Voices

Ramaphosa cannot continue to look on. He needs to save the country from destruction

2019-08-20 00:15

The president cannot continue to look on as the country degenerates. It is about time Ramaphosa applied concrete plans to cure the ills of SA.

The election of Cyril Ramaphosa as president of the ANC ushered in mixed feelings with regard to whether or not to back the ANC in the general elections.

For some, a leopard never changes its spots and the ANC was no exception.

But for others, while they could not back the ANC, they felt that Ramaphosa deserved support.

This was largely based on the stance he had taken on corruption and the assumption that he would probably be able to turn both the ANC and the country around.

Further, his rhetoric of following in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela and reversing “the nine wasted years” under former president Jacob Zuma convinced many that he was the real deal.

But three months after the general election and some are already writing his obituary.

I am not there yet, even as I am disappointed with President Ramaphosa thus far.

I am disappointed in the president not because of the Bosasa issue or the campaign donations and how he’s handling those issues.

Many are writing him off because to them he has shown that he is made from the same rib as Zuma.

You can even say that some of those writing him off never believed in him.

They said he was incapable of taking forward the so-called radical economic transformation “being in the pockets of white monopoly capital”, headquartered in Stellenbosch.

My disappointment is in his failure to grasp the deep structural problems that our country finds itself in.

Maybe he does, but together with his economic cluster and the party they do not know what to do.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be disappointed, having said before the elections that none of the parties were placing at their centre economic growth, job creation, as well as reducing poverty and inequality beyond rhetoric.

They said they would grow the economy by 3% to 5% over the next five years and create 5 million jobs over the same period as though all it takes is waving a magic wand.

I said then that while reform of institutions such as the SA Revenue Service and the National Prosecuting Authority, as well as getting rid of rotten apples to make way for the right candidates was important, that alone couldn’t be the main reason to elect Ramaphosa as president, even as he appeared to be the best out of a bad bunch.

That reform included his rhetoric of a new dawn against state capture and turning state-owned enterprises (SOEs) around, especially power utility Eskom, national carrier SAA, state arms company Denel and the Passenger Rail Agency of SA.

I also said that it was a pipe dream to think Ramaphosa could sort out ANC internal problems and somehow get it fully behind him.

The party is more behind him so as to stab him in the back than to support programmes that respond to the challenges we face.

It is more prepared to bury the hatchet in his back in the same way that Brutus and his friends buried theirs in Caesar’s.

I’m more disappointed in him as a former trade unionist who was involved in the negotiations of the labour dispensation, having visited several countries with representatives of government, business and labour to see how they turned the ship around when faced with similar challenges to ours.

Ramaphosa – a business leader who chaired the Millennium Labour Council with Zwelinzima Vavi; with Tito Mboweni, a former minister of labour; and other former Cosatu leaders in his Cabinet, including Sipho Pityana, a former director-general of labour being a leader of the business organisation – has not seen fit to convene a negotiations’ council to iron out a social compact in the same way that Norway, Ireland and the Netherlands did when faced with dire economic situations.

The Millennium Labour Council was formed after our visit to the above mentioned countries and learning that they had been able to forge a pact that included economic growth, job creation and retention, increased productivity, a social wage, incomes policy, and investment in people and infrastructure, among other things.

I have no doubt that Vavi and Zingiswa Losi would grab such an opportunity, unless they are only paying lip service to solving the social and economic problems facing our country.

Ramaphosa has no concrete plan with time frames on tackling low economic growth, and stubbornly high rates of unemployment, especially among women, youth and rural folks

In fact, failure to act and agree on binding agreements is a sure invitation to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

As we know, these institutions do not okay marbles. Argentina, Greece, Italy, Portugal and a host of African countries can bear testimony.

The two institutions demand structural adjustments – a cut in wages, subsidies and jobs, as well as debt management.

With the situation facing our SOEs, they will demand a sell-off of most assets and reduction in employees.

At that point you can march, shout and even replace the government, but they will still have to take the begging bowl to them.

At that time the National Health Insurance will be a distant memory.

I’m disappointed in Ramaphosa for settling for speckles of palace politics instead of a bold plan for the country.

He has had few makgotla since the elections and several meetings of the ANC national executive committee.

What were the burning issues in those meetings? Managing palace politics with the whole country sucked in?

Ramaphosa has no concrete plan with time frames on tackling low economic growth, and stubbornly high rates of unemployment, especially among women, youth and rural folks.

For me, this remains the single most important issue.

I guess I shouldn’t be disappointed, after all, he was voted in not because he had a plan but because we were told he would sort it out once in office. We were asked to give him a chance.

But to date, the focus seems to have been on how to manage the unity of the ANC.

Don’t get me wrong, no leader of a party wants to see it disintegrate. I know, having been in the Congress of the People (Cope) and seeing how it has disintegrated to a point where it is no longer recognisable as a party that once galvanised 1.3 million people within four months to become an official opposition in five provinces.

As they say: “We get the government we deserve.”

You would think the opposition would be putting out alternative policy proposals and galvanising the public behind its plans.

Alas, it too is caught in the glare of the ANC headlights like a hare. It’s all about the ANC and never about the country.

In any other part of the world the opposition would be using every opportunity to hammer the government on its failure to put forward a plan while punting its own.

Here all we have is rhetoric of how it can do better, but “dololo” real plans.

The ball is in Ramaphosa’s court to grasp the nettle and lead the battle for recovery in the same way the Portuguese government did when its economy was in the doldrums, the previous leadership having accepted hook, line and sinker the International Monetary Fund and World Bank medicine.

At that time no one believed it could be done. In fact, they were seen as mavericks out to use the country for a utopian experiment that would plunge the country further into chaos.

There is a lot of goodwill among South Africans who would be willing to put their collective shoulder to the wheel to grow the economy, create jobs and reduce poverty and inequality.

It is time for the president to lead the country and stop looking over his shoulder at what’s happening inside his organisation.

As the saying goes, “never let a good crisis go to waste”.

Shilowa is former Gauteng premier, a unionist and leader of Cope


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Mbhazima Shilowa

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September 15 2019