Opinionista Andrew Ihsaan Gasnolar 19 December 2019

We’re all shocked — by the seeming paralysis of the president

There is no discounting the enormity of the task before Cyril Ramaphosa. But, to date, South Africans have seen an administration that is more shocked and surprised than engaged in fixing the issues.

The transition since the resignation of Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma has provided very little relief or justice to South Africa or its people. The slow pace of change is not only frustrating, but damaging to the morale of South Africans, and even worse, their belief in the administration of Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa.

The transition from the Zuma years and the lost decade has not been fulfilled or concluded. Instead, Zuma’s acolytes remain and they hold power as Cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, cadres of the movement, officials within government and executives at our failing state-owned enterprises.

The inability of the Ramaphosa administration to direct and drive the transition has meant that South Africans are weighed down by dwindling opportunities, climbing unemployment, desperate levels of inequality, exclusion and crime, which are coupled with climbing public debt and a power grid that is unable to generate, collect revenue, transmit or provide certainty. In this vacuum, we are directed to a parliamentary caucus focused on providing a lifeline, relevance and power to individuals who should be prosecuted for their crimes against the republic.

When things go wrong, as they will continue to until action is taken, we are reminded that the law will take its course but the pace of justice cannot be rushed. Yet, we continue to see those focused on circumventing the law in positions of authority. We continue to see a brazen disregard for service or the rule of law.

When things go wrong, we are told about individuals who are hell-bent on sabotaging “our efforts” of rebuilding. We are directed to ghosts, apparatchiks and phantoms. Yet, there are no prosecutions. There appears to be no investigation by the South African Police Service, no consideration of the docket by the National Prosecuting Authority and no intelligence effort by those entrusted and empowered to protect the republic, its institutions and its assets.

The stray bolt excuse for power failures was proffered under the Mbeki administration. After more crippling blackouts – referred to as load shedding – South Africans are again referred to phantoms and ghosts. This may or may not be true. However, what South Africans are concerned about is not what “has befallen them” but rather why our government is moving in such a sluggish manner to address a real crisis.

There is no discounting the enormity of the task before the Ramaphosa administration, but the urgency and seriousness of what is required and the extent of what must be done seems to not be within the grasp of this administration.

South Africans want to see the Ramaphosa administration succeed. South Africans were hopeful of the important work that would be conducted in the wake of the divisive, damaging and destructive nature of the Zuma lost decade. Instead, South Africans have seen an administration that is more shocked and surprised than engaged in fixing the issues.

The fixing is a mammoth task, requiring real action. The Zuma years highlighted the constitutional mandate of the Presidency and the ability of the president to make binding, enforceable and far-reaching decisions that affected all South Africans.

Ramaphosa has a unique opportunity to drive a different bargain. The initial weeks and months following the resignation of Zuma were focused on projecting unity and a shared purpose. Social compacts and cohesion were highlighted as the only real mechanism to drive change in South Africa. This is an important step in leading a transition. However, the multiple challenges threaten to unravel and collapse South Africa.

Ramaphosa in this next chapter must focus on revealing and driving his plan of action to fix South Africa. The corrective measures will have to be severe. They will have to go to the heart of how our government functions (currently it is all about dysfunction). The measures will not simply require the trimming of ministries or the release of a revised Ministerial Handbook but rather an excavation of how our government is allowed to function.

The exercise of public power remains one of the most effective tools available to the Ramaphosa administration, and Ramaphosa needs to move away from the narrative of convening groups, of shock and horror, of polite conversation. Ramaphosa is required, in service of the republic, to use the powers and privileges that have empowered previous office-bearers in his office. He will need to realign his Cabinet and administration to meet the needs of the suffering citizenry, who require decisive and immediate action. South Africans have lost far too much, and too much has been sacrificed by many patriotic South Africans for us to fail in this mission of driving an actual transition and correction.

Ramaphosa and his administration need to move swiftly to resolve issues at Eskom, to bring the ailing and money-guzzling entity into line, ensuring that power generation and transmission is not simply achieved, but that South Africans are able to source energy beyond Eskom.

The larger problem for the Ramaphosa administration is that there has been no real transition from a period that demonstrated a lack of accountability, malfeasance, treasonous conduct, greed, self-interest, paranoia and State Capture.

South Africans are understandably shocked at the slow pace of change and action demonstrated by the Ramaphosa administration, and our belief in the republic continues to wane while the jackals still feast on our collective carcass. DM

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