South Africa’s game of musical chairs is on again. The forced resignation of former President Jacob Zuma, February 14, was hailed by the international community as “a victory for the rule of law, democracy, freedom of expression and good governance”. Mr. Zuma was asked by his ruling African National Congress (ANC) to step down or face a vote of no confidence in parliament by the party caucus.
Zuma’s 9-year-old presidency fell due to a series of allegations of corruption linking him with the powerful wealthy Gupta family with whom, it is said,the formerpresident has close ties. He had been replaced by his former deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, just the same way Zuma ousted his erstwhile boss, Mr. Thabo Mbeki. Ramaphosa was Mandela’s favoured successor when the old man exited the stage after serving a term, but was brushed aside by the ANC political machine in favour of Mbeki.
Much as we agree the new man in the political saddle has vast experience in party politics and administration, having served under three presidents, the legendary Nelson Mandela, Mbeki and Zuma, yet there is this Sword of Damocles hanging over his head owing to the enormous challenges facing the nation. Ramaphosa will have to tackle major issues, ranging from rebuilding investor confidence in a slowing down economy to reconciling a fratured ANC.
Zuma claimed to stand for the vast black poor of South Africa, but under his watch the incomr gap between white and blacks widened, and the crime rate among the latter shot up. Ramaphosa should not only tackle the income inequity but also social tension that is gradually coming back. Indeed, the new president will have to bring back people’s confidence in the ruling party and governmentnation, ensure the independence and integrity of the criminal prosecution system. This will convince South Africans and the world that he is interested in ensuring those found guilty of corruption are brought to book. Ramaphosa will have to remove several key officials in order to tackle this saga.
The looting spree that seemed to be systematic in the Zuma era, targeted at state-owned econmic entities, must be stopped by the new administration. Reports say that corruption in political high places has put state utilities at the risk of running out of cash. To tackle this, Ramaphosa should, as a matter of urgency, replace party partisans in government with men and women of proven integrity and expertise to man these entities. For instance, we think the steps he has taken to reposition Eskom by appointing a new board for it are courageous. Eskom is South Africa’s largest electricity company holding.
What seems to be the most urgent issue is new leadership that will correct the mistakes of the past for better. In the area of real economic growth, Ramaphosa will undoubtedly be required to raise a new team that will actively tackle corruption, build growth and reduce the budget deficit. Nothing is more important for South Africa than growth and translating that growth into jobs for its restive youth. To achieve this, there is need for inflow of foreign and domestic investment, which is only possible with policy certainty.
Finally, we urge Ramaphosa to begin the much needed reconciliation that will heal the wounds of the past. The country of late has become a cesspool of “Afrophobia” where people of African descent from nations other than South Africa become targets of abuse and murder at the slightest provocation. This needs to be stopped by the new president for the good of the country’s international image