Ringing the bell on Ramaphosa’s reality – Sara Gon - Biznews

Oct 17, 2022
17 October 2022 - Despite the depredations of apartheid, there was always hope that the ideology would collapse due to its inherent contradictions.

We have an unreliable president wholly incapable of creating a better life for all. The sooner self-deluded big business realises this, the sooner there’s any chance of challenging and changing his firmly entrenched socialist policies that are fast destroying this country. That’s the bottom line of this carefully argued piece by Sara Gon of the IRR. She sees it as her duty to burst the Ramaphoric bubble in which too many people continue to live, in spite of overwhelming evidence that it’s an illusion. You only have to look at the passing of the ‘disastrous and unconstitutional’ Land Court Bill on 26 September and the Expropriation Bill – which includes the provision allowing for expropriation without compensation – on 27 September. Will he jettison cadre deployment? Absolutely no way, it’s the glue that holds the ANC together. Read on … unless you’re averse to a dose of harsh reality. Story courtesy of the Daily Friend. – Chris Bateman

Sara Gon

Despite the depredations of apartheid, there was always hope that the ideology would collapse due to its inherent contradictions. 

However, when it became inevitable that the African National Congress (ANC) was going to take over, some feared we would end up as a socialist state with all the terrible consequences that implied.

At the time of the first multi-racial election in 1994, the ANC clung to its ideology like a mollusc to a rock. The media saw no problem with it and generally ignored it. Then the collapse of the Soviet Union offered real hope the deplorable consequences of communism would become too hard even for the ANC to ignore.

Initially, it seemed possible; in the first 13 years, the ANC government overcame much of the economic disaster it inherited, and also significantly improved the lives of blacks.

With the ascendancy of Jacob Zuma, things took a turn for worse than we ever imagined possible. In advancing socialism, Zuma and his colleagues turned us into a racist, socialist kleptocracy. So, eight years later, when Ramaphosa became our president, almost everyone – particularly business – hailed Ramaphosa’s ‘new dawn’, as he labelled it. ‘Ramaphoria’ broke out across the land. Here was someone who understood business, who had accumulated great wealth through business, and who would REFORM!

His credentials were burnished by his role as a negotiator in the constitutional talks in the 1990s, bolstered by his not-inconsiderable charm. 

Ramaphosa’s presence on the boards of a zillion JSE-listed companies, however, was strictly in his capacity as a loyal cadre of the ANC. His role was to raise money for the ANC from business in exchange for connectivity to government. He was appointed to boards for vast sums of money; some would go to him and some to the ANC. Ramaphosa’s current worth is over R6.5 billion. 

Some captains of industry expressed disappointment in him during his time on their boards. Ramaphosa invariably arrived late for board meetings and came with his board pack unopened, not read. He always voted with the majority.

The view of businesspeople was that he had learnt little about business and his appointments were regretted. Someone who negotiated opposite him in the 1980s, when he was the secretary general of the National Union of Mineworkers, said he hated conflict and would say whatever one wanted him to say to achieve a result.

It’s important to note that publicly, Ramaphosa has only ever said he was a committed socialist. However, he’s usually stated this in contexts barely covered by the media. He has never said he was a capitalist or a free marketeer, though he created the impression he was. Or perhaps the business world was just too eager to credit him with qualities he never had.  

In the nearly five years he has been in power, he has pushed more legislation through Parliament to promote the socialism promised through the National Democratic Revolution.

Ramaphosa is not a lone reformer, sitting helplessly between two duelling ANC factions. Both the ‘radical economic transformation’ (Zuma) faction and the ‘Ramaphosa faction’ want to achieve the same socialist outcome and both want the patronage networks so needed by the ANC. This is a power struggle, not an ideological struggle.

Dr Anthea Jeffery, Head of Policy Research at the IRR, wrote an article recently, responding to a Business Day editorial on 12 September about the “important structural reforms” being implemented under Ramaphosa’s watch.

