SA needs more than fine words, Mr Pres­i­dent

The Citizen (KZN) - - Opinion -

Trans­port Min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula, who dra­mat­i­cally “flip-flopped” to Cyril Ramaphosa’s side from the Ja­cob Zuma fac­tion at the 2017 ANC Nas­rec con­fer­ence, has been say­ing re­cently that peo­ple should give Ramaphosa a chance be­cause he has only been pres­i­dent of the coun­try for “less than a year” into his five-year term.

Tech­ni­cally that may be true, be­cause Ramaphosa only took of­fice as an elected pres­i­dent in his own right af­ter the elec­tions last year. How­ever, le­gal niceties aside, the re­al­ity is that Ramaphosa is now en­ter­ing the third year that he has been in charge of this coun­try.

And whether he – or his praise singers and ex­cuse-mak­ers – like it or not, things have got demon­stra­bly worse across many ar­eas of South African life since he took over.

There are rea­sons for this which are ei­ther be­yond his con­trol or over which he has lit­tle in­flu­ence. So, our econ­omy is still largely a captive of in­ter­na­tional trends and forces and the slow-down – and loss of jobs and fi­nan­cial strength it has brought with it – would have been dif­fi­cult for any govern­ment to ame­lio­rate, never mind con­trol.

And then there is the grim re­al­ity that he heads an or­gan­i­sa­tion which is wracked by more in­fight­ing and pol­i­tick­ing than a me­dieval court. He is far from se­cure in his po­si­tion as head of the ANC and head of state and has a slew of ene­mies ea­gerly wait­ing for the slight­est mis­step by him so they can pounce and get him re­moved.

How­ever, Ramaphosa has dis­ap­pointed many who be­lieved he would be the man to lead us out of the land of cor­rup­tion and loot­ing to the Promised Land of pros­per­ity, hon­esty and peace. He has shown lit­tle real lead­er­ship, lit­tle ap­petite for tak­ing the dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions and has, there­fore, al­lowed a cli­mate of un­cer­tainty, con­flict and de­pres­sion to de­velop.

When Ramaphosa steps up to de­liver his State of the Na­tion ad­dress (Sona) in par­lia­ment to­day, there will be some who will turn away … be­cause they’ve heard it all be­fore … we face chal­lenges, but we have done well and peo­ple must be pa­tient.

Still oth­ers will hang on his ev­ery word, ex­pect­ing him to wave a po­lit­i­cal magic wand and cure all our ills.

Ramaphosa is at a cross­roads and what he says to­day – and fol­lows up with ac­tion – will de­fine his po­lit­i­cal legacy, good or bad.

If he wants to be re­mem­bered as the man who pulled South Africa back from the brink, he needs to do a num­ber of things.

He needs to put for­ward a work­able plan – and by that we do not mean hi­jack­ing pen­sion fund money – to save both Eskom and SAA. Or he must im­me­di­ately sell them off, painful though that might be in the short term.

He must give im­me­di­ate clar­ity on land and en­sure that ex­pro­pri­a­tion still al­lows for com­pen­sa­tion. Or the coun­try can kiss any for­eign in­vest­ment good­bye in the fu­ture.

Like­wise, he must re­con­sider the Na­tional Health In­sur­ance plan, which could bank­rupt us and leave the bill with our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren, laud­able though its aims might be.

But, more than any­thing, he must try to bridge the grow­ing gulf be­tween races and bring us poli­cies which ben­e­fit all, not just some.

Fine words and prom­ises alone will not save this coun­try, Mr Pres­i­dent.

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