Don’t play populist card too often
You will forgive our cynical response to President Cyril Ramaphosa, who wants South Africans, yet again, to trust the ANC with the running of the country. In launching the ANC’s 2019 election manifesto in Durban yesterday, Ramaphosa admitted that the organisation had “made some mistakes” regarding transformation. Although it is heartening that the leader of the party can acknowledge this fact – how could he not, though? – his comments are a good contender for the Ironic Understatement of the Year.
Then, in his best salesman voice, he went on to say that the “ANC is working” and that it is “fixing” South Africa’s problems.
Like his predecessor Jacob Zuma – who is still the one looking over Ramaphosa’s shoulder, judging from the way he shared the limelight (as if he is being promoted for sainthood, never mind accused of facilitating widespread looting of State coffers) – Ramaphosa made grandiose promises. This time it was a more modest 275 000 new jobs, compared to the half a million Zuma promised a few years ago ... just before unemployment soared.
The manifesto, said the president, will help launch a skills revolution in South Africa, echoing his previous belief in this country being a major player in the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” ... while just 40% of pupils starting Grade 1 manage to pass Matric.
In politics, one should never take election manifestos too seriously. Most are misleading advertising – and the ANC one is no different.
But Ramaphosa clearly has a long way to go in neutralising Zuma and his lackeys, so we should perhaps cut the president some slack.
On the other hand, he must not succumb to the temptation of playing the populist card too many times. That could have long-term and negative effects, which will cancel out all the fine dreams of the manifesto.