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Ramaphosa shows that he’s in control. But does he have what it takes to win?

In the current context of the divided ruling party, Ramaphosa has to stick to his guns.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s third state of the nation address was longer on statecraft and strategy than his first of the year in February, even if it disappointed some critics with the lack of implementation detail.

Much of the public commentary on these addresses past and present is ill-informed and, more importantly, ill-conceived. The State of the Nation Address should not be a dreary laundry list of everything the government intends to do.

Read: Solving only half the problems

Those looking for an “action plan” will inevitably be disappointed. It is not supposed to be such a thing. Instead, a good state of the nation address, such as Ramaphosa’s latest, will focus on the vision and the strategy. It needs to tell the watching and listening public that the President is in command and that he knows what needs to be done and why.

This is especially so in the current context of a divided governing party, the African National Congress (ANC). There remains an embedded but increasingly desperate fight-back campaign from former president Jacob Zuma’s network and other fellow ultra nationalist travellers. Their current crude approach is to derail Ramaphosa’s reform agenda and sabotage his strategy for attracting new investment in the economy, both domestic and international.

Hence, Ramaphosa had to offer convincing evidence that he is in control and not just in office.

He succeeded in this. And there was a clear narrative.

The economy

The economy is in real trouble and so is the fiscus. South Africa needs to act now or it’s in dire trouble. So the country needs to focus on the things that matter most. This includes the most productive parts of the economy with the greatest job-creating potential, and an efficient state.

Then South Africans need to stick to their guns and get it done.

It may not be to everyone’s taste, and predictably there were no bright new policy ideas and no sense that Ramaphosa is willing to look at the new ideas on economic policy. The question is whether what he’s set out is innovative enough to address the deep structural constraints that hamper South Africa’s economy. And to ignite sustainable, job-creating growth.

Ramaphosa offered five simple yet bold goals for the next ten years that cut across the social and economic structural constraints that inhibit South Africa’s potential, and deny so many citizens a decent, dignified existence: No person will go hungry; the economy will grow at a much faster rate than the population; two million more young people will be in employment; schools will have better educational outcomes and every 10-year-old will be able to read for meaning; violent crime will be halved.

On issues that have served to distract recently, such as the so-called call for ‘nationalisation’ of the South African Reserve Bank, Ramaphosa could not have been more clear that he is the adult in the room. He confirmed unequivocally the Bank’s constitutional mandate, while deftly nodding to the fact that the Minister of Finance must consult with the Bank, and vice versa, to ensure that monetary policy is supportive of economic growth as well as price stability – around which topic there is an authentic debate to be had.

The energy question

Ramaphosa also spoke, using unprecedentedly and appropriately clear language, about the climate emergency that faces humanity, warning that

the extreme weather conditions associated with the warming of the atmosphere threaten our economy, they threaten the lives and the livelihoods of our people, and – unless we act now – will threaten our very existence.

However, he did not take the next logical step, which is to conclude that South Africa’s duty is to urgently reduce its own emissions and, concomitantly, its own dependence on fossil fuels, especially coal.

This suggests that this is not a battle he is yet ready to have, even though he clearly gets the need to ramp up South Africa’s commitment to renewable energy – as well as the opportunity that this sector presents.

He was less clear on the subject of the country’s elephant in the room: the state power utility Eskom. While accepting the risk that the public utility’s precarious financial position presents to the economy and his government’s own commitment to saving the embattled power utility, Ramaphosa failed to provide a clear enough picture about how and when the unbundling process will begin – something the market was desperate to hear.

Nor did he confirm the name of the person who will fill the potentially critical role of chief restructuring officer. Clearly, the unbundling cannot really get going until that position is filled, but why the delay?

This is a prime example of the political fact that what matters next is sticking to the strategy and getting the job done. That will require even more statecraft and leadership. It is about political management – of government and more so of Ramaphosa’s ‘Monday job’, namely coping with an unruly and ill-disciplined governing party. (He spends much of Monday at Luthuli House, the ANC’s headquarters in Johannesburg, as its president).

More tests to come

Ramaphosa will face many more tests of his leadership and power in the days and weeks to come. Since he has never been more powerful and may never be so powerful again, having arrested the ANC’s electoral decline at the recent national and provincial election, he will need to confront his opponents and ruthlessly crush them.

This may not be Ramaphosa’s style. He prefers to win by putting in place careful processes and then striking when he can and when he thinks he has built enough of a consensus to act.

On both fronts – the ANC and government – Ramaphosa may now face choices on which no sufficient consensus can be built. And so he may need to adjust his leadership to accommodate the urgency of the moment, to take greater risks in executing his reform agenda.

He will need to show that he has what it takes to win.The Conversation

Richard Calland, associate professor in Public Law, University of Cape Town.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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So according to you CR has shown in his SONA that he is in power. So did Zuma in his SONAs.

Yes. And now the team that built you 2 power stations for 700bn that still don’t work properly and probably never will, are going to give you a new smart city with bullet trains to Cairo.

This could suck in a fair chunk of all the cash on the planet.

And if the last scrape with trains is anything to go by, expect the trains to have a gauge that doesn’t fit the tracks.

The only comfort the embattled taxpayers in this country can take from this speech is that hopefully it laregly remains a dream from which we will all thankfully awake.

There is a misunderstanding here. These are 3rd world / African cities and bullet trains. As Trevor Noah notes – the money will go but you will never see the product. First “consultants” must be appointed (Cyril’s laaitie etc), then financiers (Gordhan’s mates; Naidoo, Reddy et al) but nothing will come from them. It is how we roll.

