This article was first published by City Press on 2 April 2023 (Paywalled)
OPINION: The post-2024 South Africa – a period of ideological concoctions and policy uncertainty
The year 2024 has been projected as the year that will usher in a “watershed moment” in the country’s political landscape. It is indeed the year that will present opposition parties with a possible lifetime opportunity to dislodge the government of the day from office, if they can put their pollical differences aside, organise, consolidate the ground, and forge meaningful alliances in the interest of the country.
However, for the African National Congress (ANC) cadres, it is the year they probably wish they could leapfrog or fast forward. One cannot help but continue to wonder what political points they will use to lure the electorate into voting for the centenary party at the polls. After all, Ramaphosa’s political currency is running out; his presidency has not necessarily transformed the lives of ordinary South Africans in any meaningful way as was once hoped. This, however, is not to say that he has done nothing for the “poor” since he assumed office.
His sympathisers have credited him for successfully leading the country out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Others have credited him for strengthening all law enforcement agencies, capacitating them with qualified personnel, thus allowing them to recoup some of the monies that were lost to corruption during the so-called “9 wasted years” (which he also wilfully presided over as a senior cabinet member). It is nevertheless doubtful whether the ordinary man in the street would have taken note of such successes.
The unemployment rate under the presidential term of Ramaphosa has seen a substantial increase. The economy has not seen the growth with which he was touted as going to create when he assumed power. His economic policies have been lacklustre in terms of delivering results. This disappointing return is shown in an economy that can hardly create jobs, is shedding taxpayers, and is seeing quite high levels of inflation.
The running gag of his presidency were the millions of jobs his government was supposed to have created; an unfulfilled promise that has been made in every State of the Nation Address since our current president assumed office. His detractors from the left will critique him as being in favour of private capital, yet the economic policies and general conduct of his presidency does not reflect this. Instead, the patronage and corruption scandals of his party seem to be continuing, if the Phala Phala matter is anything to go by.
It is therefore very tempting to simply dismiss Ramaphosa as a “useless leader” as many of his detractors have sought to do, but that will be very simplistic. What is indeed difficult to do is to assess his performance as President. The man has proven to be very slow to act and does not act when it is necessary to do so. He has also been accused by his detractors within the governing party of failing to implement or undermining the party’s conference resolutions.
He is likely to go down in history as the one democratic President with no memorable leadership track record or legacy. At least Zuma is notorious for state capture and corruption – disparaging as that may be. In a recent interview on Newzroom Afrika, renowned author, and political analyst, Prince Mashele suggested that Ramaphosa will resign before the end of this year so as avoid being recorded in history as the man under whose leadership the ANC lost its majority in government.
I hasten to conclude that even if Ramaphosa does not resign, he will be recalled from office, and scapegoated for the ANC’s ineptocracy. As was done in the past with his predecessors, the problem with the ANC will be reduced to the problem with Ramaphosa. Paul Mashatile will then be sanitised, repackaged, and presented to the people of South Africa as the new savior. In another recent SABC interview, Mashele further intimated that there will be a coalition government at the national level led by the ANC and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), with Paul Mashatile as the president and Julius Malema as his deputy.
That would be a worst-case scenario – an unfortunate turn of events that will usher in an era of ideological concoctions, policy uncertainty and the implantation of destructive policies. The pair will do their best to prove that they are beholden to the radical economic transformation project, and that will ultimately translate into ramping up efforts to implement policies such as expropriation of land without compensation, nationalisation of commercial banks and mines, amongst others.
This serves as a clarion call for all liberal think tanks like the Free Market Foundation and the Institute of Race and Relations to also ramp up their advocacy efforts of alternative policies. We can only hope at this stage that Malema’s ego will grow big enough to dissuade him from flirting with the idea of deputising Mashatile. In fact, Mashele’s prediction of Malema deputising for Mashatile is a bit far-fetched. All things considered; Malema does not see himself as anyone’s deputy. It is either him at the helm of power or no one. He has a past history of not only undermining his political principals but overshadowing them. He will contradict Mashatile with every chance he gets, until the whole coalition arrangement collapses. As for Ramaphosa, his fate is already sealed: step down or be recalled.
Fasten your belts, my fellow countrymen, we are in for a bumpy ride.