By Prince Kurupati*
It’s now 24 years since South Africa, ‘the rainbow nation’ as its affectionately known gained independence in 1994. At the end of Apartheid, the new democratic South Africa was the beacon of hope for not just South Africans in particular and also Africans in general.
To some extent, the country has managed to live to the early hype, it’s one of Africa’s strongest economies and its democracy is an envy of many. However, this side of South Africa is the one that the country uses in marketing itself and surprisingly, it’s this side that is most loved and covered by international media. There is another side to the coin, however, that is shunned by the media. This side exposes the plight of South Africa’s poor which is increasing year on year due to the rising gap between the haves and the have-nots.
While it’s always hard to live on the other side largely because without exposure, on your own you cannot really influence much on the national level, it seems South Africa’s poor might have a reason to smile again. A ray of light in the form of the newly elected South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa is promising to bring solace and comfort to the weeping many.
Ramaphosa may well not be popular among many poor South Africans but if we are to take anything from his inauguration speech and promises in his first days in office, then poor South Africans ought to celebrate his ascendancy to power.
Unlike Jacob Zuma, Cyril Ramaphosa is not a populist but rather a reformist and if there is anything the world has taught us, it’s to respect a reformist. While a populist has the charisma, appeal and sweet mouth to lure supporters, his/her rhetoric often times ends only in words while the reformist stresses more on doing than talking.
In light of this, let’s look at the promises that the reformist Cyril Ramaphosa has promised the people of South Africa especially the man, woman, and child in the most impoverished towns/cities of South Africa.
Fight against corruption
Cyril Ramaphosa took office the following day after a morning raid on the Gupta family, a family that epitomises corruption in South Africa. As corruption in the name of State Capture is the most important element that led to the demise of Jacob Zuma, it was clear from the word go that whoever succeeded Zuma would have to take on corruption if s/he was to gain traction. That is exactly what Ramaphosa did by promising to fight corruption.
While it’s those at the top that enjoy the benefits of corruption such as unscrupulously winning government tenders, it’s those at the bottom that Face the brunt of corruption. Corruption results in a job/task/project being handed to an incompetent person or body. The results, therefore, are below par and of poor quality mostly service provision which affects the middle class and the poor. By tackling corruption, Ramaphosa will open the environment for more people to challenge for opportunities that would otherwise be reserved for a select few. If the fight against corruption is successful, then there is reason for South Africans to celebrate.
Ramaphosa says his priority in government is to revitalise South Africa’s economy and his two main areas of focus are a digital revolution and fixing the mining sector. The world is becoming digital by the way and therein lays opportunities and challenges for South Africa’s growth. The first step that Ramaphosa is set to undertake is to establish a Digital Industrial Revolution Commission tasked which consists of the private sector, civil society, and the government. It is Ramaphosa’s hope that the Commission will unlock opportunities that will go a long way in aiding economic development.
On the same front, experts state that the telecoms sector in South Africa is stagnant due to two telecoms ministries fighting each other for supremacy. The new president needs to merge the two ministries and remove duplicate roles to ensure more sustained growth in the telecoms field.
Ironically, Ramaphosa has promised to spearhead the fixing of the mining sector, the one sector he has come under immense pressure in owing to the Marikana massacres. It’s not clear what Ramaphosa’s strategy is going to be but it surely it must have a special focus on the workers’ working conditions and remuneration.
Ramaphosa has also made reference to social grants in his first weeks in office. For a country that is seeing its unemployment levels rise up year on year, it’s crucial that its social welfare structure is robust and that is exactly what Ramaphosa wants to see. Ramaphosa has stressed that there should be the efficient delivery of social grants. In the past, especially towards Zuma’s last days in office, the body tasked with administering social grants, South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) has had to delay releasing the funds. There are seven types of grants in South Africa which include Child Support, Older Person’s Grant, Disability Grant, Grant-in-Aid, Care Dependency, War Veteran’s Grant and Foster Child Grant.
In a bid to address the plight of the poor who find themselves in some unfavourable working conditions, Ramaphosa has also that he wants to see worker’s living and working conditions improve under his tenure. He said that the first step is to implement a national minimum wage at par with the Poverty Datum Line that is going to give workers a better standard of living.
Being reformist, Ramaphosa is more likely to fulfil his promises, however, this is just an assertion that needs Ramaphosa’s will and determination in pursuing these promises for them to become reality. As such, it’s every South African’s hope that indeed Ramaphosa will stay true to his word and fulfil these promises that will ultimately make the life of South Africans better.