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Opinionista

It’s in your hands now, Mr Ramaphosa — let the nation-building begin

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Wayne Duvenage is a businessman and entrepreneur turned civil activist. Following former positions as CEO of AVIS and President of SA Vehicle Renting and Leasing Association, Duvenage has headed the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse since its inception in 2012.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has a daunting to-do list, starting with taking concrete steps to revive the ailing economy, clamping down on corrupt ‘big fish’ in both public and private sectors, streamlining the government and improving governance, boosting small business and ensuring meaningful transformation.

With the momentous 2019 elections behind us, one can’t help but imagine how Cyril Ramaphosa is taking stock of the situation and preparing his much-anticipated series of actions for our future as a nation.

Top of the list of “action watchers” is surely that of Moody’s who have been extremely patient with the lacklustre development of our economy. The rating agency will no doubt be pleased with the election outcomes, along with many economists and political analysts who believe that Ramaphosa is the best man for the job.

To downgrade South Africa now would be letting go of the hand of someone positioned precariously close to a cliff’s edge. This time around though, Ramaphosa doesn’t have the luxury of time and must make some quick and meaningful moves to send the right message to local and foreign investors, aimed at instilling confidence and stimulating the economy.

Reducing the size of his Cabinet and the government at large is expected to be an early sign that Ramaphosa is true to his word. Within months, if not weeks, of his inauguration, other meaningful actions to stimulate the economy — particularly in the areas of small business and entrepreneurship — will add weight to the public’s confidence in him.

Aside from the investment community, civil society will be watching closely to see if the president will stick to his promises of tackling corruption. This is where almost every citizen — barring those who participated in undue self-enrichment — is baying for blood. For too long the Zuma administration interfered with the rule of law, allowing his connected cronies to brazenly steal and plunder the public purse with arrogant impunity. Accountability must be high on everyone’s agenda.

Fighting corruption should be the government’s main priority

Meaningful action is required to bring many in high places who escaped their day in court, to now face the music. This is the number one priority to millions of South Africans, both here and abroad. The day a prominent person is served with charges to explain their corrupt conduct, cannot come soon enough.

It’s almost a case of “until someone of substance is arrested, we can’t take Ramaphosa’s talk of fighting corruption seriously”. Alongside the long list of those once-powerful politicians and executives within state entities, action against problematic businesses leaders at Steinhoff, Bosasa, KPMG, McKinsey, Regiments and others cannot be ignored.

We live in the most interesting times for our nation’s future. Aside from Madiba’s inauguration at the dawn of democracy, South Africa has never been in a better position for a massive national prosperity boost than where we sit today. The high-road/low-road scenarios of strategist Clem Sunter beckon once again, but this time much louder than ever before.

For some reason, our leaders kept taking the “get-rich-quick” low-road options that have taken us to the depths of destruction valley. But as we sit here today at this juncture, the world is waiting to see the early signs of which route Ramaphosa will take the nation on.

Having seen the narrow win of Ramaphosa’s election as the ANC president in late 2017 and how he wrestled the presidential reins from a reluctant Zuma four months later, our belief in new possibilities was raised.

We then witnessed over a relatively short period of time the removal of rotten leadership within state entities and enforcement departments, from SARS, the NPA, AFU, Hawks and so on. Our belief has been raised again. Adding to these foundations, the various commissions have been tremendously positive to the cause of nation-building as the evidence and extent of state plundering has been laid bare for all to see.

The table has been set for a new feast. A feast that will sow the seeds of a new culture that is intolerant of corruption and maladministration.

A new culture within government that supports and drives meaningful transformation, small business development, inter-racial and national harmony, an acceptance of the urgent need to address inequality, poverty and unemployment and of garnering civil society to embrace and support strategies to fix our dismal performance in education, health, security, environmental and other matters that are dragging us backward.

The money is in the system. We just need to slam the cash registers shut and break the dirty fingers of those who have (or intend to) take what is not theirs to have. We need our new, leaner government to focus on policy-making that is rational and in the best interest of society at large.

Above all else, the two pillars that help to expose corruption need to be driven to the maximum going forward: Transparency and accountability in all sectors of the public service.

Mr Ramaphosa, the nation awaits your lead. You have an opportunity to re-energise your “new dawn” plan that you told us of — to get the country behind you so that we can moan less and do more, hoard less and invest more and walk with you rather than against you. DM

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