Ramaphosa may be the captain all right, but he has as much control over the country as the pilot in the doomed Ethiopia Airlines Boeing 737 Max had over his plane.
The ANC implemented a critical design flaw at the heart of the economy. The idea was for the ANC to gain altitude with socialist policies like BEE, cadre deployment, redistributive tax policies, the Mining Charter, the nationalization without compensation of mineral rights etc. All these components are now malfunctioning at the same time.

As Ramaphosa struggles frantically to “trim” the Zuma faction, this multitude of malfunctioning components of the ANC is forcing the economy in a nose down position. All the functions and components that were designed to keep the ANC from stalling, are now joining forces to crash the economy.

Ramaphosa shouted Mayday-Mayday-Mayday, by sending special envoys to look for financial assistance from abroad. The only advice was – “Trim the Zuma faction”. So, now he is trying to trim the Zuma faction that is pushing the nose down but to no avail……….

Cyril the Compromised. Talk about taking a banana to a gunfight.

Heard it all before and it is just talk.


“In 10 years violent crime will be halved.”

The starting point is Minister Cele’s proposed amendments to the Private Security Industry Regulations (2002) regarding firearms and uniforms used by the security industry are highly ambiguous and incompetently written. And they will effectively neuter and disarm the entire private security industry.

Many of us that depend on private security companies for protection to sleep at night will no longer be properly protected. Just another nail in the coffin of the SA citizen.

It is obvious that the police can NOT make a difference and by essentially putting the private security officers at a disadvantage to the criminals is plainly “disingenuous”. Trying not to use a strong word.

It show’s that our man is not in touch with reality or is misinformed or is just plainly lying to a uninformed public.

This is one of the 5 “simple” goals and obviously like all the others not achievable.

Go read his previous 2 SONA’s. Sophisticated lying comes to mind.

A good example.

Cele is another one of those “just add water” generals that the ANC idolizes.

He is going to halve the crime rate by wearing a fancy hat and by commanding the Western Cape police to close the province’s 25000 illegal shebeens over a weekend.

Ebrahim Patel will ignite the economy by forcing state (and other) pension funds to pay the salaries of the very same contributing state employees.

Fikile Mbalula will stop road carnage by speeding to every accident scene in a blue light convoy.

Education outcomes will be improved by lowering the passing rate even more.

The extra spectrum will effectively be a new Mining Charter with so many regulatory requirements that it will be unprofitable to participate.

How can you accuse Cyril IgnoranceCadre of not being in touch with reality? He does keep in touch (now and again) with appropriate “shock”; it’s just that most of the time he Did Not Know.

Mmmmm, you raise a very important point. The draft legislation is in fact a very real vote of ‘No Confidence’ from within the governing party. It says the following:

“We, the ANC, do NOT think we have the ability to regain control of the rampant crime or the economy. We do however think the continued and accelerating decline are going to get much much worse which will lead to more uprisings and possibly even a revolution. This threatens our hegemony of South Africa and our police and military combined will not be able to quell the inevitable uprising. They are not sufficiently matched against the existing private security forces within South Africa. To ensure our position at the top of the food chain, we will outlaw any potential for resistance to our nefarious rule.”

Now that is a solid and true vote of NO confidence from the ANC……SONA 2019 is mere words. Nothing more.

Ramaphosa doesn’t have a handle on anything.

Thank you Richard. I regard the overall strategy you allude to as nothing else than acknowledging the truth. No paint brushing, denying the issues! However, to present a floating point/s is reason to deny participants in this economy assessing their own opinion of the reality and how they want to experience the way forward. Latter is clearly distrusted by non participants to our economy (business included, deduced from recent comments passed by one of the Banks on this platform and information from the Dept of Statistics) and democracy (so many legible voters not doing so).

This reminds me of the rousing speeches of the F team rugby captain prior to his team getting annihilated by the A team.

Face it CR, you could have selected the A team, but you’re fielding the F team playing in the big league and about to get crushed.. no matter what you say.

As the F team hospital passes this economy, make sure you’re betting big against it to make back all your wasted tax payers money.

He won. What’s the problem?
Maybe the problem is the list system that we have where the party can hinder the president

Only when Ace is locked up will you know that the Squirrel is in charge.

And the deputy president too.

…and all the MPs who voted down Madonsela and voted to protect JZ783 and to cover-up Corruptheid.

Only if hee talks about abolishing BEE will he bee taken seriously by mee

So many chips on so many shoulders on this website.

If you need to ‘pack for Perth’, your nearest travel agent will gladly assist.

Sure, some of the criticism is harsh but many people who are expected to pay for bullet trains and ANCville are more than justified in being sceptical.

Ramaphosa wants the state to be the centre of control for everything, from the economy to health, education, security, electricity, job creation, etc., but it is clear from his speech that the state, as in the past, will not accept responsibility for any of these things.

The same state that have royally messed up must deliver the new dawn, the clearly corrupt will somehow deliver clean governance.

The president has been in power for a year and a half and created huge expectations himself, yet has failed to deliver significant change or improvement. On the contrary, everything seems to be worse.

Instead of snide remarks, why do you not prove the critics wrong?

Unfortunately large percentage ( I guess around 80%) of the people who would like to pack for Perth or anywhere else have no hope to do it, so all they can do is complain. Emigration is a viable option for only a small percentage of the population. Believe me, if Australia would announce that they accept SA people without having to fulfil the immigration requirements several million would apply within a week.

These be well balanced individuals who have a chip on both shoulders…..with good reason.

Basically, his promises are to get the basics right; stuff that every citizen should be able to take for granted in a democracy. All CR2017 has to do is end Corruptheid, which is what is holding the country back.

That shows how far the ANC, especially in the Zuma-Ramaphosa years has “brought the economy to its knees.

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