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More haste, less speed, Mr President: Slow but steady wins the race


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.

What precisely is it that Cyril Ramaphosa should be doing that he’s not doing? There’s a general cry that he’s ‘moving slowly’. But what is it that he should have done by now? Let’s be precise and realistic.

I had thought by now the screams for President Cyril Ramaphosa to act with speed would have died down simply because it seems to me he has done so much in the past 14 months, but alas. I suppose these screams are a response to the now almost daily attacks the president has to endure from all quarters including, sadly, the media.

But be that as it may, a friend of mine reminded me of a few important and critical interventions the president has implemented for our benefit as a nation. She remarked that one must ask what is it that he should be doing that he’s not doing, precisely? There’s this general cry that he’s “moving slowly”. But what is it that he should have done by now? A list of his actions over the past 18 months that he has been president is in circulation on different platforms. Let’s consider them:

  • Removed some Cabinet ministers linked to State Capture and corruption;
  • Removed Tom Moyane as SARS commissioner and appointed Edward Kieswetter to the post (in the past month SARS collected R600-million more by putting in more capacity to deal with the illicit cigarette trade);
  • Replaced Shaun Abrahams with Shamila Batohi as NPA head. Batohi reinstated Willie Hofmeyr as head of the AFU;
  • Fired Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi from the NPA;
  • Appointed highly educated and competent advocate Seswantsho Godfrey Lebeya as head of the Hawks;
  • Began to act on the findings of the high-level review panel in the State Security Agency which he set up in 2018 (he has just appointed a new head of the domestic branch of the State Security Agency);
  • Established a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) Special Tribunal to fast track the recovery of funds lost to the state through corruption or irregular spending;
  • Signed a number of proclamations for the SIU to investigate wrongdoing in various state entities;
  • Set up a commission of inquiry into allegations of impropriety at the Public Investment Corporation;
  • Fourteen senior executives and 99 other employees implicated in wrongdoing have left Eskom, and scores of others have been sanctioned, while 12 criminal cases have been opened;
  • Eight senior executives at Transnet implicated in corruption have been fired;
  • The Denel group chief executive was forced to resign and the CFO was fired; and
  • Allowed several commissions of inquiry to do their work despite many revelations hurting the image of the ANC.

Since then a special directorate has been set up in the NPA to deal with cases emanating from the Zondo Commission.

This is just in the fight against corruption. So much more to do, and it will take time. It won’t be done by decree. So much of the state has to be rebuilt, from the ground up. In other words, what are the big things he hasn’t done, that he should have done, by now?

And before you scream “the economy, stupid”, in a previous article I dealt with this matter extensively: investments that have been procured running into the billions of rands; the president has clarified the matter around the mandate of the Reserve Bank; and he has on countless occasions indicated that yes, we will go ahead with the governing party’s resolution on land expropriation without compensation, but that it will take place in an orderly fashion and within a legal framework. Those that harp on about the uncertainty around this matter sound more as if they do not agree with rectifying this historical injustice.

As for the leaked e-mails saga of late, let me say this: those who waded in on this matter as analysts and pundits, including some journalists who ask: “Why the big fuss about these leaked emails, because there was no such fuss when the Gupta emails were leaked?”

Well, clearly you are suggesting that the pillaging of state coffers on all fronts, government departments, ministries, state-owned enterprises, the Treasury and SARS is equivalent and comparable to personal campaign funding.

This is a joke, right?

As to the reason the president wants some of this information out of the public eye, this has nothing to do with wanting to hide any information. To the contrary, there is a valid reason all political parties historically agreed never to reveal their funding sources because they wanted to protect the privacy and integrity of such funders.

This was precisely to avoid the kind of onslaught they now have to endure, all because they agreed that we all must see the back of Jacob Zuma. They decided to fulfil their patriotic duty and chip into a campaign that they believed would make that much-anticipated departure a reality. And thank god it did.

As for the insinuations of patronage — seriously, have you looked at the people who made generous contributions? I mean, with a competitive salary from Absa, you really think Maria Ramos is excited to be on the PIC board? If anything, she is there because of her skills in Treasury and the financial sector. The board fees have nothing to do with her sense of patriotism and commitment to see our country move in the right direction.

Similarly with Colin Coleman and others. These are multi-millionaires and some in the media want us to believe that they contributed to the CR17 campaign for personal gain? Maybe some of you wanted to see Ubaba Zuma stay on, but for us democrats and progressive citizens, we were going to do all in our power to rid ourselves and the country of him and his ilk.

And if it means my contribution is financial, I make no apologies for that. It is also false to peddle the idea that the #GuptaLeaks were obtained illegally — to the contrary. And so the legality and veracity of any evidence obtained illegally must be tested in a court of law, lest we encourage criminal activities in order to get transparency.

Mmusi Maimane was so eager to play politics that he did not for a moment internalise what it would mean to set up the president in Parliament. In fact, I would go as far as to say that he has not yet cottoned on to the simple fact that he is not the hope of the liberal strata in South Africa. Cyril Ramaphosa is their hope, hence the former leader of the DA, Tony Leon, gently nudged him (Mmusi) towards that realisation in recent weeks.

Have you asked yourself the question of what would you tell your kids one day knowing that you and no one else assisted the bad guys in the ANC to get rid of President Ramaphosa? Our only hope to ever recover from the past 10 years of State Capture and massive corruption?

As in the very famous fable of the tortoise and the hare, I say to the president, hasten slowly, Mr President. After all, it was not the tortoise’s plucky conduct in taking on a bully that was emphasised, but the hare’s foolish over-confidence. DM


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