Millions of South Africans are celebrating the departure of Mr Jacob Zuma, albeit under great duress, with an initial intransigence and a final goodbye just before 23h00 on 14 February. The nation has suffered politically, economically and socially, during his corrupt, strongman and divisive time in office.
The FW de Klerk Foundation is delighted that change is on the horizon and congratulates the Acting President, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa. He has the weighty task to undo the legacies of his predecessor and set South Africa on a course of unity and renewal.
The odds were stacking up against Mr Zuma in the last few days and hours leading to his resignation, two hours short of a midnight deadline set by his colleagues in the ANC. The well-known saying, “…was he pushed, or did he jump?” comes to mind. Increasingly it is being revealed that behind-the-scenes activity indicates an ANC NEC that developed a remarkable unity on the imperative for Zuma to go. Added to this development was the possibility of interparty cooperation regarding a motion of no confidence. Perhaps this demonstrates a maturing of the democratic project in South Africa.
The realities of our situation however, demand that we do not stretch the back of Zuma festivities for more than a day or two, or that we contemplate the immediate past events for too long. Our country and its people have borne the brunt of Zuma and his Gupta associates long enough. There is much work to be done.
Enter Acting President, Cyril Ramaphosa, who has a monumental amount of work in his in-tray already, including the lists generated since his election as ANC President in December 2017. Among others, agreement and appointment of a Deputy President of the country must receive urgent attention. The current deputy president of the ANC, DD Mabuza, appears not to be a candidate for Deputy President, and elements within the ANC are pressing for the party to give credence to its commitment to gender parity and appoint a woman in that position. Candidates include Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Lindiwe Sisulu and Naledi Pandor. With whom the NEC (and by implication Ramaphosa) chooses to fill this position will send strong signals about issues such as party unity, the fight against corruption and good governance.
The State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Friday evening will be closely watched by national and international audiences, and will have to be future-oriented. The nation (and the rating agencies) needs visionary leadership and hope. The challenge for President Ramaphosa is to firmly seize some of the issues he mentioned in the 8 January statement, and outline an implementation strategy. A specific action plan with timelines is vital to rejuvenate the body politic, the economy and crucially, give hope to South Africans about the future.
Of vital importance for President Ramaphosa would be that of the composition of the Cabinet. The President would do well to focus not only the individual ministers and their deputies, but also relook the size of the Cabinet. The FW de Klerk Foundation strongly recommends a leaner and more efficient Cabinet. Under Zuma, the Cabinet has mushroomed to arguably one of the largest in the world.
In addition to the delivery of the SONA as vision statement, President Ramaphosa will have to apply his mind to that of the upcoming Budget Speech on 21 February. The future of the current Minister hangs in the balance, yet President Ramaphosa may choose not to change the Minister of Finance so shortly before the Speech. More importantly, President Ramaphosa will have to decide the contents and impact of the Budget Speech. There is consensus that it may be the most difficult Budget Speech since 1994. With Mr Zuma’s exit, especially international expectations have been set at a high level. As a country, we simply cannot afford for this to be a repeat of PW Botha’s Rubicon.
President Ramaphosa has, in his communications since his election to the top leadership of the ANC, demonstrated a commitment to putting South Africa once again on the right track. However, this collective effort requires commitment and work by all citizens.
Mr President, as citizens we will play our part, but we look to you to restore confidence and unity in our country. What you will decide and do in the next weeks and months will be under great scrutiny. We wish you wisdom and strength.
Issued by the FW de Klerk Foundation
15 February 2018
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