Ramaphosa has worked fast and smart to de­liver hope of a new dawn

The Witness - - INSIGHT - FERIAL HAFFAJEE — Huf­fPost SA. • Ferial Haffajee is ed­i­tor-at-large, Huf­fPost South Africa.

SIXTY days into his pres­i­dency, Cyril Ramaphosa an­nounced the ap­point­ment of four eco­nomic en­voys to un­lock sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment into South Africa. They are for­mer Fi­nance min­is­ter Trevor Manuel, for­mer deputy Fi­nance min­is­ter Mce­bisi Jonas, for­mer Stan­dard Bank CEO Jacko Ma­ree and busi­nessper­son Phumzile Lan­geni.

In ad­di­tion, Ramaphosa an­nounced that econ­o­mist Trudy Makhaye will be­come his eco­nomic ad­viser. Here’s a look at Ramaphosa’s first 60 days in of­fice.

Ramaphosa got out of the start­ing blocks like Usain Bolt on Fe­bru­ary 15, and two months later, he has set the pace for an ath­letic pres­i­dency.

This is not only be­cause he has made walk­ing a leit­mo­tif of his ad­min­is­tra­tion, but be­cause he in­her­ited a burn­ing plat­form when he be­came ANC pres­i­dent in De­cem­ber last year. Con­fi­dence lev­els had plum­meted, and the ANC sup­port lev­els went down the drain as the ex­tent of state cap­ture by the Gupta fam­ily net­work be­came clear over months and months of rev­e­la­tions.

When Ramaphosa won the ANC con­fer­ence by just 179 votes, he told sup­port­ers that what had been achieved was a “beach­head” — a se­cure ini­tial po­si­tion from which fur­ther ad­vance­ment is pos­si­ble. Know­ing that his vic­tory was small, Ramaphosa and his team cre­ated an ac­tive pres­i­dency or­gan­ised un­der the rubric of the idea of a “new dawn”.

He got to work be­fore tak­ing of­fice, like a man who had waited for the op­por­tu­nity for a long time. By Jan­uary 9, as South Africa lum­bered back to work, Ramaphosa’s hid­den hand was made vis­i­ble when for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma ap­pointed a com­mis­sion of in­quiry into state cap­ture to be headed by deputy chief jus­tice Ray­mond Zondo.

Zuma had avoided ap­point­ing the com­mis­sion for months, but be­cause Ramaphosa’s ap­point­ment had made him a lame duck, the deed was done.

Zuma was also pushed to ap­point a new board at Eskom on Jan­uary 20, ahead of team South Africa’s schmooze fest with in­vestors at the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum in Davos, Switzer­land.

There, Ramaphosa and new Zim­bab­wean Pres­i­dent Em­mer­son Mnang­wagwa were the toasts of the ski­ing town, as they rep­re­sented the idea of re­newal in a jaded and con­flicted world. He was pres­i­dent be­fore he of­fi­cially be­came pres­i­dent.

‘THUMA MINA’

By the time Ramaphosa was even­tu­ally sworn in on Fe­bru­ary 15, it felt like he had lost the beach­head. Zuma took the coun­try on a tor­tured jour­ney as he re­fused to re­sign, and then left in a blaze of bit­ter­ness af­ter be­ing pushed al­most to the brink by the gov­ern­ing ANC.

The pres­i­dent took back the mo­ment with a call to ser­vice as he made his maiden State of the Na­tion Ad­dress on Fe­bru­ary 16 by lip-sync­ing Hugh Masekela’s song Send Me or Thuma Mina. This coined a first na­tional phrase — South Africa was said to be in a time of “Ramapho­ria”, eu­phoric about its new pres­i­dent. Ramaphosa has been snapped walk­ing, shop­ping and also fly­ing econ­omy class, all of which have won him great ac­claim.

His pres­i­dency fea­tures two min­is­ters who play the role of prime min­is­ters. Min­eral Re­sources Min­is­ter Gwede Man­tashe and Pub­lic En­ter­prises Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han have been cor­ner­stones in shap­ing Ramaphosa’s pres­i­dency.

