Opinion

Same old same old likely from ANC manifesto

06 January 2019 - 00:01 By Amil Umraw


It was almost a year to the day, under a scorching East London sun, that an ear-splitting "boo" drummed out from thousands of packed seats at Buffalo City Stadium. I was uncomfortably plonked on a reserved grass patch, dead centre in front of the stage on which the ANC's top brass were perched, eagerly waiting for the newly elected party president, Cyril Ramaphosa, to deliver the January 8 statement.
SA National Civic Organisation president Richard Mdakane was at the mic when the cameras panned to the corner of the stage where the then state president Jacob Zuma appeared - 45 minutes late.
He was welcomed by an eruption of scornful heckling from thousands of ANC members in attendance and was booed each time his name was mentioned thereafter. It seemed at that point that the political scales had tipped further in favour of his successor.
It was almost poetic: the central figure of an administration shadowed by corruption and malfeasance scoffed at by his own organisation.
With some effort, Ramaphosa used his speech to strike a balance between sombre realities and populist expectations, underscoring the priorities of his presidency in the months to come.
He instructed that the ANC embark on an urgent drive towards unity among its members; that building an all-inclusive economy be given priority; and that state-owned entities (SOEs) and enforcement agencies be resuscitated from the brink of collapse.
The lead-up to the party's national conference in 2017 laid bare deep divisions within its ranks brought about by factionalism, patronage and competition for resources. Almost simultaneously, leaked e-mails from within the Gupta family's business empire exposed the rot of state capture and implicated senior ANC leaders in corruption.
As a consequence of wide-ranging unscrupulousness in the state, vital entities such as Eskom, Denel and Transnet were left in tatters without fear of reprisal from institutions such as the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) or the South African Revenue Service (Sars), both of which were stripped of any remaining credibility.
Before Ramaphosa makes his second January 8 statement in Durban on Tuesday, the question of whether he has made good on his promises from his speech a year ago still remains. The factor of unity within the party has deteriorated into a simple-minded catch phrase intent on creating a desperate illusion of synergy.
Case in point: in September, Zuma's backers - including former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo, ANC Women's League secretary-general Meokgo Matuba and ANC Youth League KwaZulu-Natal secretary Thanduxolo Sabelo - held a secret meeting at the Maharani Hotel in Durban, allegedly to discuss a fightback strategy aimed at Ramaphosa.
And while the party expressed its views on certain issues and policies through official channels, senior leaders like Zuma, Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina and Eastern Cape party heavyweight Andile Lungisa all took to social media on various occasions to spit an opposing rhetoric.
The hype around Ramaphosa's economic vision also took a knock when the country entered a technical recession. With the economy growing just 2.2% in the third quarter of 2018, along with the unemployment rate rising to 27.5% in the same period, we ended the year in almost the same place Zuma left us in 2017.
To Ramaphosa's credit, substantial changes were made in the top tiers of the government, SOEs and other vital institutions.
What followed after his swearing-in as president was a passive onslaught on Zuma's administration with the axing of state capture-implicated cabinet ministers like Mosebenzi Zwane, Des van Rooyen and Faith Muthambi.
Tom Moyane was booted from the helm of Sars and the subdued NPA was granted a new lease of life with the appointment of a new national director of public prosecutions in the form of Shamila Batohi. Board members at Eskom, Transnet and Denel were also purged and new leaders appointed. But to what effect?
Eskom is still in dire straits and we have yet to see what changes Batohi and whoever replaces Moyane at Sars will bring.
Since Ramaphosa left the stage in East London last year, there has been positive change, but South Africans are faced with mostly the same problems they had before. This time around, I anticipate his speech will revolve around similar themes. We will hear about how the ANC is one machine ahead of the elections, how investor confidence has been raised and how SOEs are on the path of reformation.
How can we move on from these topics when so much, yet so little, has been done?

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