President Cyril Ramaphosa may as well be honest with us: there are indeed ways of pulling South Africa out of the quicksand, but the internal dynamics of the ANC make that impossible.
What we see playing out in front of our eyes is yet another example of democracy's biggest flaw: short-termism – the tendency to be more concerned with the results of the next election than with the best interests of the country in the medium and long term.
Ramaphosa surely understands what he should actually do to turn the declining trend around, but if he does take these steps, so he apparently believes, the ANC could split and then chances are that it would fail to gain the majority vote in next year's election. This leaves him paralysed and unable to realise his vision.
The death of Edna Molewa and the likely departure of Nhlanhla Nene will necessitate a Cabinet reshuffle. This would have presented Ramaphosa with the ideal opportunity to drastically cut the size of his cabinet and fire the bad apples like Bathabile Dlamini, Nomvula Mokonyane, Malusi Gigaba and Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
But will he do that? Not if he continues to want to appease his opponents in his own party. It will have to wait until after the elections, his inner circle argues.
The debate on land expropriation that was forced upon Ramaphosa by the Zuma faction and the EFF has done serious damage to agriculture and to confidence in the economy.
Ramaphosa can easily end this debilitating uncertainty by making the ANC's proposed wording of an amendment to Section 25 of the Constitution and the substance of the proposed new Expropriation Bill public.
Only he won't, because he doesn't want to show his cards before the election so as to keep his opponents in the ANC at bay and prevent strengthening the EFF's hand.
Ramaphosa has repeatedly said we need expropriation without compensation to stimulate agricultural output and create jobs. But then I read this week that there are about a million hectares of fertile land in communal areas not being used productively. Wouldn't that be a good start?
Eskom's gigantic debt load of nearly R500bn hangs like a dark shadow over the South African economy. Breaking up the energy giant into different units and even privatising some parts make a lot of sense, but because of irrational ideological reasons this would be unacceptable to elements in the governing tripartite alliance. The same goes for the disastrous SAA, clearly no more than a vanity project.
A small, remote country like New Zealand makes about R150bn from tourism annually. The figure for South Africa is about R9bn.
Tourists create jobs and earn us foreign currency. South Africa has more to offer than countries like New Zealand, is cheaper because of our weak currency and on top of that we have an excellent infrastructure.
The government should decree tomorrow that anyone from any corner in the world is welcome to land at OR Tambo International Airport and will be able to pick up a visa at the airport. At the same time we should launch a massive marketing campaign, especially targeting China.
Cape Town is the worst place to be a worker who resides in a township. Despite railway lines along many routes, passenger transport is a colossal mess, and that has a significant influence on the city's economy.
Prasa has been a corrupt mess and will take a long time to recover, if it ever will. The running of rail passenger transport should immediately be handed over to the efficient Cape Town municipality.
The Zuma years hollowed out and paralysed the National Prosecuting Authority, the Hawks, the revenue service and the special investigations unit. Ramaphosa should approach the bigger law and auditing firms tomorrow and ask them to second experienced lawyers, accountants and tax experts to strengthen the institutions quickly. The business community should also be asked to get involved in the rehabilition of the failing local governments.
These are just some examples of relatively quick, fairly simple steps that could make a big difference to citizens and restore some confidence in the economy. The grand plans and the many summits can come later.
The dilemma remains, however, that if the ANC does get less than half of the votes in next year's election, now just seven months away, it will probably have to govern in coalition with the EFF. Then it would be a matter of months before we have to go, cap in hand, to beg for an IMF bailout.
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