The latest Ipsos Group polling data indicates that 82% of registered voters think that President Ramaphosa is doing a good job in the ANC. I doubt this would mean that 82% of the registered voters sampled would support the ANC, but I am sure a sizeable percentage of them could cross over to the ANC or return to the ANC. It is difficult to gauge at this stage.
What we can surmise is that the ANC is in a better place than it was in 2016, when it failed to win some of the major metropolitan areas in the country.

I wonder if this 82% support for the president means that, if elections are held in Joburg and Tshwane today, the ANC would win them? My cautious self thinks that the average South African citizen seems to be evolving into a classical middle-class cynic.

I am unsure as to whether the majority of registered voters polled would actually vote - not because they do not believe in the importance of voting, but because they do not seem to believe that our leadership has a plan to take us out of this cycle of poverty and anger.

South Africans may be happy with the president because he seems like a decent, incorruptible chap, but they do not seem to possess confidence in plans to overcome poverty, spiralling unemployment and deepening inequality.

On Saturday, May 26, I attended the South African National Civic Organisation’s (Sanco) provincial launch of “Khuluma Mhlali” in Vereeniging. Loosely translated, this means “Talk Resident”. Vereeniging is in the Emfuleni Municipality, which was recently awarded the dubious honour of being the worst-run municipality in the country. And, as comedian Trevor Noah reminds us, when South Africans celebrate or protest, they do the same thing - dance.

In my estimation, 82% of the people at the rally were dancing. The inputs made there, by Sanco regional chairperson Mlungisi Hlongwane and Gauteng provincial chair Chris Malemetja expressed the same sentiments. First, they implored their supporters and residents to support the ANC.

The leadership of Sanco said there was no other political party to vote for and everyone should lend support to Ramaphosa’s efforts to clear the government and the ANC of corruption. In other words, the ANC cannot be the same as it was in 2016.

Third, South Africans are not happy. They may like their leaders, but remain fearful of the future. Their lives seem harder every day. They worry about their kids, because jobs and opportunities seem few and far between, and every day prices increase.

Fourth, other than a strong focus on rooting out corruption, there does not seem to be any real idea about extricating ourselves from this socio-economic crisis.

There’s a lot of Thuma-Mina (volunteerism), but very little about unapologetically transforming this unequal economy. Yes, the leaders in government talk a lot about being radical, but policies are the same and actions seem to be more about the re-arrangement of chairs in a hall. We can expect that there will be series of sector summits on jobs, mining, land, etc.

The question is: What latitude will be granted to participants at these summits? The ANC must be commended for the openness of their recently held Land Summit.

Will these summits, though, be hamstrung by cabinet decisions, political party conference resolutions and playing to the gallery, be it international or domestic? Will these summits be allowed to express a new growth path, or will we be stuck with the macroeconomic strategy of the National Development Plan, which in essence is the same as that of the Growth, Employment And Redistribution (Gear) strategy.

We do not have enough resources within the country to reinvest, so we make ourselves look as pretty as possible for international investors. If they invest, our economy will grow and, in time, this will mean more jobs and better lives for the poor.

The dancing 82% in Vereeniging on Saturday were saying, through their leaders from Sanco, that yes, we want these summits, but please do not tell us that you are not changing the path that has failed from 1996 to date.

In 2007, 10 years after the path that was embarked upon with Gear, the masses thanked Thabo Mbeki and allowed him to be removed the following year. Ten years later, in 2017, the masses thanked Jacob Zuma, and also allowed him to be removed the following year. The CR17 group must be careful. The people can only learn the same lesson so many times. I doubt they will give Ramaphosa another 10 years as well. Very often, politicians quote Guinea-Bissau activist and intellectual Amilcar Cabral, when he wrote of the leaders, “Tell no lies, claim no easy victories”.

He was warning that the difficulties and complexities of challenges must not be hidden - or the fact that those opposed to a new path, especially those with international vested interests, will caricature the leaders who represent the new path as being unreasonable, or a threat to peace and stability. They will further exercise collective punishment on society for endorsing this change.

It is a very difficult time, but an important argument for South Africans to have. We have to act with restraint and (calculated) risk. For instance, you cannot just focus on better management in public hospitals and clinics, you also have to invest a ton of resources in them.

But how do you invest money, when there is low morale, selfish values, pedantic bureaucratic systems, deliberate corruption in health and crass profit-taking by private health and the pharmaceutical industry? Unless we get private and public health to meet and devise a plan that roots out corruption, improves management, invests in employees and infrastructure, reduces profit-making in the expanded health industry and ensures the mentoring and coaching of young health professionals by the previous generation, we are in for a serious hiding. Because we must know, that although some members of our society have a morbid fascination for the failure of political leaders, every time that this occurs, we as South Africans lose even more confidence in ourselves, or belief that a new day will arrive.

All of us need to understand that the dancing 82% cannot wait any longer.

They will not wait any longer. They want a new dawn, and they want it now! (One small disclosure: for my sins, I am also Sanco’s Gauteng Deputy Secretary).

* Williams is the Director for Africa Affairs at the National School of Government. These are his personal views.

The Sunday Independent