Track­ing Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa’s 100 days in of­fice

Public Sector Manager - - Contents -

We take a closer look at what the Pres­i­dent has achieved af­ter spend­ing three months in of­fice

It has been a lit­tle over three months since Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa be­came the Pres­i­dent of South Africa, with 26 May mark­ing his 100 days as leader of the coun­try.

The mile­stone pro­vides an ideal op­por­tu­nity to re­flect on his mo­men­tous ini­tial months in the hot seat at the Union Build­ings.

The Pres­i­dent's score­card in­di­cates a mix­ture of op­ti­mism about the fu­ture of the coun­try, cou­pled with harsh eco­nomic real­i­ties, wage strikes, tax in­creases and run­away food prices.

Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa was sworn in as South Africa's fifth demo­crat­i­cally elected Pres­i­dent on 15 Fe­bru­ary.

De­spite the Pres­i­dent as­sum­ing of­fice dur­ing tough eco­nomic times in­clud­ing high un­em­ploy­ment, many South Africans be­lieve he is steer­ing the coun­try in the right di­rec­tion.

His ap­proval rat­ing of 65 per­cent is sim­i­lar to those of pre­de­ces­sors Pres­i­dents Thabo Mbeki and Ja­cob Zuma at their 100-day mark. For­mer Pres­i­dents Mbeki and Zuma scored 66 per­cent and 68 per­cent re­spec­tively.

The South African Cit­i­zen Sur­vey (Sacs), which looks at at­ti­tudes to­wards po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship and the di­rec­tion in which the coun­try is mov­ing, found that 65 per­cent of re­spon­dents were sat­is­fied with Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa.

Sacs is con­ducted once a month and is based on face-to-face in­ter­views with a na­tion­ally rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple of 1 300 re­spon­dents. Top­ics cov­ered in­clude pol­i­tics, eco­nomics, so­cial is­sues and food se­cu­rity.

The 65 per­cent rat­ing from March's sur­vey was up from 57 per­cent in Fe­bru­ary. April's re­sults will be avail­able in June.

A good job so far

Al­most two thirds of re­spon­dents said Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa is do­ing a good job.

Some an­a­lysts agree with th­ese sen­ti­ments, adding that Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa dis­played his busi­ness ac­u­men and lis­ten­ing skills in the face of eco­nomic pres­sures dur­ing his first 100 days in of­fice.

“We think the Pres­i­dent has moved quickly to ad­dress some of the low-hang­ing fruit that needed im­prove­ment, but the jury is still out on whether the Pres­i­dent will have the nec­es­sary sup­port to ad­dress the harder is­sues,” said Univer­sity of Stel­len­bosch's Bureau for Eco­nomic Re­search (BER) se­nior econ­o­mist Hugo Pien­aar.

He added that re­form of the labour and ed­u­ca­tion sec­tors is likely to be nec­es­sary for South Africa to achieve higher longer-term Gross Do­mes­tic Product growth rates.

“More also needs to be done to re­duce the cost of do­ing busi­ness in SA,” he said.

Busi­ness Unity South Africa (BUSA) Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Tanya Co­hen agreed, say­ing the elec­tion of Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa had been a no­table con­trib­u­tor to the re­vival of busi­ness and in­vestor con­fi­dence in the coun­try.

The Rand Mer­chant Bank/BER Busi­ness Con­fi­dence In­dex jumped by 11 in­dex points from 34 in 2017 (fourth quar­ter) to 45 in 2018 (first quar­ter). The re­port de­scribed such a big in­crease be­tween quar­ters as rare, adding that since 1975 con­fi­dence in­creased by 11 in­dex points or more on only 15 oc­ca­sions.

“The Pres­i­dent's in­clu­sive ap­proach, recog­nis­ing the le­git­i­mate in­ter­ests and con­tri­bu­tion of all so­cial part­ners, in­clud­ing busi­ness, will be key to South Africa's eco­nomic re­vival, serv­ing to un­lock in­vest­ment, eco­nomic growth and em­ploy­ment,” said Co­hen.

No­table achieve­ments

Shortly af­ter tak­ing over South Africa's reins, the Pres­i­dent in­ter­vened at state-owned en­ti­ties (SOEs), moved to ad­dress chal­lenges at the South African Rev­enue Ser­vice and ap­pointed in­vest­ment en­voys to bring more than R1 tril­lion in in­vest­ments to the coun­try.

He is seen as a new broom sweep­ing away years of cor­rup­tion and mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa put in place a new board at Eskom and the in­ter­ven­tion has had a di­rect im­pact on the sta­bil­i­sa­tion of elec­tric­ity sup­ply while mit­i­gat­ing the ef­fects of load shed­ding.

Other mea­sures at the sta­te­owned power en­tity in­cluded the ap­point­ment of a new CEO at the end of 2017 and a CFO in April 2018 as part of sta­bil­is­ing the ex­ec­u­tive man­age­ment. At the same time the Pres­i­dent con­tin­ues to work with Pub­lic En­ter­prises and Na­tional Trea­sury to ad­dress some of the in­sti­tu­tion's press­ing fund­ing short­falls.

