Opinionista Andrew Ihsaan Gasnolar 29 August 2019

Sixth administration must act urgently to usher in new dawn

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s new dawn has stalled and been replaced by disbelief, pessimism and the further entrenchment of dire economic indicators, reflected in anaemic growth, worsening unemployment numbers and an economy on its knees. Ramaphosa must navigate a dire ecosystem, but, sadly, one that is self-created.

South Africa and its promise have not been ravaged by a foreign power through conflict but rather it has been brought to its knees by the leaders of the current governing party, the cabal of individuals driven by their own self-interest, officials supportive of or compliant in the State Capture project. President Cyril Ramaphosa and his administration cannot separate themselves from what they have inherited from the administration of Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma.

However, Ramaphosa and his administration have not been able to confront or arrest the challenges and creep in South Africa. Instead, the past few weeks have been consumed by the funding surrounding the CR17 campaign, and the work that was conducted by many in order to elect Ramaphosa as president of the ANC at the Nasrec conference.

The swirling chaos of these past few weeks are but a continuation of the ongoing battles that took place prior to Nasrec and have continued undeterred since the compromised outcome of the officials that were elected by the ANC, and in turn, have begun to shape South Africa’s sixth administration.

There is little doubt that the chaos in large part has been manufactured due to the factional battle lines within the ANC since the 54th national conference, with the particular focus of shifting the balance of power within the ANC.

The trouble with all of these side-shows, which Ramaphosa has described as simply being “par for the course”, is that the battle lines in the ANC have meant compromised or ill-suited individuals remain within the sixth administration and sixth Parliament as well as in provincial and local governments.

We only need to look at the shenanigans of Zandile Gumede in retracting her resignation as the eThekwini mayor, which runs contrary to a decision of the KwaZulu-Natal ANC, and further down the coast where Andile Lungisa (who incidentally is being sued by the SA Reserve Bank governor, Lesetja Kganyago) has refused to vacate his position after being requested to do so by both the Eastern Cape ANC and the ANC’s National Executive.

The internal workings of the governing party are critical to consider, as South Africans need to begin demanding more from the governing party itself. The CR17 campaign spent large amounts of money on paying the membership fees, which again reflects the fractured nature of the ANC. This continues to play out in the delivery of services from eThekwini to Nelson Mandela Bay to the Free State government and all the way to the ability of the Union Buildings to deliver on its promise of a new dawn.

This is a reminder of how much trouble South Africa actually is in, which is a view recently articulated by the National Treasury director-general, Dondo Mogajane when speaking about Eskom and the very real and serious risks it poses to South Africa’s fiscal and financial health, as well as its future.

South Africans require Ramaphosa and his team to act with real urgency to confront the long outstanding issues, which must extend to the appointment of chief restructuring officers not only for Eskom but all state-owned entities (SOEs). We require real movement on issues such as the SABC, PetroSA, Transnet, Prasa, Denel and SAA, and this movement requires the reprioritisation not just around debt or cash-flow but around the structural nature of our SOEs so they can respond and support the challenges that South Africa must wrestle with.

South Africans need to see a president not simply under siege, but rather presiding over an administration that is focused on confronting the consequences of ill-discipline, corruption, malfeasance, State Capture and a bottoming-out of our sovereign fiscal health.

The action required by South Africans extends far beyond a position paper issued by National Treasury. Ramaphosa and his Cabinet must begin to outline how our economy will be restructured, where there is capacity to leverage economic empowerment, the capacity for our market to be repositioned around new industries, the role that land reform can play in unlocking potential and opportunity, and how streamlining and building a capable state can support the real renewal of South Africa.

While the circus continues, Ramaphosa will be unable to address any of these issues. South Africans are desperate to believe in something meaningful and real, but we are unwilling to continue postponing our expectations. There is both a legitimate expectation but also a need for South Africa’s sixth administration to act swiftly, decisively and to deliver on the promise of a new dawn.

The shenanigans and political machinery of the ANC (and our party-political environment) are not going to shift in the immediate term, and should this simply be “par for the course”, then Ramaphosa and his colleagues must act with much urgency before the end of 2019 to restore confidence in their ability to deliver, and confront the structural economic challenges coupled with the triple threat of inequality, poverty and unemployment. DM

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