Defend Truth


Is South Africa’s glass half empty, or half full? You be the judge


Oscar van Heerden is a scholar of International Relations (IR), where he focuses on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and SADC in particular. He completed his PhD and Masters studies at the University of Cambridge (UK). His undergraduate studies were at Turfloop and Wits. He is currently a Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Fort Hare University and writes in his personal capacity.

Though the legal route is a long and cumbersome game, once the first arrests of high-powered people are made the message will be clear: We are coming for you too. Then we will see the dominoes fall.

This past week I had the opportunity to travel to three South African cities. In a sunny Durban, I attended a conference organised by the University of KwaZulu-Natal where I was on a panel discussing the role of African liberation movements in pursuit of an Africa we want. It was thought-provoking and intellectually charged. Then I made my way to Port Elizabeth, where I attended a TVET college council meeting and finally I boarded a plane for Cape Town, to attend three birthday parties of special people.

The point? I had the opportunity to engage with people in each of these cities about the socio-political and economic outlook of our country. What I heard was upsetting and unsettling. The levels of pessimism prevailing in all quarters took me by surprise.

Perhaps I can share with you why I am not so pessimistic.

Cyril Ramaphosa, as president of South Africa, set out to tackle two key issues: cleaning up the State Capture mess inherited from the previous administration and leadership core of the ANC, and fixing our ailing economy through investment to create much-needed employment.

Let’s examine how far the president and his administration have progressed.

The investment drive and fixing the economy comprise a multiplicity of factors, from the mandate of the Reserve Bank, to reassuring international investors that we have a competent and stable investment climate and know what we are doing in the land expropriation without compensation matter. And so much more.

The president assigned the task of luring foreign direct investment to our country to a handful of skilled individuals, saying he would like to raise $100-billion over the next five years. It has been a slow but steady process, with Ramaphosa announcing that of the R300-billion of investments announced at the inaugural SA Investment Conference last year, just over R250-billion worth of projects have entered implementation stage.

Through another initiative, the Public-Private Growth Initiative, the private sector has committed to invest R840-billion in 43 projects over 19 sectors creating at least 155,000 jobs over the next five years.

The president also secured a firm commitment from the Saudi Arabian king of an investment of no less than $10-billion, particularly in the energy and power creation sectors.

Furthermore, Ramaphosa secured an investment commitment from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the tune of another $10-billion, in the infrastructure and enterprise development sectors. The UAE accounts for 50% of total non-oil foreign trade between the Arab countries and SA, amounting to $3-billion.

At Davos earlier this year, Ramaphosa secured a £50-million investment from the United Kingdom towards poverty-alleviating projects in SA.

The list continues, and, yes, much more must be done, but, surely you agree that the glass is half full.

As for the fiscal cliff we are climbing with rising debt levels and depleted foreign reserves, and the likes of RW Johnson forecasting an IMF bailout – before we turn to the IMF, South Africans would rather endure another self-imposed structural adjustment as we had to do in 1995/6, when we discovered that the apartheid National Party had left us with nothing in the fiscus coffers.

We decided, as we will again if needs be, to bite the bullet and endure with sound economic policies and prudent fiscal expenditure. Failing to do that, we would rather see ourselves go to the newly established BRICS Development Bank than call on the IMF.

But I digress. The point is that progress is being made on the front of investment into the SA economy and much-needed jobs will be the result.

On the issue of cleaning up the State Capture mess and holding those responsible for corruption to account, let’s look at the progress the president has made.

There are those who say that because Ramaphosa won by only 179 votes at the ANC National Conference at Nasrec in 2017, he is hamstrung to deal effectively with the culprits in his own party. Nothing can be further from the truth. Power has shifted since Nasrec.

Yes, the national executive committee (NEC) of the ANC immediately after that conference was supposedly split 55-45% with the majority not in Ramaphosa’s camp. But this has dramatically shifted in the past 12 months in favour of the president – at the end of the day, NEC members know that it’s all about their political survival.

Some of them wanted to make sure they got chosen as Cabinet ministers and deputies, others wanted to ensure they got their parliamentary seat, and still others support Ramaphosa because they know that the Zuma camp has nothing to offer them. So yes, Ramaphosa has the majority support in the NEC.

Rumours abound in political circles that Ramaphosa does not have a political base. Let me dispel that notion. First, CR has a support base in the form of the former UDF leaders – he is after all one of them. Second, his support base is indeed the 50%-plus that voted him into power at the Nasrec ANC conference. Why would they not continue to support their choice as president?

As for the provinces and their allegiances, before the Nasrec conference the so-called Premier League constituted the bulk of the membership in the ANC and came to that conference confident of a victory. But that alliance is no more, given the betrayal of one of their own, DD Mabuza, who is now our deputy president.

And with another of them speaking the language of unity going forward – Sihle Zikalala in KZN – it seems only two provinces remain strong supporters of the losing faction. These are Free State and North West and they are fracturing internally.

So, any talk of Ramaphosa getting a tongue-lashing at the National General Council in 2020 is misplaced. If anything, the secretary-general and those responsible for sowing disunity in the ANC will be on the receiving end at this meeting.

In pursuance of the objective of getting rid of criminal elements in the ANC and the state, the president has filled key positions in the security cluster with competent and capable people. We saw that National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi understood her responsibility when she said she knows South Africans want to see some people in orange overalls.

These individuals will come at us with the best lawyers in the land and will not concern themselves with the merits or demerits of the case but will attempt to find fault with processes and procedures, and so she says we must get it right before we arrest. I agree with her. Though the legal route is a long game and cumbersome, once the first arrests are made of high-powered persons, the message will be clear. We are coming for you too. Then we will see the dominoes falling.

Finally, as for the disinformation strategy and the distractions on the part of Zuma and his ilk, ranging from spy allegations to having to deal harshly with Derek Hanekom and his supposedly traitorous behaviour, I say, your desperation smacks of cowardice. I smell fear from your quarters. Be afraid, be very afraid.

It was Winston Churchill who said a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, while an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. Which one are you? DM


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