There is reason for hope

President Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa

Hope has become the scarcest commodity in South Africa. Most citizens are depressed about their future prospects as a barrage of bad news about the economy and politics overwhelm them daily.

Perhaps we should do as the old hymn asks us to: "When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed, when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, count your many blessings, name them one by one."

The secret is to see beyond the smoke and mirrors, to close your ears to the incessant noise for a while and soberly assess what lies at the root of our problems; to notice the many green shoots appearing.

We also need to see the professional prophets of doom for what they really are. Some of these predictors of Armageddon are simply pessimists by nature, but many struggle to hide their schadenfreude that a black government, and an ANC government, could mess up so badly.

South Africa indeed got a second chance when the ANC got rid of Jacob Zuma nine months ago and replaced him with Cyril Ramaphosa. Many of us were just a little naïve to believe that the massive damage the Zuma regime had inflicted on our politics, our nation and our economy could be undone in a short time.

Ramaphosa surely has his shortcomings, but we should laugh at those who now call him Zuma Lite. This accusation usually comes from opposition parties that are embarrassed that they focused solely on Zuma for years and had no strategy when he left the Union Buildings.

Our economy is in dire straits, no doubt about that. Zuma and Co's maladministration, state capture and corruption cost the state more than a hundred billion rand, left our state-owned enterprises very deep in debt and foreign debt sky-high. It knee-capped our revenue service and scared investors away.

But the bright side of that is that this rot is in the process of being stopped and reversed, meaning in future we will make much better use of state resources.

The weak rand has more to do with the problems in Turkey and Argentina and with Donald Trump's tariff wars with China than with our weaknesses and the high fuel price is also beyond our control.

We are technically in recession right now, but probably not for long. Even Moody's Investor Services declared last week that it expected South Africa's economic growth to pick up slowly and so likely avoid a credit rating downgrade. "We expect a broad-based recovery, and the worst is probably behind us," it said.

Last week's crime statistics are a source of deep concern. But for the first time in years we now have respected police professionals heading the SAPS, Hawks and crime intelligence, so there is reason to be hopeful.

There is also hope that the national prosecuting authority (NPA) will be more functional soon and that the rule of law and accountability would be fully restored.

The testimony before the Zondo and Nugent commissions is contributing to the tide turning against corruption in the public and private sectors. Once the NPA and the Hawks are up and going, we can actually expect to witness politicians, senior civil servants and business people being led through the jail doors wearing orange uniforms.

The campaign to change the property clause in the Constitution even before the feasibility and consequences were calculated has done serious damage and raised many fears.

But we do have enough reason now to accept that no property would be expropriated arbitrarily and that the damage to the economy, agriculture and food security will be minimal.

If we get an accelerated and ambitious land reform programme resulting from this campaign, it would have been worth the drama.

Ramaphosa is being hamstrung by his opponents in the ANC, but the ousting of North West's Supra Mahumapelo and the unity list of leadership in KZN showed that he's slowly winning the battle.

As I write this, I have reason to believe that Ace Magashule, secretary general of the ANC and chief planner of Ramaphosa's demise, is increasingly being isolated and could be neutralised before long.

The days until next year's general election will be dark and stormy. Many more people will lose their jobs before then. Prices are going to go up and up. 

But I have little doubt that we will emerge from this more or less in one piece, and probably a bit stronger.

South Africa is nothing like Venezuela or Zimbabwe.

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.

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