Ramaphosa should focus on a more inclusive approach to governing

2019-12-04 13:31
President Cyril Ramaphosa must work on strengthening the relationship between South Africans and the government, says the writer.

President Cyril Ramaphosa must work on strengthening the relationship between South Africans and the government, says the writer. (City Press)

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Even though last weekend's downgrades to negative by Standard & Poor's Global can be seen as an economic growth setback, the fact that Moody has not downgraded SA yet is testimony to positives changes ahead.

Citing a weak pace of economic growth, the government debt burden and Eskom's liabilities, S&P Global on Friday downgraded its outlook for SA's credit rating to negative.

Fitch had also given SA the "negative".

However, a couple of weeks earlier, the Global Competitiveness Report 2019, moved SA up seven places to 60th on the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index 4.0.

The WEF report released recently comes at about the time President Cyril Ramaphosa emerges a bit stronger since the May polls.

Having replaced Jacob Zuma as president of the republic in February 2018, Ramaphosa set the country on a mission to recover from the economic decline of the Zuma years.

SA faced an investment strike and massive job losses during Zuma's time in office.

Industrial action intensified; state-owned enterprises (SOEs) broke down and the country is still feeling the effects of that period.

Ratings agencies downgrades did not help our situation but made them worse as SA became the country to avoid for investors.

This meant that jobs could not be created at the rate the nation needed.

SA's national fabric has also been stained by other negative sentiments including political factionalism, succession politics and disunity.

The country is still reeling, albeit with slight improvements starting to appear here and there.

And of course, it is still early days to start declaring that Ramaphosa is the solution SA has been crying out for.

But, fair enough, when it comes to the economy, Ramaphosa has already shown that his tenure will be an economic and jobs-orientated one.

What will be interesting to see though in the next couple of months before he completes two years as president, is whether he will be able to effectively explain economic policy to all South Africans; and also to the rest of the world.

His predecessors were not able to communicate policy of any sort to the rest of society effectively and walk with all the nation's stakeholders on the "great march" toward economic development for all.

This was one of the reasons that Thabo Mbeki and Zuma could not complete their second terms. The consequence of all this lack of leadership in the direction the country was taking has led to constant protest action.

Ramaphosa would want to effectively attend to this challenge as he does not wish to widen the gap between government and the rest of society, especially the masses.

A democratic state must actually completely close the gap between government and the people.

His newsletter "From the Desk of the President" is a welcome move insofar as informing and educating the public about the government's doings.

The president needs to constantly make greater efforts to be understood by the rest of the nation on policy issues and how the country's stakeholders will communicate and explain policy positions among each other and with the rest of the world.

Although Ramaphosa’s $100 billion infrastructure drive has yet to be fulfilled, the R300 billion worth of investments that have made their way into South Africa since Ramaphosa took over last February, are no small play.

Analysts and commentators  have a point in calling for the president to provide more clarity on a consistent basis on what all this money will do.

A good sign of Ramaphosa being prepared to listen has come in the form of an appointment of an 18-member Presidential Economic Advisory Council.

And an investment council should provide new energy to a promising presidency.

These indeed reveal a president who is not arrogant and who does not carry a "know-it-all" attitude.

However, a great effort for Ramaphosa to be understood and possibly be supported by all South Africans including his foes in the ANC and the tripartite alliance, rests with him.

As long as there's no unity within the governing party and its alliance partners, SA is unlikely to realise its economic ambitions.

The dream of creating millions of jobs will fly out of the window.

More unemployment would be the order of the day. More societal ills are likely to emerge.

The so-called "new dawn" would be over.

To win over a nation is no walk in the park.

This process requires the leader of the nation to want to be heard, understood and supported.

If not, he must remember what happens when there's a great gap between the government and the people. 

Thandisizwe Mgudlwa

Cape Town

Read more on:    cyril ramaphosa  |  economy

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