Man­tashe was the per­son who took the bat­tle over the min­ing char­ter out of the courts and back on to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble — the Cham­ber of Mines agreed to post­pone a court case on Fe­bru­ary 18, hours be­fore the case was due in court. And Man­tashe is lead­ing the strat­egy on how Ramaphosa will manage the ANC’s com­mit­ment to land ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion.

Ramaphosa last week or­dered a spe­cial in­ves­tiga­tive unit (SIU) in­ves­ti­ga­tion into pro­cure­ment prac­tices at both Eskom and Transnet.

CORRUPTION-BUSTING

Ramaphosa promised an anti-corruption pres­i­dency, and ev­ery one of his ma­jor speeches made thus far has de­liv­ered on this clear mes­sage. But two things stand in his way: if he does not change the lead­er­ship at both the Na­tional Prose­cut­ing Author­ity (NPA) and the State Se­cu­rity Agency (SSA), he will not be able to clear out graft.

Shaun Abra­hams at the NPA and Arthur Fraser at the SSA hold two vi­tal in­sti­tu­tions in the grip of con­tin­ued pa­tron­age and corruption. The SSA should be a bul­wark in pre­vent­ing state cap­ture by an­tic­i­pat­ing it, while the NPA should be the key in­sti­tu­tion pre­vent­ing corruption be­com­ing en­demic.

Ramaphosa is said to be aware of the prob­lem, but he has not yet made changes here — in that, he is be­ing too much of a grad­u­al­ist. He is, for ex­am­ple, wait­ing for the Con­sti­tu­tional Court to rule on Abra­hams’ ap­peal that he was le­git­i­mately ap­pointed af­ter an ear­lier ad­verse rul­ing.

IT’S THE ECON­OMY, STUPID

Ramaphosa knows the maxim: “It’s the econ­omy, stupid”, a say­ing that un­der­pins the view that the econ­omy de­ter­mines po­lit­i­cal for­tunes. He has worked to sta­bilise busi­ness con­fi­dence, which had been ripped apart by the Zuma ad­min­is­tra­tion and which had South Africa on the brink of be­ing down­graded to junk sta­tus for in­ward in­vest­ments.

The econ­omy now has green shoots and the rand is re­garded as a safe haven emerg­ing-mar­ket cur­rency, Bloomberg re­ported last week. Ramaphosa and his Depart­ment of En­ergy Min­is­ter Jeff Radebe have signed R56 bil­lion worth of con­tracts with in­de­pen­dent power pro­duc­ers for re­new­able en­ergy sources. This is go­ing to be a ma­jor new source of for­eign in­vest­ment, say an­a­lysts.

By lever­ag­ing his net­works in busi­ness, Ramaphosa has scored two big po­ten­tial legacy pro­grammes. The first is the Youth Em­ploy­ment Ser­vice launched in March, and the other is a forth­com­ing small busi­ness fund lo­cated and funded in the pri­vate sec­tor.

And this sym­bol­ises an­other im­por­tant dif­fer­ence be­tween the ad­min­is­tra­tions of Zuma and Ramaphosa: the lat­ter is far more mixed mar­ket than Zuma’s, which fol­lowed the model of state-led devel­op­ment. It’s a gam­ble that’s only go­ing to work if busi­ness brings its in­vest­ment might and skills to the ser­vice of South Africa.

PUSH ON THE LEFT

Ramaphosa’s great­est chal­lenge is go­ing to come from his left flanks. The land ques­tion is, of course, paramount, and given the par­lia­men­tary re­solve of the ANC and the EFF to get it through, the call for land ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion is set­ting the po­lit­i­cal story of the year.

In ad­di­tion, union leader Zwelinz­ima Vavi is mount­ing a bat­tle against the pro­pos­als on the amount of a min­i­mum wage, while na­tion­al­i­sa­tion re­mains an ex­tremely pop­u­lar call within and out­side the ANC.

In his first 60 days, Ramaphosa has de­ployed charm and strat­egy to dis­play his pres­i­dency of speed, and to give mean­ing to the idea of a new dawn. With just over a year to go be­fore a make-or-break na­tional elec­tion, there is likely to be more speed and a shift to the left as he moves to se­cure a size­able win for the gov­ern­ing party.

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