We cannot disappoint our people and the international community – Ramaphosa

WEF Summit 2017: Is SA a stable democracy?

SIKI MGABADELI: This time last year when Team South Africa came to Davos we had markets in a tailspin, the rand down because we’d just had a change in guard in the Treasury, lots of questions being asked about that at the time. Fast forward a year on, do things feel a little bit more stable?

CYRIL RAMAPHOSA: Yes, it is stable, it has been stabilising over a number of months. I’d like to say that we’ve had a really good tour here as Team South Africa at the World Economic Forum. We’ve had a solid team of Cabinet ministers, business leaders, trade union leaders and a whole range of other people who are officials in government.

The team has been formidable, we’ve been transmitting a very, very positive message about South Africa and basically telling everyone that South Africa is open for business for a whole host of reasons, one of which is that we are a stable country politically, and economically we have our challenges but we have taken steps and interventions that are unfolding to address those challenges and we are deepening our ability to deal with those in order to grow the economy of our country.

We are very happy that Team South Africa and the whole South African stakeholder base accepts the fact that we’ve got to have inclusive economic growth, so that message has been well accepted and we now need to move on to implement that. What stands us in good stead is that we have built and solidified collaboration and dialogue in South Africa across social matters, economic matters and even political matters. But on the economy, for instance, where we are making real progress is collaboration and dialogue with business, trade unions and including civil society on a whole range of issues – and that is really the pillar that supports our stability.

SIKI MGABADELI: I want to get a sense from you on whether you feel that we are being listened to and I’ll tell you why. In the past 12 months the world has changed, we have a new President-elect in the United States, who is being inaugurated this week, we had Brexit, this week the UK prime minister outlining what that is actually going to mean. And a lot of the delegates here are saying to me that the developed world is starting to look very much internally, they are trying to figure out where they are. Where does that leave us as South Africa, as Africa, as the developing world?

CYRIL RAMAPHOSA: Well, yes, the developed economies are beginning to respond to local issues and in a way are falling into the old trap of moving towards protectionism, being insular and looking more at their own national interests.

And yet, the world has changed. President Xi Jinping, who gave an outstanding speech, gave a talk that told everyone that globalisation means that we are all inter-connected and it doesn’t pay anyone any good to try to be insular and to try to move away from being interconnected.

So in our case, the talk that’s beginning to emerge is that we are now being seen as growth markets, rather than, as they used to say, emerging markets. We are now growth markets. There is a recognition there, it may even be a grudging recognition but it’s a recognition, that countries that have been classified as emerging markets are now seen as growth markets.

Now you can only be seen as a growth market if you are part of the globalised world and we would be saying that, as President Xi Jinping said, all of us need to embrace globalisation with all the challenges and difficulties it gives rise to. It’s a big, wide ocean and all of us have got to learn to swim in that ocean, which is what we said.

SIKI MGABADELI: Now, talking about growth markets, we’ve had some predictions for growth. I don’t think anyone – whether it’s our local institutions like the Reserve Bank or Treasury or if it’s the World Bank or the IMF – expects anything beyond maybe 1.5% growth. That is pedestrian growth for a country that’s looking to absorb a lot of unemployed people. What are we going to do about that?

CYRIL RAMAPHOSA: Yes, 1.5% or 1.3%, as projected by Treasury, is not the type of growth that we can be proud of. But we need to remember that most of the world is going through very low growth. Even China, which has been growing at 10% and more, is now only going to grow at about 6%, which means that there’s contraction, there is slow growth. The positive thing, though, is that we are not having negative growth. We are having positive growth and, with that, if we stabilise a whole number of things like our debt, our expenditure, so that it does not exceed the ceiling that we have set, and we make sure that we conserve our resources and still continue with focusing on infrastructure – the quality and quantity of infrastructure we should continue focusing on – that could generate growth.

The commodity prices may be on the uptick and, if they are, then our exports will start returning good income for the country.

So there are quite a number of other things that we will be seeking to focus on and part of that will be announced by the President when he gives his State of the Nation address. So we will continue taking interventions to stabilise the economy, to make sure that we consolidate the growth that we’ve got and even move towards more growth.

I believe there is quite a lot of potential that we can still unlock. And the good thing is that our collaboration with business and with labour is going to be of great assistance to the country because you’ve got all these clever heads crunching numbers, crunching efforts that we need to take.