With re­gard South African Air­ways (SAA), gov­ern­ment overhauled the na­tional car­rier's board in Oc­to­ber and ap­pointed a new CEO in Novem­ber. Also in place are the early stages of a turn­around plan to en­able SAA to break even by 2020 and ease de­pen­dency on the gov­ern­ment.

In March, CEO of SAA Tech­ni­cal and the CFO were sus­pended, and act­ing ap­point­ments made, af­ter the pair was fin­gered in a foren­sic probe.

The in­ter­ven­tions were widely wel­comed by lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional investors.

“Over­all, we think the in­ter­ven­tions have been pos­i­tive and helped to im­prove both busi­ness and con­sumer con­fi­dence. Also of im­por­tance was the im­me­di­ate ac­tion to ad­dress the liq­uid­ity is­sues at Eskom by ap­point­ing a cred­i­ble in­terim CEO and putting in place a new board.

“In­di­ca­tions of in­sti­tu­tional re­newal at other key state in­sti­tu­tions, in­clud­ing SARS, have also been pos­i­tively re­ceived as an in­di­ca­tion of the Pres­i­dent's anti-cor­rup­tion and open-for-busi­ness drive,” Pien­aar said.

The Cabi­net reshuf­fle, as well as the re­con­sti­tu­tion of many of the boards of SOEs, were also seen by BUSA as sig­nalling a new era of “eth­i­cal, ac­count­able lead­er­ship

and good gov­er­nance”.

“This has trans­lated into im­prove­ments in busi­ness con­fi­dence; strength­en­ing of lo­cal cur­rency; and more pos­i­tive re­views by rat­ings agen­cies and in­ter­na­tional investors, as ex­pressed dur­ing the In­ter­na­tional In­vestor Road­show un­der­taken by Min­is­ter Nene [Fi­nance Min­is­ter Nh­lanhla Nene] in March this year,” the or­gan­i­sa­tion said.

Jobs sum­mit

Soon af­ter tak­ing of­fice, Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa promised to con­vene a jobs sum­mit to align the ef­forts of ev­ery sec­tor and ev­ery stake­holder be­hind the im­per­a­tive of job cre­ation.

The sum­mit will look at what the coun­try needs to do to en­sure that the econ­omy grows and be­comes more pro­duc­tive, that com­pa­nies in­vest on a far greater scale, that work­ers are bet­ter equipped and that eco­nomic in­fra­struc­ture is ex­panded.

Then in March the Pres­i­dent fol­lowed up on his prom­ise to launch the Youth Em­ploy­ment Ser­vice ini­tia­tive, which will place un­em­ployed youth in paid in­tern­ships in com­pa­nies across the econ­omy. Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa has also moved to unite the na­tion around one com­mon goal and pa­tri­o­tism through his “thuma mina” (send me) mes­sage.

Thorny is­sues

Like any Pres­i­dent, Ramaphosa has al­ready had his chal­lenges in­clud­ing a surge in land in­va­sions and ser­vice de­liv­ery protests.

One po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst be­lieves that the is­sue of land is one of the ma­jor chal­lenges that Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa will have to care­fully man­age – and one that could de­fine his pres­i­dency's suc­cesses or fail­ures.

“The land ques­tion is at the height of the po­lit­i­cal agenda and its res­o­lu­tion is ur­gent. How Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa is seen to be lead­ing or bro­ker­ing a so­lu­tion on this is­sue will be cru­cial,” said Univer­sity of KwaZulu-Natal-based po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Lukhona Mn­guni.

In his State of the Na­tion Ad­dress, Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa said he would be guided by the res­o­lu­tions of the 54th Na­tional Con­fer­ence of the gov­ern­ing party on the is­sue of land. Those res­o­lu­tions in­cluded the ap­proach that land would be ex­pro­pri­ated with­out com­pen­sa­tion.

“We are de­ter­mined that ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion should be im­ple­mented in a way that in­creases agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion, im­proves food se­cu­rity and en­sures that the land is re­turned to those from whom it was taken un­der colo­nial­ism and apartheid,” Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa said in Fe­bru­ary.

Eco­nom­i­cally, Co­hen said that go­ing for­ward, busi­ness would like to see the Pres­i­dent main­tain the fo­cus on ac­count­abil­ity and eth­i­cal lead­er­ship and build­ing ca­pac­ity within the state to im­ple­ment sta­ble, co­her­ent and ev­i­dence-based poli­cies.

“This will pro­vide the foun­da­tion to en­able long-term sus­tain­able and in­clu­sive growth, em­ploy­ment and so­cial de­vel­op­ment,” she said.

Pien­aar said a pub­lic sec­tor wage agree­ment that is linked to the pro­jected CPI in­fla­tion rate will be im­por­tant for the coun­try's fis­cal po­si­tion and is be­ing closely mon­i­tored by the ma­jor global credit rat­ing agen­cies.

The Min­ing Char­ter also needs to be fi­nalised speed­ily and should prefer­ably have buy-in from the ma­jor min­ing houses, he added.

One thing is for cer­tain, all eyes are on Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa and he takes the lead in ef­forts to move South Africa for­ward.

Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa is sworn in as Pres­i­dent of South Africa.

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