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Cyril’s ticked some boxes but needs to make his mark on the big ones

2019-02-06 23:15

Having now spent a full year in office, President Cyril Ramaphosa faces the challenge of presenting a state of the nation that is much more than just inspiring hope.

Last year Ramaphosa could get away with assuring the nation to calm down after the drama of Jacob Zuma’s departure.

All he had to say was: “Calm down everybody. We know what the problem is and we will attend to it. Trust me.” And Thuma Mina.

Ramaphosa then did not go as far as he has done recently by describing Zuma’s time in office as nine years of plunder and waste.

With his party political situation delicate, he had to move with caution. But he desperately wanted to inspire hope that things would get better from that time.

A year later, however, we are fully within our rights to question whether he was worthy of our trust.

The answer is not simple because there is clear movement on some matters but not so much on others.

For example on resolving the South African Revenue Service conundrum, Ramaphosa said: “We will also take steps to stabilise and strengthen vital institutions like Sars. We must understand that tax morality is dependent on an implicit contract between taxpayers and government that state spending provides value for money and is free from corruption.

“I will shortly appoint a commission of inquiry into the tax administration and governance of Sars to ensure that we restore the credibility of the service and strengthen its capacity to meet its revenue targets.”

And indeed he moved with speed on the issue and the spin-offs have been so much more immediate than anticipated.

Within months, former commissioner Tom Moyane was out of office and an acting commissioner was in place.

Ramaphosa had also mentioned that he would accelerate efforts to arrest and prosecute those implicated in corruption.

After announcing the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture, he added critically that “the commission should not displace the regular work of the country’s law enforcement agencies in investigating and prosecuting any and all acts of corruption”.

He also pledged to fix the national prosecution authority by attending to its leadership.

It has taken a while but he can be proud that this week the new National Prosecuting Authority head Shamila Batohi started work.

You would also have to wonder if it is any coincidence that, a day before the state of the nation address, major arrests were made in connection with corruption.

These are ticks he can celebrate. But he knows that he has not started doing anything until he gets a grip on the economy.

Good governance is another critical lever that still awaits his firm hand. On these and unemployment we are still where we were last year.

For as long as his Cabinet is constituted of the likes of Nomvula Mokonyane and Bathabile Dlamini, no one will take him seriously.

With poverty and inequality levels still embarrassingly high, the message of hope has not translated into impact on people’s daily life experiences.

Turning the economy around was never going to be done through a magic wand. It will take time, but unfortunately for Ramaphosa, he does not have the luxury of time.

This country is almost a powder keg, waiting to explode. He must demonstrate to South Africans how he will do things differently.

We know that he represents a new dawn, but we want to walk it and feel it with him. Show us Mr President.

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February 17 2019