Come May 9, Cyril Ramaphosa will need a plan

14 April 2019 - 00:00

If book-burning is your thing, Pieter-Louis Myburgh's magnificent piece of investigative reporting, Gangster State - Unravelling Ace Magashule's Web of Capture, would be just the ticket. Buy a thousand copies and burn them. Invade a book launch. And rest assured that Exclusive Books will stand by you as an author because it reveres the written word.
I hope Gangster State buys Myburgh a house, just as The President's Keepers did for Jacques Pauw. It should be in the library at the ANC's new political school, launched with some fanfare, this week. It should be taught in journalism schools.
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I have my copy, but at the same time I also bought a book that the launch of Gangster State has overshadowed. It's RW Johnson's latest downer, Fighting for the Dream, in its own way far more worthy of the fire than Gangster State. When you think about it, Myburgh was writing old news, though he obviously went to great pains to find it. All that remains is for an authentic policeman and an authentic prosecutor to read it and Magashule is in court for the next decade. So much for taking over the ANC.Johnson, though, takes us into the future and it isn't pretty. I love reading this guy. His language is superb. His points of view make you wish you had thought of them first. In 2015 he wrote How Long Will South Africa Survive? The Looming Crisis, and warned that we would soon become a ward of the International Monetary Fund and be fed structural adjustment until our debts are paid.Now he thinks we are closer than ever to the rocks.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has been unable or unwilling to put the brakes on spending and we are more than likely to break our fiscal promises to the ratings agencies this year. It is painful to think Trevor Manuel got us to a budget surplus in his final year as finance minister. Jacob Zuma blew it all, and then some. And the bigger that budget deficit, the less Ramaphosa has to spend on infrastructure and things that grow jobs.
His only option is to allow other people to create jobs and the only other people who can are skilled foreigners who his government won't let into the country. We have got to sort out immigration.
Johnson is outraged by the DA and its leader, Mmusi Maimane. He accuses the party of abandoning its liberal principles of, among other things, ignoring race and choosing leaders on merit. "Unabashed [by the Mamphela Ramphele debacle], in 2015 the [DA] elected Mmusi Maimane as leader - aged 35. Again it was a story of astonishingly accelerated promotion . he had only entered the party in 2010 . The result of this giddying climb is a leader with almost no experience at any level, someone who has never had to labour at the coalface. Not surprisingly he proved to be a weak leader . unable to manage the shadow cabinet. Instead, he wandered around the country giving speeches, which was clearly what he imagined his job to be."
Ouch! But Johnson doesn't write off Ramaphosa. Instead he gives him a stern lecture. "If Cyril Ramaphosa is to escape from the very difficult situation he has inherited, he needs several things, starting with a proper plan," he writes. Boy is that right. Ramaphosa has allowed himself to be bounced around by events and the EFF for too long. Perhaps the fix Magashule finds himself in now will help.
"It is vital that Ramaphosa understand his own situation," writes Johnson. "He stands at a crossroads where there are only three options. He can approach the IMF for a bailout either now or, presumably, soon after the 2019 election orhe can opt for his own programme of economic reform - his own version of Gear - aimed at heading off recourse to the IMF, or he can do neither of those things, in which case he is bound to stay trapped within a populist downward spiral." He then cruelly rules out option two. "In order to rescue the current economic situation, far greater austerity would be required than Gear demanded in 1996."So what to do? He suggests Ramaphosa, shortly after the election, gives the equivalent of Winston Churchill's famous "blood, toil, sweat and tears" speech at the start of World War 2. He has to say that only now, after 18 months in the job, does he fully understand the gravity of our situation and describe, again, a dream country we can all work for. He has to abandon the national democratic revolution.And then head straight to the IMF and ask for help. Far better that than waiting for an almost inevitable collapse.Would the ANC and the body politic allow it? Probably not. But once he has won re-election, Ramaphosa has to play rough or risk losing everything.

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