Howard Feldman

OPINION | SONA: Mr President, please just start, start now

2020-02-12 13:48
President Cyril Ramaphosa at Cape Town's City Hall on Tuesday where he commemorated the release of Nelson Mandela on 11 February 1990. (Jonathan Lestrade, Die Son)

President Cyril Ramaphosa at Cape Town's City Hall on Tuesday where he commemorated the release of Nelson Mandela on 11 February 1990. (Jonathan Lestrade, Die Son)

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What we didn’t count on was the speed of the progress. Or lack thereof. Whether he was stalled by fear, insecurity or a lack of support from his party, Ramaphosa's track record has been dismal, writes Howard Feldman

I don't want to tell President Cyril Ramaphosa what to say in tomorrow's State of the Nation Address.

It is not that I, much like most other South Africans, don't have some wonderful ideas for him. It's not that I don't have a list of priorities, and a handy "Do and Don't!" cheat sheet.

It's just that I would want him to say less and do more.

In fact, all I want is for him just to do something.

Cyril Ramaphosa reminds me of Prince Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play of that name.

Anyone familiar with the story will know that Hamlet was one of the good guys.

He was a pretty decent bloke who ends up dead when the final curtain falls.

Through the entire play, there is no doubting the prince's good intention, intellect and his desire for justice, but his inability to act that would ultimately be the death, of well, everyone.

It is worth remembering that Hamlet is considered a tragedy for a good reason.

Prince Hamlet was the ultimate procrastinator.

South Africans are frustrated.

Not because we expect the country's problems to have been solved and not because we are thought the road ahead would be easy.

We accepted, with resignation the magnitude of the damage that ANC's corruption has unleashed on the nation. South Africans are frustrated because we expected action from Ramaphosa.

We believed that Ramaphosa was the man to roll up his sleeves and to make things happen.

What we didn’t count on was the speed of the progress. Or lack thereof. Whether he was stalled by fear, insecurity or a lack of support from his party, Ramaphosa's track record has been dismal.

And whereas of course there are some wins to be shown, they are not yet anything to get too excited about.

It is worth noting a global leadership trend.

Like or hate them, Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Bernie Sanders stand for something.

We might detest some of their policies but we know who they are.

They are not "people pleasers" and in many circles they are far from popular. But mention their names and there is no wondering what they believe. They have a view and they live it.

President Ramaphosa needs to do the same.

He needs to stop trying to be everything to everyone. He needs to tell us and his party who he is and what he stands for and then he needs to act accordingly.

And he needs to do that with speed. We do not have the luxury of time.

There is a wonderful piece written by Nigerian poet Ijeoma Umebinyuo that might be useful for President Ramaphosa to read.

It is a magnificent poem that I often quote when encouraging those who are afraid to take the first and critical step:

"Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are, with what you have. Just ... start."

Early Thursday morning, before President Ramaphosa has to face the nation; before he has to account for the lack of progress; before the noise of the opposition parties and the spectacle of a recently recovered Zuma overwhelms; before the pressures of righting a country gone wrong obscure the day, he should read and read these the words.

And then he should just start!

- Howard Feldman is a keynote speaker and analyst. He is the author of three books and is the morning talk show host on ChaiFM.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  leadership  |  sona  |  politics
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