No amount of champagne, cakes or booze-fuelled parties can mask the reality of the what the ANC has become.
Mostly sunny. Mild.
President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: AFP)
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Unemployment and inequality feed populism and ethnic nationalism, but instant solutions and socialist dreams can only make it worse in the longer term, writes Max du Preez.
Right now, President Cyril
Ramaphosa is South Africa's best hope to stop the epidemic of cheap populism in
our political culture. But that can only happen if
his party achieves a convincing victory in next year's election.
Ramaphosa may have many
shortcomings, but we have enough reason to accept that he is committed to lift
our national ethos from the gutter, to restore political accountability and the
rule of law and to improve the quality of life of citizens across the spectrum.
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It will be a tough task. The
Zuma years corrupted our body politic and bent the trajectory of political and
economic development sharply downwards.
But most of all, Zuma brought
us an era of cheap populism, identity politics, narrow nationalism and post-truth
that will complicate Ramaphosa's normalisation project.
Just as Zuma's star was
beginning to wane, his political offspring, Julius Malema, became more
prominent and, with the help of the media, put populism on the national menu as
the main meal.
The EFF rages at the ANC, but
in reality it is still acting as the de facto Youth League, awaiting the moment
of return to the mother body. Its influence on the ANC's political culture is
The EFF's social media army
spits fire when anyone points it out, but in terms of political style Malema
and his fellow EFF leaders are becoming more and more like Donald Trump: a
total disregard for truth and facts, appealing to the base instincts of voters,
quick with threats and intimidation, a deep-seated hatred of the media and
The dynamic young French
president, Emmanuel Macron, is one of the European leaders threatened by
populism and nationalist politics. He admitted this in a weekend interview with
CNN's Fareed Zakaria and explained his survival strategy.
Macron realises that his
popularity among the French is very low right now, but he says he has five
years before the next election and will only then be judged on what he has
He says unemployment and weak
economic growth are fertile ground for populism. He is going to make unpopular
decisions to make the economy more competitive and streamlined. His targets are
excessive regulation, counter-productive labour legislation, a reluctance to
modernise and improved education and skills training.
Macron says his challenge is
to continuously communicate and explain his vision of the transformation of
France to his voters.
He believes in a market
economy, but equally strongly in social justice. He is a proponent of
multimateralism and international cooperation, but doesn't want the global
markets to determine France's future.
During a speech at the
Armistice Day celebrations on Sunday, Macron said in a clear reference to Trump
that nationalism was a betrayal of patriotism. Patriotism is based on values.
And yet, he indicated during
his interview, he found common ground with populists when it comes to national
pride, cultural development and sovereignty.
I was hoping Ramaphosa was
also listening to the Macron interview. Strong and brave leadership is
necessary to prepare the ground for economic growth and an efficient state in
South Africa. In the process unpopular decisions are inevitable.
Unemployment and inequality
feed populism and ethnic nationalism, but instant solutions and socialist
dreams can only make it worse in the longer term.
Education and skills training
are critically important. The end vision of a new model for South Africa should
be communicated and explained to citizens properly and continuously.
The serious corruption and
abuse of power of the Zuma years now being exposed so dramatically before the
Zondo and Nugent commissions of inquiry assist Ramaphosa to be able to say with
credibility: that is what Zuma, the so-called champion of black emancipation
who brought you radical economic transformation and white monopoly capital,
really stood for. That is what populism gets you.
Ramaphosa's decree at the
investment conference that the insults to business people in South Africa as
white monopoly capital should end, was a risky but brave and helpful thing to
say. It is impossible to inject new energy into the economy without the private
It appears as if Ramaphosa
has found a good partner in his rather unorthodox Minister of Finance, Tito
Mboweni, to present South Africans with a new, realistic scenario.
Together they will promote
black empowerment and economic transformation, but with the eye on inclusive
economic growth rather than simply redistribution, and on rebuilding the
country on the ruins left by Zuma.
The populists will scream and
threaten, but after next year's election Team Ramaphosa has five years to get
South Africa back to work and to make the country a better place for all on a
But if the ANC dips under 50%
or even scrapes in just over half the votes next year, the populists will have
a field day and the dream of a better life for all will once more be deferred.
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