Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA) – President Cyril Ramaphosa at the February 6, 2022 SONA 22 debate at the City Hall. The blanket mismanagement of the energy crisis by the governing party has left citizens disempowered and disenchanted with their glow-in-the-dark democracy, the writer says.
By Kim Heller
There is no Cabinet reshuffle, no matter how sweeping, nor any Presidential address, no matter how polished, that can shine up and restore the state of the nation right now.
To ring-fence a state of disaster around the nation’s energy crisis is simply not enough, for there is a state of disaster around the entire ANC government, and its President Cyril Ramaphosa. Until this is addressed, we will continue to experience the wholesale disintegration, depletion, and distress of a once precious democracy.
The ruin in the governing party, long in the making, is now so deeply ingrained that the once dazzling promise of the ANC may have forever lost its lustre. There has been little restoration or renewal of the ANC under the Ramaphosa years, rather the party’s timber has become more worn and warped, and this rot is causing considerable economic and societal damage and disaster.
The toll of a governing party saturated in zealous self-enrichment, fervent factionalism and little interest or connectivity with ordinary citizens is an ugly stain on the nation. The blanket mismanagement of the energy crisis by the governing party has left citizens disempowered and disenchanted with their glow-in-the-dark democracy. Cyril Ramaphosa has fallen from grace and is today a President who has brought the country into disrepute. with his Phala Phala farm scandal. The General Secretary of the PAC, Apa Pooe argues that Ramaphosa should not be allowed to deliver his State of the Nation Address because of the Phala Phala allegations against him.
The World Economic Forum has sounded an alarm about the deteriorating state of governance in South Africa. The country’s prosperity is in paralysis with a paltry 0.3 percent 2023 growth estimate. A high-gloss SONA will not change the deep etch of everyday poverty or provide a quick fix recovery for a nation in deep economic and social distress.
Charles Dickens in his classic work, Great Expectations wrote: “No varnish can hide the grain of the wood; and that the more varnish you put on, the more the grain will express itself.”
A shiny, brand-new Cabinet is unlikely to stop the disintegration and decay of the ANC or its lack of able present-day leadership or bring shine to its shabby yesteryear policies that have failed to fashion a democratic society.
The great expectations that some Cyril Ramaphosa fanciers had of a magical renaissance renewal and restoration under his Presidency faded fast. Cyril’s catastrophic leadership has been impossible to hide or gloss over.
Political analyst Ntsikelelo Breakfast said this week in a newspaper interview, that Ramaphosa has not achieved his intended objectives, and wrote of how the economy and energy crisis has been mismanaged.
In his opinion piece this week, Duma Gqubule commented: “whichever way one slices the data, Cyril Ramaphosa’s presidency has been a disaster for the economy”. Gqubule says “the economy was collapsing before the pandemic”. “Since Ramaphosa became President the number of unemployed people has increased by 2.7 million to 11.9 million.”
There are some media pundits still hoping that the Ramaphosa Presidency can be salvaged. A headline in Monday’s Business Day proclaimed a “Busy, pivotal week for Ramaphosa and ANC”. Some analysts are saying this week’s SONA and the long-awaited Cabinet reshuffle could be a defining moment for the President and the country. I differ.
Cyril Ramaphosa has already defined himself as a poor leader, with a proven track record of years of non-delivery. He has failed for five years straight. Things are unlikely to change. After all, we can shine up and polish things as Charles Dickens says but the grain will, in the end, show itself. Vuyo Zungula, President of ATM said if you look at the state of the country, Ramaphosa has been performing dismally since 2018. Zungula said: “If there’s any resignation that the nation would really appreciate it is the resignation of Ramaphosa.”
Some argue that Ramaphosa simply lacks courage as a leader and are urging him to now make sweeping changes to his Cabinet and be firm on his policies. “A cowardly leader is the most dangerous of men,” famous novelist Stephen King wrote. But the problem with Ramaphosa is not his cowardness but his lack of conviction for the people of South Africa. He has by his own admission placed his party before the country, but even worse, has placed the interests of other nations before his own. Proudly so.
Fellow South Africans, we need to ask ourselves which other President, current day or in history has sent piles and piles of coal to other nations to warm and light them up while his own people are left in the dark, to fend for themselves in difficult days? All at the pleasure of Western leaders, and at the prejudice of South Africa’s people. A leader who puts his own citizens second to others is the most dangerous of men. He is the best of the worst, some say. But he may well prove to be the worst of the worst. Duma Gqubule writes “If Ramaphosa does not develop a better plan for the economy he could go down as SA’s first President since 1994”.
The state of the nation is a state of disaster and the man at the helm should do step down rather than subject the country to yet another coating of bogus promises. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has vowed to disrupt the President’s speech again. The EFF has said it will disrupt the President’s SONA today. This would indeed be an act of national service as it would spare the nation from more buff and bluster.
Heller is a political analyst and author of ‘No White Lies: Black Politics and White Power in South Africa.’