SIKI MGABADELI: Deputy President, we are a country that comes up with plans. We’re very good at that, we are very good at formulating policy, we have one of the best constitutions in the world, if not the best, for example, but the one area which we get criticism for is implementation. So the question I’d like to ask you is what are we practically going to do and how are we going to measure the success of this partnership between government, labour and business – and will those things actually be implemented?

CYRIL RAMAPHOSA: Yes, I think implementation has been one of our greatest challenges, but I’d like to believe that there are very good signposts out there that are going to assist us when it comes to implementation. The collaboration we have with business and labour is such that we are dealing with stakeholders who are very, very finicky about implementation. So they are going to be adding quite a lot oomph to our implementation ability.

For instance, we’ve agreed with business that we are now going to set up an initiative to employ up to one million young people. Now, 300 000 of those will need to be employed between July and next year. It’s going to be run by a facility that we are going to be cooperating on with business, and that is going to be implemented 150%.

The issue of unlocking more investment areas is something that we are working on with business. We already have a number of targeted projects and business, working with us, is going to make sure that we do implement it. Those types of signposts are what we should look out for and I think it will get our implementation process to move a lot quicker, a lot faster. We want to make sure that non-implementation is a thing of the past. I think we have been through our baby steps, we now need to start running very fast because our people want to see implementation. There is an urgent need for us to do so because if we don’t then we have a population that is going to remain very unhappy indeed.

SIKI MGABADELI: Talking about our people and talking about disaffected citizens, we’re seeing that in the developed world they are now starting to look at how they bring their people along in decision-making. How is South Africa going to do that, how do we have responsive leadership?

CYRIL RAMAPHOSA: Well, the theme of the World Economic Forum has been very instructive in that it has said we need responsive and responsible leadership, and those are really great themes. We’ve been seeking to be responsive to the needs of our people and we’ve done a lot to build structures and institutions where we collaborate with a whole range of other stakeholders.

And we’ve also built in a capability of listening to communities through our imbizos, as we go around, the President and ministers and so forth, but we now need to increase that capability. Through Nedlac we are able to say that we are connected to communities through the community stakeholder base of Nedlac. We are connected to labour through the various federations that are part of Nedlac, and through government we are connected throughout the country.

So that enhances the listening process to our people – we need to enhance that. But what’s more important, of course, is responsibility. But I add accountability because it’s all very well to say you’ll be responsive but you’ve got to be accountable as well. So responsiveness, responsibility and accountability are one and the same thing. Having learnt quite a few things here we want to enhance that and deepen that and broaden that in South Africa.

SIKI MGABADELI: We started the conversation talking about uncertainty. The world is changing, we have new leadership sweeping across the developed world, the United States, UK, European Union as well. Your party, the ANC, has got its elective conference this year. I want to get a sense from you on how we are communicating that change, so to speak, because a lot of the reason why there is concern right now in Davos is that there are a lot of unexpected changes. Can you with a clear heart say that we are stable democracy?

CYRIL RAMAPHOSA: South Africa has been a stable democracy for 22 years after we moved away from the horror of apartheid. We’ve engendered stability, we’ve deepened it, we’ve got an outstanding Constitution that sets out the principles, the values and the institutions that bolster our stability. So change of leadership in political parties, in the governing party, should not bring about anything that will make the wheels come off. A change of leadership in the state, in the government itself should not.

Politics is politics and it happens in any country. We saw it happening in America, we saw it happening in the UK. So all these things will happen all the time. The important thing is that the basic foundations of our country – which are the Constitution and the institutions that support our democracy – remain in place and they are going to make sure that they absorb the shocks and they keep the country on an even keel.

And so this country is not going to slide left or right, it’s going to keep on the straight and narrow until it delivers the progress that our people want to see.

SIKI MGABADELI: Do you think we have communicated that clearly enough?

CYRIL RAMAPHOSA: We have communicated that very clearly. I was very pleased to meet a number of leaders from other countries, the President of Rwanda, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, the Prime Minister of Holland – and they all said we are very positive about South Africa, we are wishing you well, we know that you are stable, we know that you will go through this period with ease and you have always done so. So that gives me confidence that other people have confidence in us and we have to live up to that and we cannot disappoint, firstly, our people and we cannot disappoint the international community that has invested so much in getting us to where we are and the level of confidence that they have. So South Africa is a very stable country and we will make sure that that stability continues forever and a day.

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