FILE PHOTO - Cape Town 180217- South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. FILE PHOTO: Cindy Waxa/African News Agency (ANA)
President Cyril Ramaphosa by now will have found out that running a country is tougher than building Shanduka, winning at Nasrec last December; or even negotiating a democratic dispensation for South Africa. 

It is early days yet, considering he is only head of state until the 2019 elections; which could launch his full presidential term, assuming that the ANC wins.

Still, his ascent to power after the resignation of Jacob Zuma also bequeathed to Ramaphosa another demanding role: the chairmanship of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

He will come back to decide whether to put radical economic transformation back on the agenda or not. But given this week’s vote with the EFF on land expropriation, he has already put it back on the table. Even as the debris from his first cabinet reshuffle settles, the president started his regional duties with a three-stop trip to Angola, Namibia and Botswana.

If the expectations are that he will turn South Africa around, we all ought to realise how much more of his statesmanship will be needed to get the SADC going as well.

This is one regional economic bloc that is punching well below its weight. It is home to the most sophisticated economy and democracy on the continent, South Africa. With Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Angola and Tanzania in the pack, the SADC could have moved a lot further in economic integration and intra-Africa trade than it is now.

The East African Community (EAC), much smaller in size and less diversified economically, is far ahead on this score. In order to drive the economic growth of South Africa, the president should not overlook the contribution that a more effective the SADC can make.

He should find leadership of the SADC not too unfamiliar territory having been deputy president of South Africa. He has built a business empire and carried out a lot of business in the region, including mediation in Lesotho. However, he will now be dealing with bigger problems than the mountain kingdom.

He takes over the chairmanship of the regional bloc with most of its warts successfully cauterised. Angola is in the post-dos Santos phase, Zimbabwe has weaned itself off Mugabe and Mozambique looks as though it is steadying itself.

Since he can claim a lot of credit for helping South Africa find its second reset button after the 1994 watershed, his presidency could be remembered by not just what the country becomes, but whether he will inject vitality into the SADC to deal decisively with its problem children, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

He will come back to sort out the land expropriation without compensation issue and deal with a zillion other niggling creaks from the Zuma era, but for now he has displayed the right peripheral vision in attending to matters of the SADC early on. If his country needs any fixing, the region craves just as much attention.

Just like South Africa, the SADC has marked time because of internal impediments such as stagnant leadership - both in the private and public sectors. Leaders of countries such as Zimbabwe and Angola stayed in office too long, holding back their economies and poisoning the region. After what Lenin described as “decades where nothing happens, andweeks where decades happen”, South Africa and the SADC were almost reborn in the first quarter of 2018.

Citizens are more active and assertive now; with the help of the information and communication advancements such as social media and increasing globalisation. The president stands a chance to ring in changes that could decisively transform both South Africa and the SADC.

This could be one of those Shakespearian moments - out of Julius Caesar - as being the “tide in the affairs of men, which taken at its flood leads on to fame and fortune”. The people of South Africa, Zimbabwe, DRC, Angola have been short-changed by weak leadership for too long. Bold leadership could dredge us up from our “shallows and miseries”.

* Kgomoeswana is author of Africa is Open for Business, a media commentator and public speaker on African business affairs, and a columnist for Destiny Man. Follow him on Twitter: @VictorAfrica

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

Weekend Argus