Everything but vision from Cyril
Big turnaround plan needs to ignite passion and commitment
Stewardship is one of the most important responsibilities of leaders. It is a concept that was lost on former president Jacob Zuma. As such, President Cyril Ramaphosa inherited a burning platform which immediately demanded that he leads his cabinet in the execution of a turnaround strategy for South Africa Incorporated (SA Inc).
This was the logical course of action for him and remains an unenviable task for any leader, particularly when turning around the fortunes of a country. We are encouraged to see our president continuing to wear his trademark smile despite the challenges.
Every successful turnaround follows specific steps which can be applicable in any scenario, be it business or government.
The first step is to focus on understanding the problem. Ramaphosa was SA’s deputy president — he had a prime seat at the table to watch the wrecking ball that was his boss. He understood the mess that had been created.
The second step is to develop and communicate a compelling vision. When he was campaigning to become ANC president, he came up with the “new deal for SA”. This was seen as the genesis of his post-Zupta vision — the New Dawn.
The perceived EFF threat on the land question completely derailed him from crafting a unifying and compelling vision for SA. This is a gaping hole in our country’s turnaround strategy.
The land question is urgent and requires absolute clarity on its implications for all. Inclusive growth is also important for the success of SA. The president’s prioritisation of the divisive land question has sent jitters across SA and the world — his focus on the issue may have silenced some of his critics within the ANC, but he has certainly alienated critical growth partners.
For example, he was forced to publicly rebuke US President Donald Trump over his comments on the land issue.
As necessary as this action appeared to be at the time, it was a strategic mistake on the president’s part. We cannot talk about growth and ignore the US. Our national interests have to inform our choice of partners.
The third step in a turnaround is to establish a few vital goals and pursue them relentlessly. The president has set himself these goals and moved with speed to fix state-owned enterprises, replacing compromised board members with people of integrity.
He has appointed four special envoys and an economic adviser whose goal is to raise $100bn in five years. It is a big, hairy, audacious goal. We love it.
He appointed retired judge Robert
Nugent to lead the commission into Sars, the state capture inquiry is in full swing and another commission will be looking at allegations of impropriety at the Public Investment Corporation. The president has also initiated a process of identifying a new head of the NPA to replace Shaun Abrahams. These are all vital goals to fixing SA.
The fourth step is to clean the house at the top. The president had an opportunity to bring fresh blood into his new cabinet, thereby cleaning the house completely. He missed the opportunity — his pick of ministers included questionable politicians but he did well with others, particularly Tito Mboweni. The new finance minister is intent on doing what our country needs.
It’s urgent that, when in a turnaround, you immediately find ways to stop the bleeding and focus on core activities. I found minister Mboweni’s views on SAA and the Reserve Bank interesting — he sees SAA as a resource-hungry yet noncore asset to the recovery of the economy, making it a good candidate for closure. This action may not be popular, but it is what is needed.
Minister Mboweni seems to know that the harder thing to do and the right thing to do are usually the same. More of his comrades should bite the bullet and follow suit for the sake of the country.
The fifth step is to inspire and deliver a message of hope. It is important for the president, in words and actions, to shift the country’s mood from despair to hope. We need corrupt individuals successfully prosecuted and see them swap designer clothes for orange overalls. The message of hope is taking hold — at a recent investment conference, local companies pledged R290bn of investment. These early wins will engender hope.
As you close on your turnaround, the last step is to create supporting alliances. The president is doing a great job in mobilising business, Cosatu, Sanco and religious organisations behind his New Dawn. His Thuma Mina (Send Me) campaign is a stroke
The big threat is the lack of a unifying and compelling vision for SA ... the one the president had was derailed by the land issue. We need a new vision
of genius. He needs to continue building a coalition of the committed.
The big threat to Ramaphosa’s turnaround strategy is the lack of a unifying and compelling vision. The vision that the president had was derailed by the land issue.
We need a new vision; we need all South Africans to put their shoulders to the wheel around the same goal. People will commit if their future is secured.
Our constitution states that SA belongs to all who live in it — a good starting point for creating an inclusive and compelling vision.
President Cyril Ramaphosa at the recent investment conference where he was punting SA as a good investment.