President Ramaphosa, your account of the road traversed by South Africa led under the ANC for 25 years was commendable. You have touched almost every sector of the economy, indicating that you are indeed well conversant with South African issues broadly.
It has been a year since you took the reins as the head of state and you have done fairly well under the circumstances. Within a short period in office, you launched the YES programme (though not yet clear in action), and held three presidential summits – the jobs summit, investment summit and gender-based summit. We could see the effects of the presidential investment summit through commitments and pledges of billions of rand. We are particularly keen on jobs to be created as a consequence of economic growth through investments made and practical interventions to address gender-based violence in our society.
Corruption is of critical concern for South Africans. As such, South Africans expect you to act aggressively on those who have squandered the public purse and the Zondo Commission is making your job easy in this regard. Have you noticed that the commission appears to be implicating only, thus far, ANC leaders and its government deployees?
The ANC government you lead needs to be seen acting on corrupt elements within its ranks, to demonstrate that you are a corruption-free organisation capable of handling the state and its purse. Therefore, people who are alleged to have taken bribes worth a quarter of million rand in exchange for government contracts and government protection are not selfish but doing a disservice to your efforts, Mr President.
As we do not need those kinds of characters as public representatives, I therefore propose, President Ramaphosa, that law enforcement agencies, the NPA, police, and Hawks must act harshly on those where there is enough evidence of wrongdoing, squandering taxpayers’ money, arresting without thinking twice. In this regard, I will argue that the Zondo Commission is a critical test of your decisiveness. After all, you said in SONA on Thursday that we must watch the space – so arrest these criminals masquerading as public representatives.
Your calls for reconfiguring the bloated Cabinet are encouraging. As you willingly invited South Africans to suggest how the government could be reconfigured, here are some suggestions.
Get rid of deputy minister portfolios. It is not only that South Africans do not know them, but also they serve no purpose in our endeavours for good governance and prosperity. What is the role of a home affairs deputy ministry, for instance, or agriculture, forestry and fisheries, arts and culture? Besides, when reshuffles occur, deputy ministers hardly get promoted, what is their use then?
Importantly, reduce your Cabinet according to the needs of the country to strengthen the capacity of the state rather than accommodating comrades, as sometimes appear to be the case.
To do this, I suggest that you merge the Economic Development and Small Business departments, they both have significantly added no impetus in our development trajectory. South Africans certainly do not see the role of the Economic Development department. We have a Trade and Industry department. I encourage a merger of the Sports and Recreational department with Arts and Culture. Both serve a similar purpose, in relation to social cohesion for nation-building.
Importantly, take note of the Department of Women. It is never clear to me why this department exists anyway; women’s issues are broadly societal and should cut across all spheres of government, in all government departments; you either merge this with social development, give it a new name or remove it altogether. In addition, combine Environmental Affairs with Forestry and Fisheries into a single department, and have a department of agriculture and rural reform as a single department.
You establish a new ministry for land, importantly to fast-track the land question. The Department of Science and Technology is critical but it appears it is not gearing the nation towards radical technological changes. I suggest that you allow universities to give you someone among them to lead this portfolio, and reconfigure it to be Ministry of Technology, Science and Research.
I would suggest President Ramaphosa that you take youth seriously into your confidence. Some ministers need not come back after elections, not because of anything else but age. It does not help a country as young as South Africa to have people in their retirement age as ministers, while young people who are expected to take forward the future are not given responsibilities to prepare them for that future.
You as the President represent the older generation and that is enough – they should see themselves in you and all their concerns taken care of. Therefore, all those who have been in the executive since 1994, as either full ministers or deputy ministers, must retire and not come back, after the elections.
South Africans would be happy, President Ramaphosa, if you took some young people along for national duty, to serve the country. We have many young people who have a record of accomplishment, who equally understand the objectives of the national democratic revolution, who possess a sound educational background and are experienced and ready for national duty.
We have it on record that Comrade Thoko Didiza was 33 years old when she was appointed a minister of agriculture and land affairs by President Thabo Mbeki in his 1999 Cabinet. Surely you can take at least three more young people as ministers in your new administration?
There are many young women and men ready for national duty. One who comes to mind now is Thulani Tshefuta – the man is national material, ready to serve the country, as he has served young people with distinction.
Another shining star is Sifiso “Tso’’ Mtsweni, the current NYDA Chair. His work ethic speaks for itself, we would be happy if you could take him to the national executive; Ronald Lamola, Precious Banda and Rhulani Thembi Siweya are all good examples of people ready for national duty. DM