to political meddling and poor leadership appointments that fostered his game plan.

As we enter 2018, profuse speculation and scenario planning abounds. The questions on many a mind is how and when will CR apply the necessary and meaningful action? Will Zuma’s recall take place and if so, when? Who else? There are some hurdles he needs to surmount before the meaningful corrective action plans can unfold, but CR doesn’t have the luxury of time.

Every job of this magnitude has its challenges and CR will have to be swift and precise in his dealing with the political barriers that will come into play. The job of repairing South Africa’s economy isn’t a matter that he can wait around in hope that various parts will self-correct. There is a sense of urgency required in setting his sights on the priorities and tasks at hand. Just as the incoming head of an organisation (or vehicle service centre) cannot ignore the rampant theft perpetuated by the previous leader, CR must now see that he has no the luxury of a drawn out Zuma ‘suspension’ whilst marking time in the nation’s driving seat.

CR is acutely aware that the country’s citizens, the investors, the ratings agencies and many other stakeholders are eager to hear the explanations of conduct by President Zuma and his cohorts, in a court of law. One simply cannot allow the extent of plundering this nation has witnessed, at the cost of the people and more so the poor, to go unaccounted for. The sooner the recall and accountability process begins, the sooner we can move forward.

Fortunately for CR, recent court judgements have given him the boost he needs in that; (a) he has been empowered to appoint the new credible NPA boss as soon as possible and; (b) Parliament has been instructed to compile the corrective action rules to deal with the ilk of our ‘man at the helm’. Then of course, the recent court rulings and many others have also provided CR with sufficient reason to hold another motion of no confidence (c) in President Zuma in Parliament, if indeed he insists on clinging to power.

Next on CR’s priority list, is setting in motion the sizable job of tackling corruption and gross maladministration. As challenging as this task appears to be, it is doable. Just as the highly skilled mechanic knows what is required to conduct an engine overhaul, to succeed he will need the right tools and qualified assistants.

Some of the tools and mechanisms that Cyril Ramaphosa will have to draw on, or introduce, to get SA back on track are:

  1. Political will and moral courage at the highest levels: The sincerity and driving forces to tackle corruption must be adopted at the top echelons of Government. It can’t be driven from halfway down the power chain, just as one cannot drive a new and significant strategy throughout any organisation, without the endorsement and drive from the most senior leadership team – thereby sending a clear signal that corruption fighting will become a national priority.
  2. Removing the barriers: The two main barriers which require attention to replace the thick sludge of corruption, will be found in the necessary changes of leadership within the NPA and Police. Once done and with a heightened eagerness to do the right thing by applying the rule of law, without fear or favour, the journey to recovery for SA will begin in earnest.
  3. Scaling up for the challenge: Corruption has permeated all levels of the state, reaching deep down into all spheres of Government and the Private sector (the other side of the corruption coin). Accordingly, it will require dedicated resources, processes and systems. Fortunately, the structures and processes are readily available within the policing structures, civil society and international efforts. All CR and his team require is to apply best practice and ensure good leadership is appointed to manage the process.
  4. Legislative changes: Additional tools to assist with this extraordinary overhaul will be required to tackle rampant corruption and service failure in South Africa. Two such highly effective but temporary legislated mechanisms are specialised Corruption Courts (to handle the initially high volumes and complex cases) and a Truth and Repatriation process (similar to the Truth and Reconciliation process we endured two decades ago, but with more accountability and a funds recovery processes built in).

We will no doubt have to ponder and debate the notion of a Truth and Repatriation process, but everything indicates that this is a necessary path. It’s a process worth considering because many people who got caught up in the cogs of corruption, did so not because they chose to do so, but because they happened to be in the way and not participating was not an option. Many will disagree, saying these ‘participants’ had the choice to step aside, but when faced with keeping their job or not, many opted to ‘go with the flow’ to remain employed. This is a matter for debate and will require serious input, rules and mechanisms to repatriate unlawful gains back to the state, and jail time for those who speak half-truths.

Finally, the journey that CR must embark on, whilst urgent, must be done with diligence and cannot happen overnight. The clean out and fixing of many components linked to the web of corruption, will take a few years to complete. Looking back, five years from now, we want to be able to say that our nation’s economic growth and improved performance was triggered by the swift and decisive leadership taken by Cyril Ramaphosa, when it mattered most. His legacy and our nation’s growth trajectory lies in the hands of what he does – now. DM

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