It has only been about five months since Cyril Ramaphosa was sworn in as the President of the Republic of South Africa. He is also the head of the ruling party, but in this article we will focus on his performance as the republic’s head of state.
Five months may not be enough to assess a president’s effectiveness, but in the light of sentiments by some that Ramaphosa has not risen to the occasion, it is important that we try to objectively look at his performance thus far.
Ramaphosa inherited a faltering state. Indeed. Ours was on its way to becoming a failed state, thanks to outrageous efforts in the past to outsource executive decisions and mortgage some of our state-owned companies to private individuals. The targeting for state capture of some of our strategic state-owned companies was a threat to our economic well-being. The rot that had set in had to be quickly arrested.
Ramaphosa wasted no time in starting a clean-up of our state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Boards and executives that had compromised themselves, and in the process jeopardized our national welfare, were shown the door and replaced with capable men and women who have skills, integrity and experience.
Eskom, among others, was prioritised in the recalibration of SOEs because of its critical role in our country. The utility is a strategic contributor to the government's performance in providing citizens with a secure supply of electricity. If it is dysfunctional, its impact will felt by millions of citizen. Also, the company plays a central role in the country’s economic and business activities. The replacement of its board and some of its top executive demonstrated Ramaphosa's resolve to reverse the decay.
But this was not confined to Eskom. Where we had seen incompetence and downright destructive behaviour by boards and top executives of state-owned enterprises, Ramaphosa took decisive action and replaced them. This includes entities such as SAA, Denel and Transnet. On the rebuilding of these entities, Ramaphosa is on course and all well-meaning South Africans should support him.
It was also heartening to hear him announce a state-owned enterprise presidential council that will have co-ordinate the work of SOEs, especially those with a bigger impact on the economy of the country.
The second thing Ramaphosa made clear will define his tenure, is raising both local and foreign investment. He understands that investment is what will lay the golden egg that will address issues of poverty, inequality and unemployment. We know that he has already formed an envoy that will focus on this mission, and has given it the task of attracting $100 billion (R 1.3 trillion) in investment over the next five years. It is an ambitious plan, but one that he is leading from the front.
Having recently undertaken a three-nation tour, Ramaphosa has managed to secure a $10 bn investment pledge from Saudi Arabia, and a similar amount from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Effectively, he came back home with investment pledges amounting to an estimated R266 bn that will materialise over a period of five years. This should silence naysayers who thought or said his plan to raise $100 bn was over-ambitious. Under him, our investment efforts as a country are beginning to bear fruit.
Talking about his three-nation tour, which included Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, it is good to see that Ramaphosa is also prioritising relations with the continent’s superpowers. His visit to Nigeria and the economic messages he articulated while he was there, clearly indicate his keenness to see Africa trading with itself and becoming a global economic player of note.
Last, following the latest fuel increases that sparked a public outcry about the increasing cost of living, Ramaphosa has promised to announce economic measures soon that will help people deal these increases. This empathy shows his finger is on the pulse of the nation. In the past, the thinking was that South Africa was a price taker on fuel prices, and whenever prices increased there was nothing much the government could do. It may well be so about oil and fuel prices, but it is refreshing that now the government is ready to look at measures that can cushion citizens.
It will take more than one person or political party to overcome the challenges facing our country, like poverty, inequality, unemployment and the rising costs of living, but we all have a responsibility to make this rainbow nation work for the sake the next generation. As our late former president Nelson Mandela said: “It is in our hands to create a better world for all who live in it.”
I would plead with the clergy and civil society in general to support President Ramaphosa and his government in their efforts to rebuild our country.
Happy Mandela Day, let's all go out and make difference to someone else's
life who is less privileged.
PASTOR RAY McCAULEY IS PRESIDENT OF RHEMA FAMILY CHURCHES AND CO-CHAIRPERSON OF NATIONAL RELIGIOUS LEADERS COUNCIL