Jeffery says: “The newspaper also commended the President for warding off the nationalisation of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) and defeating ANC proposals for expropriation without compensation (EWC), which were ‘unlikely to see the light of day any time soon.”

The extraordinary lack of insight came back to bite the editorial writer when the National Assembly passed the disastrous and unconstitutional Land Court Bill on 26 September and the Expropriation Bill, which includes the provision allowing for expropriation without compensation, on 27 September. Various members of the IRR have written and spoken at length about the disasters contained in these laws.

Who’s betting the family silver that Ramaphosa will sign these bills into law by the time of the ANC’s electoral conference?  

For the hundredth time 
Ramaphosa chaired a meeting for 90+ businessmen in July 2021 after the civil unrest in KZN and Gauteng. For the hundredth time, he urged that we “push ahead with fundamental social and economic transformation” and that we “mobilise all national resources and capabilities – in both the public and private sectors – to develop our country, build an inclusive economy, and foster social cohesion.”

Ramaphosa did not say the government would embrace free-market economics, untangle red tape, that the ANC would jettison cadre deployment or BEE, that he would liberalise labour laws; nor that he would withdraw EWC and NHI legislation. He didn’t because he won’t.

His words mean nothing: they are Ramaphosaesque bromides for every speech about the economy. 

Ann Bernstein, Executive Director of the Centre for Development and Enterprise, has said Ramaphosa’s government is characterised by drift, incoherence, incompetence, inattention and complacency. Moreover, “the endless talk of compacts should be seen for what it is – a failure to lead.”

She says that business should stop cheerleading the president and instead impress on him that it is now or never.

In Cadre Deployment is Cyril’s Rubicon, commentator Theuns Eloff looked at four possible reasons why Ramaphosa wants to defend the cadre deployment policy. This is notwithstanding Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s finding that it would be unconstitutional and illegal if the president and cabinet ministers took directions from the ANC deployment committee.

1. Ramaphosa grossly underestimates the destructive consequences of cadre deployment; he does not understand the almost inevitability of ensuing corruption. The president is totally out of touch with what is actually happening at almost all levels of government.

2. Ramaphosa has been involved for decades in ANC leadership positions (including as chairman of the deployment committee under Zuma) and he sincerely believes the ANC cannot implement its policies without loyal cadres. A stronger variation on this theme is that Ramaphosa still clings to the Marxist concept of the ANC as the vanguard of the national democratic revolution, and that people who are not loyal ANC members can not be trusted with that task. The ANC’s intention to control all the levers of power in our society is too deeply embedded in his ANC ideology.

3. Ramaphosa feels himself under pressure from the sections of the ANC that are critical of the Constitution and the rule of law, and that see cadre deployment as a way to a secure career and wealth. If he abolishes cadre deployment, he may lose this section’s support.

4. Retention of cadre deployment is a prerequisite for maintaining the fragile unity of the ANC. Abolishing it may be the last straw to break the unity camel’s back.

Ramaphosa received a cordial welcome at Madikizela-Mandela’s former home in Soweto to commemorate her birthday on 27 September.

Declining electoral support
At the commemoration, the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) urged him to tackle the Eskom crisis with urgency and decisiveness. Cosas leaders said the electricity woes were partially to blame for the ANC’s declining electoral support. 

In response, Ramaphosa admitted that constant power cuts had been giving him a headache.

“Eskom is really killing us,” he said. “And I am sure it is not treating you well at all at your homes, but it shall be well.”

In one sentence, he managed to avoid responsibility and pretend he understood or shared the crowd’s pain: it was vintage Ramaphosa.

But even this supportive crowd was not convinced by the utterances of an unreliable president wholly incapable of creating a better life for all.

Sara Gon rants professionally to rail against the illiberalism of everything. Broke out of 17 years in law to pursue my classical music passion and run the Joburg Philharmonic, but had to work with musicians. Working with composer Karl Jenkins was a treat. Used to camping in the middle of nowhere. Have 2 sons for whom no girl is good enough, says mom.

This article was first published on the Daily Friend


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