Financial Mail


Ramaphosa is leading us into a new, complex world with a state whose capabiliti­es have been destroyed

- @justicemal­ala by Justice Malala

President Cyril Ramaphosa concluded his address to the nation on Sunday with a quote from Nelson Mandela: “It is now in your hands.”

Mandela had used the line at the end of a speech to an adoring crowd in Hyde Park, London, in 2008. The tall, handsome, proud man who in the 1950s cut a dashing figure in sharp suits was now 90. Yet, standing in front of the crowd surrounded by the likes of Will Smith and Annie Lennox, he still exuded energy and there was a regal air about him. It was the last of his 46664 charity concerts and the speech was a signal that the old struggle stalwarts had done their bit.

“We say tonight, after nearly 90 years of life, it is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now.”

Mandela did not leave us. He was around, inspiratio­nal and watching over his beloved country, for another five years.

After 65 days of a hard lockdown, SA will return to life on June 1. It is not an end. It is the beginning of a tough, complex road ahead. As Ramaphosa said: “Until there is a vaccine available to all, the coronaviru­s will continue to spread in our population. This means that we must get used to living with the coronaviru­s for some time to come.”

The lockdown has revealed much about our country that we had ignored or tried to sweep under the carpet. We know now that we are not always nice people and that at the first sign of societal stress, we are prone to attacking each other as if we are the only people in the world affected by this pandemic. We are divided, deeply, along racial, class and ideologica­l lines. We know that many of our leaders have a dictatoria­l bone in them and that they hanker for command rather than servant leadership. We know more intimately than ever before that we are a deeply unequal society. We need to fix these things.

We also know that at our best we are generous, kind and thoughtful of our less fortunate brethren. We know that despite the hardships of the past nine weeks we are here now, about to start again.

Yet, fully cognisant of these realities, this is not the end. It is the beginning of a challengin­g road ahead. The economy is devastated. Unemployme­nt and inequality are huge. The social fabric will continue to fray. Politics will become more divisive. What needs to happen, then?

SA’S greatest enemy is that we cannot execute. Ramaphosa needs to build a capable state. It was incredible that as the president spoke on Sunday, the SA Social Security Agency had been able to pay the R350 social distress grant to just 10 people, despite promising exactly a month ago that it would start paying the millions of applicants by May 15. It is just one example of how the state simply isn’t capable of delivering on the promises it makes.

On the same day, the Sunday

Times reported that the national ventilator project, launched two months ago to deliver 15,000 ventilator­s, had not even decided on a supplier. Apparently the government was still deciding which of the six shortliste­d companies it would give contracts to. Two bloody months to make a decision! Meanwhile, national director of public prosecutio­ns Shamila Batohi told parliament that fixing the prosecutor­ial system was her top priority. She has been in the job for a year and four months and hasn’t prosecuted a single high-profile case of state capture. The National Prosecutin­g Authority is incapable.

In a word, there is a lot that is broken. Ramaphosa is leading us into a new, complex world with a state whose capabiliti­es were destroyed under former president Jacob Zuma, and which Ramaphosa has failed to fix in his two years in power. We are limping into a new world. We are going to need unity between business, labour and the government to fix this mess. We are going to need extraordin­ary leadership across all sectors. If we don’t get it right, this new beginning will actually be the end for SA.

We are going to need unity between business, labour and the government to fix this mess

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