An entire generation faces a bleak and undignified future no person should be condemned to writes Kabelo Khamalo.
An entire generation faces a bleak and undignified future no person should be condemned to writes Kabelo Khamalo.

OPINION: It's time to stop the rhetoric

By Kabelo Khamalo Time of article published Jun 20, 2019

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JOHANNESBURG - Heads of state usually use their annual addresses to the nations to provide an update on the current political and socio-economic health of the country and assure the citizenry of plans for the year.

Today, no such report is required for South Africa.

It has already been delivered by Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) whose data showed that the unemployment is high and the economy, which contracted by 3.2percent in the first quarter, cannot afford to absorb new entrants into the jobs market.

StatsSA says 50percent of young people are out of work.

This means an entire generation faces a bleak and undignified future that no person should be condemned to. The country occupies a lowly 67 out of 140 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Competitiveness Report for 2018-2019.

The bleak state of the economy is further crystallised by subdued consumer and business confidence.

The state of disarray in the ruling party, with factions trying to outdo each other, means that the economy is in for a long night.

President Cyril Ramaphosa will today deliver his second State of the Nation Address (Sona) with two of his tormentors-in-chief in the public gallery, ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who thinks God has so loved her she has been given powers to change the mandate of the SA Reserve Bank.

The pulse of the nation is weak; politics treacherous and the economy in stagnation, while public finances worsen.

The state of state-owned entities is appalling, racking up debt at alarming rates, with the future generations left to foot the bill.

Two of our cash burning state-owned firms have seen chief executives resigning in toxicity as the stress of turning around the entities takes a toll on their abilities.

This is the state of the nation, Mr President. The nation is eagerly waiting to hear a bold plan to make it believe once again.

It wants the economy reignited, jobs created and a signal that the people’s business dominates the agenda of the future and not self-preservation.

This means Ramaphosa will have to go against the tide and embark on unpopular structural reforms, and open his ears to the cries of South Africans and not the machinations in his sickly political party, and its increasingly irrelevant alliance partners.

What South Africa needs now is a clear blueprint with deliverables to strengthen the state of our economy and attract investments.

The choices before Ramaphosa are clear as light after a new dawn: either take the difficult, but necessary decisions to lift the economy, or succumb to meaningless rhetoric coming from his party. The latter is less desirable, as the ANC has without fail shown that it is a grouping where common sense is on a habitual retreat.

The felicity of many South Africans towards Ramaphosa is not endless.

It is unlike the love of the son of man that knows no bounds.

Ramaphosa has to lead and not be led by uncivilised creatures whose sole purpose is to scare the living daylights out of investors.

Interestingly, Ramaphosa’s address will be delivered just two months shy of the 34-year anniversary of erstwhile President PW Botha’s infamous “Rubicon” Speech in 1985. Expectations were equally pregnant that Botha would usher in a radical policy shift in the nation’s apartheid system.

But Botha disappointed even his strongest backers in the west and stuck to his guns, failing to see the writing on the wall.

Ramaphosa would do well to send the right signal to the investor community from which he wants $100billion (R1.46trillion) and ensure that South Africa is open for business and much-needed reforms will be pursued in earnest.

Vietnam’s economy is an example where faster growth is possible on the back of strong foreign direct investment inflows, a burgeoning manufacturing sector and solid domestic demand.

There are low-hanging fruits for Ramaphosa to take advantage of: like issuing new spectrum to lessen resource constraints currently being experienced by the country’s mobile operators and level the playing field to enable new entrants into the market.

The country has had its fair share of summits where nice-to-hear plans were agreed upon, but the delivery has been benign. Today’s Sona must herald a new era of results-driven thinking and planning.


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