The past three weeks I have had to take it slow given a health crisis that in a way was in the making for the past 24 years of my life. Interestingly, while the crisis unfolded so quickly, its brewing was slow, silent, unassuming and in many ways it steered arrogance that I thought I was invincible! However, life can humble you and bring you back to the reality of your mortality. In the past three weeks I had to rely on spiritual and mental source of strength in order to pull my body together to health again through an extreme diet not meant to satisfy the taste buds but my body’s health. It was and still is a process so difficult yet so essential and it has me thinking about our own country’s process of recovery after 10 years of former president Jacob Zuma’s years in power. Now we find ourselves left with two choices, recover or fall deeper into a political and socio economic turmoil and find ourselves in a coma to which we may not awaken from.
Perhaps you may be thinking “but Musa are you not being dramatic?” Well I would say all you need to do is look around you, open a newspaper and open your television and look at the constant reporting of service delivery protests, land grabs, political killings and parliamentary enquiries about corruption in state owned enterprises. All of these things and more reflect a poor state of affairs under which the ANC, as the leader of the political revolution that led to our democratic dispensation has moved from being the hope of liberation glory to being the symbol of black on black corruption, looting and policy anti-climax.
However, the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa has offered a sense of hope that we can once again reclaim the former glory which we had under the Mandela and Mbeki presidencies. In fact many commentators have alluded to the fact that the Ramaphosa presidency carries the charm offensive of Mandela and intellectual prudence of Mbeki. Yet it is a presidency that exists in a unique context, it is a transitional presidency that must deal with the legacy and immediate impact of the Zuma years, while carving out a purpose post the 2019 election; an election I believe the ANC will rise victorious in given the fall of Zuma, challenges in the DA and a fragmented relationship between opposition parties.
Ramaphosa has been given the role of being the chief doctor who must heal the South African economy and state. It is no easy task for one man and he has had to assemble a team that will help him in this most important juncture of our country’s unfolding story. However, again his ability to build a dream team has been hit by a snag in which his slim victory over Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in last year’s ANC elective conference has meant that his cabinet has had to keep some key Dlamini- Zuma/Zuma allies who were part of the Zuma web of corruption and maladministration such as the current Minister in the Presidency for women, Bathabile Dlamini, who oversaw the SASSA crisis. However, she has a political base he cannot ignore and thus her survival is a clear example of post-NASREC political arrangement that saw two factions forced to co-exist in uneasy political marriage for the electoral survival of the ANC. What does this tell us about the team that has been charged with the leadership of team South Africa? It tells us that some of the medication needed to be administered through a drip for direct and effective impact will rather be frustrated by a delicate political balance of power within the ANC. So the “radical” reforms we need to implement in the economy will take time to get to and thus impacting Ramaphosa’s ability to affect the kind of change we need.
Like my own health, doctors and nurses had to have plan for my recovery. Likewise, we too as a nation need to have a plan of action. Our goal is already known, we must deal with the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. In many ways the National Development Plan which found expression under the Zuma years and which Ramaphosa was alongside the than Planning minister in the presidency, Trevor Manual, a key leader in its formulation presents this goal in our vision of how we see South Africa in 2030 . Yet let us be clear the NDP is a goal/vision board but it is not a plan of action in the true sense of the term. We are yet to truly formulate a strategic plan of action that will outline the “how” to get to the “what” we envision South Africa to be like in 2030.
This is where my frustration with the discourse in South Africa lies. We have not gotten down to the policy meat that is essential to move us where we need to be. Read most parties’ manifestos and you will find pillar structured print that tells you what they promise to deal with but not how and this is a bankruptcy in the kind of debates we have. The Ramaphosa government will have to outline a plan that firmly outlines how we will meet the various challenges we face. This is critical in order to provide policy certainty, which under the Zuma years was the leading political risk we faced.
Lastly, we need than need to build systems and institutions that will have the will and capacity to implement the plan of action. We must also have deadlines in which to hold these institutions to account and processes to ensure that failure to meet these goals come with consequences. It is therefore welcomed to see the Auditor-general being given more powers to report corruption to the hawks and issue debt certificates that will force corrupt officials to pay back money stolen from the state. This offers an effective form of deterrence and is essential in our fight against wasteful expenditure that grows year on year.
If we can do this and be consistent, we will see South Africa’s economy meet the annual need to grow at 5% per year and our global reputation as an African powerhouse restored. It will be a slow and painful recovery but if our resolve stands the test of time and the temptation to give up, we will stand! God bless South Africa and God bless Africa!