South Africa’s ANC may have received its lowest vote ever in last week’s election – but 57% is enough to give President Cyril Ramaphosa the backing he wanted to launch his “national renewal” Presidency.
After nine years of his predecessor Jacob Zuma the list of what needs fixing and renewing is long. Unemployment is a stubborn 27% and much higher among young people, the sluggish economy is failing to create new jobs, and corruption has brought major industries like the national airline SAA and the power provider Escom to its knees with power cuts now a frequent consequence.
President Ramaphosa is also taking charge of a restless and frustrated nation. It is one of the most unequal societies on earth, according to the World Bank, where racial inequalities still persist twenty-five years after the end of white rule under apartheid.
He’s promised land reform without compensation to address this disparity. How he handles this political hot potato will set the tone of his administration and will judge how he’s seen at home and abroad.
In a first step President Ramaphosa is taking personal charge of economic policy. That bodes well. After all he is one of the country’s most successful business leaders. He’s made his millions in mining and until recently owned the lucrative MacDonald’s fast food franchise in South Africa.
He’s the business community’s preferred choice – both local and international business are backing him to revive the economy. And that has to be important for boosting foreign direct investment into the ailing economy. He has pledged to attract $100 billion in new investment to South Africa and to make it seen once again as “the gateway to Africa”.
One of the many charges against Zuma’s ANC was that it was never short of policy statements but woefully short of implementing those policies. To change that Ramaphosa has already reinstated a unit in his private office to speed up policy execution. It is tasked with devising a new growth plan with Presidential backing to get it delivered.
So far, so good but the President faces many challenges, not least from within his own party where the Zuma faction is alive and well.
The ANC list contained many politicians tainted by corruption and, in extreme cases, political violence. They will be willing him to fail if only to save themselves.
The ANC is Africa’s oldest liberation movement. Once it inspired the world but under Zuma it became a watchword for corruption.
President Ramaphosa talks of “renewal” which entails rooting out corruption and make its perpetrators pay the price. Offenders must be seen to be jailed and stripped of their ill-gotten gains. Observers aren’t sure if he has the political strength within the ANC to take on members of his own party.
An early indication will be when President Ramaphosa announces his cabinet. He’s pledged to purge the ANC of what he calls its “bad and deviant tendencies” but has he got the political muscle to ditch the crooks who filled their pockets up during the Zuma years?
If he has then the road to “renewal” is firmly underway. If not South Africa could be in for more years of ANC faction fighting and another false dawn.
I’ve known Cyril Ramaphosa for thirty years. I’ve watched him as a tough union negotiator. I’ve seen him leading street protests against apartheid. I’ve witnessed how he skilfully negotiated the country out of apartheid to bring about the first all-race democratic elections which brought Nelson Mandela to power.
He’s going to need all those negotiating and persuasion skills if he’s going to succeed in restoring South Africa’s fortunes and bringing jobs, justice and equality to its people.
In those first democratic elections in 1994 the ANC’s campaign slogan was “Now Is The Time” – Twenty-five years on and many South Africans sense that now the ANC’s time is beginning to run out.
The clock is ticking loudly and Cyril Ramaphosa knows that many who once saw him as South Africa’s best hope now regard him as South Africa’s last chance.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of 7Dnews.