Mr President, it is time for you to make a declaration of intent
DEAR President Ramaphosa
Like millions of other South Africans – not only in your own party, but from other enlightened parties and political persuasions – I pen this open letter to you.
We believe that you are an exceptional leader of ability, competence and integrity destined to lead our country in the critical political and economic state that South Africa finds itself in, after the almost 10 years of the calamitous Zuma presidency, and no other leader, at present, has the credentials or integrity to fulfil this crucial role.
We are, however, profoundly concerned by certain malevolent political forces both inside and outside of your own party, the ANC, who appear to be distracting you from your role of powerful and decisive political leadership, for their own selfish and short-sighted purposes.
This has led to a sense of disillusionment among many ordinary, as well as prominent, South Africans. This sense of pessimism has, of late, been acutely reflected in the media – for instance by Melanie Verwoerd, a former ANC MP and SA ambassador to Ireland, in her op-ed “Like a pack of hyenas” in The Witness newspaper of August 22, 2019, and by William Sauderson-Meyer “Keeping political faith that Ramaphosa can save SA” in the Saturday Independent, August 24, 2019.
Your millions of faithful supporters, in all walks of life, need a cogent message of hope that you are absolutely committed to changing our country to bring about economic and political renewal and that, in doing so, you are dealing effectively with those who are undermining you and your government from this great task.
We need great speeches and addresses on apposite occasions to raise our spirits and stimulate the economy.
The reason for this is, as Melanie Verwoerd says in her piece, it was clear to her from addressing a “number of international investors in London… without exception they were extremely negative about South Africa’s future”.
Sanderson-Meyer says that although your approval rating is high at 62%, South Africans should be able to count on you “to stop dicking about and, at last, to act”.
Indeed, since the inception of democracy in 1994, South Africa, like Britain in May 1940, finds itself in its “darkest hour”.
We desperately need decisive action and a special address on a suitable and appropriate political occasion, with the cogent use of Churchillian oratory and rhetoric akin to that of the illustrious World War II British statesman, Winston Churchill, used in his “blood, sweat and tears” speech to the House of Commons in May 1940, making it categorically clear that you will brook no disloyal opposition from members within your own party and others from the task you were elected to fulfil on May 8, to lead South Africa out of the extant political and economic quagmire it finds itself in.
In an inspiring address you must, it is submitted, make this commitment to a resource-driven economy for the benefit of investors and your commitment, to your supporters and the nation, that you are profoundly committed to social justice and working tirelessly for greater economic equality for all people, particularly the millions of mainly African people living in dire poverty, and that these two commitments are not contradictory but complementary.
What you must also make absolutely clear is that to attain this objective of an effective government, free of corruption, is absolutely essential, and that you and your government will work tirelessly for their realisation.
We, as a nation, already have a programme and plan in the National Development Plan (NDP). It will require immense political will and determination to put it into action and not to be sidetracked by controversies, like those relating and raging around the controversial CR17 election fundraising campaign.
What you must, it is further submitted, also make clear, by taking the nation into your confidence, is that there are no magic solutions, as advanced by the protagonists of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR), who actually propound Marxist-Leninist ideological ideas as a solution to all our political and economic problems, despite the fact that they have failed abysmally in Eastern Europe and the erstwhile Soviet Union.
What is required is a carefully crafted policy, of some kind of “Social-Democracy”, that is suitable for South Africa and its needs, and is financed by a dynamic resource-driven economy.
This is what South Africans should be discussing and debating instead of becoming obsessed with the rights and wrongs of the CR17 campaign and “white monopoly capital”, and other issues – such as black pain and white guilt.
That does not mean that South Africa must stop dealing with essential reparations for the wrongs of apartheid and centuries of the oppression of the indigenous population.
Such reparations are essential for social justice, transformation and as part of bringing about economic equality, but they must take place tirelessly and comprehensively, in tandem with a resource-driven economy and a plan of social democracy – based on the NDP, instituted for the benefit of all.
The Constitutional Court’s erudite judgment by Justice Edwin Cameron, in his last such delivered judgment before retiring, in favour of land tenants, represents an excellent example of essential reparations for disadvantaged persons (Pretoria News, August 21, 2019).
South Africa is a country of infinite potential, with vast natural and human resources.
We, as a nation, require our elected government and you, as our president, to be seen to be acting in a powerful and manifest manner, and not appearing – quite incorrectly, as is reflected in the media – as paralysed by back-stabbing and political undermining by self-serving interest groups and factions in the ANC.
This, President Ramaphosa, is the challenge facing you, your government and our nation. I do not for one moment think you are dithering but, unfortunately, that perception is being reflected in the media.
Therefore, respectfully and earnestly, you and your government are requested to rise unequivocally to the occasion.
I have no doubt that you will be overwhelmed by the immense support and encouragement you will receive from all quarters in South Africa in this regard.
Devenish is Emeritus Professor of Public Law at UKZN and one of the scholars who assisted in drafting the Interim Constitution in 1993.