The National Executive Committee of the ANC have finally recalled Jacob Zuma as President of the Republic of South Africa. After a Robert Mugabe style standoff where the man was adamant that he is going nowhere and the party hoping to avoid a humiliating exit for him, Jacob Zuma finally relented and duly subjected himself to the will of the party that deployed him to government. With each passing week Jacob Zuma was feeling more emboldened and Cyril Ramaphosa was appearing to be weak and soft and this move now shows who is firmly in charge.
Now that the question of whether Jacob Zuma will deliver the SONA has been put to rest, we can now look ahead to how the President Ramaphosa will plan to tackle and clean up the mess Jacob Zuma has left behind. It is without a doubt that the task ahead is a mammoth one, not only for government, but the ruling party in their quest to regain the votes they lost in the past municipal elections.
For the new president, surely the first point of call would be the overhaul of the Cabinet, which has a few compromised Ministers that acted as Zuma’s cheerleaders. The likes of Mosebenzi Zwane, Faith Muthambi, Bathabile Dlamini to name a few, should wave the blue lights adios. The three mentioned above have presided over some of the contentious issues that have caused uncertainty such as the Mining Charter, Digital Migration and the SASSA debacles.
Government has already embarked on encouraging processes to correct the course of SA Inc. This includes a clean-up at State Owned Entities and strengthening capacity at the National Treasury. There have also been encouraging noises about clamping down on wastage, graft and repositioning the state to play a more meaningful role in creating sustainable livelihoods.
It is also hoped that Ramaphosa’s ascension to the highest office in the land will provide more policy certainty for investors. In this respect, the Mining Charter should be at the top of the to do list for the new President. Even though mining is no longer the biggest sector of the South African economy, Mining remains a very important contributor to South Africa’s GDP and a source of over 400000 jobs.
It is also hoped that government will pay more attention to the agricultural sector. Provinces such as the Eastern Cape are woeful in this sector, despite being blessed with abundant arable land and farming resources. In thinking about land redress, the new President will have to address himself to the pitfalls of an ideologically driven process.
It will also be important for the new President to avoid playing to the gallery. Chasing after State Capture thugs is a nice headline. However, the real work is in ensuring that state institutions are properly capacitated to deliver on the election manifesto of the African National Congress. This means relooking the structure and ethos of the public sector to ensure that it is predominantly staffed by qualified technocrats who do not owe any loyalty to the ruling party. This will always be difficult for a ruling party that perceives itself as being under undue pressure from the media, markets and opinion makers. However, if properly managed, this can be a source of great strength. The last 8 years have taught us enough about a politically driven public sector and how this can create more losers than winners.