SA needs more than fine words, Mr President
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.