Interim DA leader John Steenhuisen. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)
Interim DA leader John Steenhuisen. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Ramaphosa faces Rubicon moment in SONA, says Steenhuisen

By Emsie Ferreira Time of article published Feb 7, 2020

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Parliament - President Cyril Ramaphosa faces his Rubicon moment when he delivers his fourth State of the Nation Address next Thursday, interim DA leader John Steenhuisen said on Friday.

The interim leader of the Democratic Alliance said Ramaphosa had to choose whether to continue with the unworkable policies of his ruling African National Congress or heed the stark warning issued by his own finance minister Tito Mboweni in January on an economy heading for the abyss.

Mboweni cautioned last month: “If you cannot effect deep structural economic reforms, then game over!”

In a newsletter, Steenhuisen pointed out that Ramaphosa's speech comes 30 years after South Africa's last white president, FW de Klerk, unbanned the ANC and other liberation movements in what became known as his Rubicon speech and marked the end of the apartheid era and the dawn of democracy.

He said the transition required immense courage from De Klerk and South Africa's first black president, anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, but three decades later economic freedom still had not followed political liberation.

"Instead, the number of unemployed has risen from 3.7 million then to 10.3 million now. This is a major national crisis and far worse is yet to come as (State power utility) Eskom follows South African Airways into a death spiral, battered by a corrupt, incapable State," Steenhuisen said. 

"Our economy teeters on the brink of collapse."

He said looting, bailouts and mismanagement had spun national debt out of control, yet the government continued to spend almost R1 billion more per day than it earned.

"That is why it is targeting people’s property, pensions and incomes, causing ever more capital and skills to flee our shores. We’re caught in a low-growth, high-debt trap and the situation has become highly combustible," said the DA leader.

The main opposition is vehemently opposed to a proposal from the Congress of South African Trade Unions to use funds from the Government Employees Pension Fund, administered by the Public Investment Corporation, to reduce Eskom's debt by R250 billion.

Ramaphosa and public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan are reportedly favourably disposed to the idea.

But the DA says the plan would mean that public service pensioners would "never see their money again".

Steenhuisen wrote that it was likewise a "mad, bad idea" from mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe that the country needed a new state-owned electricity generating utility.

"South Africa needs an energy market that is open and competitive, in which everyone capable of producing energy can do so and sell it to anyone who wants to buy it, at whatever price they agree upon," he said.

He said the time had come for Ramaphosa to stop playing by the ANC's rules of control over the economy and push a "reset" button that would create a social market economy in which businesses and consumers, not the State, decided what to produce and to purchase.

"As it fell to De Klerk and Mandela in 1990, so it falls to President Cyril Ramaphosa now," Steenhuisen said.

African News Agency/ANA

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