President Cyril Ramaphosa does a walkabout at the launch of the #ThumaMina campaign at Makhulong Stadium in Tembisa. Picture: Nhlanhla Phillips/African News Agency/ANA
President Cyril Ramaphosa does a walkabout at the launch of the #ThumaMina campaign at Makhulong Stadium in Tembisa. Picture: Nhlanhla Phillips/African News Agency/ANA

I give President Ramaphosa a B+

By Onkgopotse JJ Tabane Time of article published May 28, 2018

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It is tempting following the 100 days of Ramaphosa to take out the score card. Over the weekend I met with a politician who was quick to say "I don’t do 100 days!".

Which is probably a safe thing to do, because in my history of political observation I remember very few politicians who bother to assess after the 100 days with the same vigour.

When Zuma finished his 100 days I remember the same scorecard frenzy giving him high marks. I also joined the fray and praised him for establishing the presidential hotline, among other innovations. We all know how disastrously that turned out to be. A word of caution to Ramaphosa is to take with a pinch of salt whatever scorecard will come his way, negative or positive. The 100 days can only give us a glimpse of his presidency.

This weekend saw S&P retaining their junk status grading of South Africa precisely because they need more time to see whether the much trumpeted new dawn is new indeed and that the rays of the apparent sun are not tips of a volcanic eruption about to happen.

Starting with the sunshine, Ramaphosa has inspired business confidence. Business confidence has risen considerably and it's clear that the relationship between business and labour is set to improve significantly.

This is a good sign in terms of breaking the back of the so-called investment boycott. At the centre of the boycott was a nonexistent relationship between business and government. Ramaphosa has selected investment envoys from a respected group of South Africans in a new push for a more aggressive investment drive. This can’t be compared to anything that has happened since Mbeki established an International Investment Council. We are yet to recover from the reckless recalling of Pravin Gordhan from an investment trip, the subsequent recession and the undesirable multiple downgrades.

Ramaphosa has also focused on job creation by launching the YES campaign, which will ensure that millions of young people will be given a leg-up. A volcano, though, is the relationship with the youth, where he didn't make too much effort to include some young blood in his cabinet, much to the irritation of the ANC Youth League. But the appointment of Trudi Makhanya and Phumzile Langeni as investor emissaries as well as the appointment of the affable Khusela Diko to speak on his behalf somehow mitigates this.

Failure to convene both the investment and job summits as promised in the State of the National Address (Sona) has to be attended to swiftly to retain this optimism. At least dates for these should have been announced by now to show seriousness.

The question of land is a volcano waiting to erupt, and so far the signs are not good from a policy certainty point of view. This is a political gamble that Ramaphosa has taken because many observers believe that the ANC is half hearted on the issue of expropriation of land without compensation. The appointment of a tired minister to lead the government’s land reform programme is a blot on the 100 days assessment. It is not something that is in line with the ANC’s policy trajectory so far. Even some of the alliance partners haven't been convincing in their radical articulation of how this will work, and this is where they should have been good advisers to the ANC.

The SACP and Cosatu are probably the terrible Achilles heel of the whole policy continuum, as Gear was adopted under their watch and they were helpless in reversing its trend for over 20 years. Added to this, the minimum-wage issue seems like an albatross around Ramaphosa’s neck, giving him a bad name despite all the protestations. Again here the alliance partners are the worst articulators of what needs to be done on a matter that affects a huge constituency of the ANC - a constituency they claim to be a vanguard of.

Ramaphosa may have to cut loose these alliance partners soon if he wants to make progress. But he is likely just to keep them in the cabinet to keep them moribund.

A small ray of light must be the seeming determination of Ramaphosa to deal with corruption. His arrival on the political scene seems to have liberated the Hawks and NPA to spring into action - a two-edged sword, though, given the abuse of security institutions. The pending state capture commission is about to start its inquiry, albeit at a snail's pace - the proof will be in the pudding on this one, whether he will fire implicated NEC and cabinet ministers from their jobs when the Gupta leaks are proved to be real. 

A lot of people believe that even though he fired about 10 ministers, there are some glaring cases of omissions in some key cabinet retentions. The most inexplicable retention is that of Bathabile Dlamini. The numerous investigations into state corruption and the placing of North West under administration ahead of the firing of Supra Mahumapelo as premier of North West are rays of hope indeed.

One of the biggest crises the administration faces are the collapsing state-owned enterprises. The scandals coming daily from Denel, Eskom,Transnet and similar entities need ongoing attention. The Ramaphosa administration’s swift moves to change guard at these institutions must be welcomed. This is but the first step, because the crises seem not to subside - just this past week, the SA Express fleet was grounded and SA Airways reported yet another R5 billion loss.

There have been some pockets of excellence, or in the words of the president, “We have seen some green shoots.” The many walks in various corners of South Africa and the commercial flights have helped reform the image of the president and in some way have reaffirmed that Ramaphosa is a man of the people. In government we have seen some action. There are concerted efforts to realign South Africa with its greatness; that is plain for all to see. Change is in the air. It may not be rapid, but it is swift in some instances.

There was a lot of time spent on making sure that all the various factions are singing from the same hymn sheet. This is not a concession one should make lightly. It tells us one thing: that the distinction between the state and party is perilously thin. That can only weigh down the Presidency, not augment it. One thinks that this is a crucial backdrop to an assessment of the 100 days thus far. 

Having said all of the above, the question remains, will the configuration of factions within the ANC affect the Ramaphosa presidency for the worse? Only time will tell. So far he seems to be reclaiming credibility step by step. Overall the president earns a B+ - we are on the right track.

* Tabane is host of Power Perspective on Power 987 Mondays to Thursdays 8pm to midnight and anchor of Frankly Speaking on SABC3, Sundays at 8.30pm.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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